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Sterling can be the solution to Chelsea’s number nine crisis

Amid the frustration of another disappointing result in what has been a calamitous season, there was something for Chelsea to take as a positive from their 2-2 draw against Nottingham Forest. Indeed, the performance of Raheem Sterling reminded everyone at Stamford Bridge of why there was so much excitement around the 28-year-old’s signing last summer.

Sterling scored both Chelsea goals against Forest and demonstrated the cutting edge that made him one of Manchester City’s most reliable final third performers over a number of seasons. This was much more like what Chelsea believed they were getting when they landed the England international for £47.5m.

Only four active players (Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, Jamie Vardy and Romelu Lukaku) have scored more Premier League goals than Sterling. The 28-year-old has earned a reputation for fluffing his lines in front of goal more than a player of his calibre should, but the numbers make the case for him.

This season, Sterling has only managed six Premier League goals. Of course, he has been hindered by the mess around him at Chelsea. He has played under three different managers despite arriving at Stamford Bridge less than a year ago. Sterling, and most other Chelsea players, have been denied the chance to achieve any sort of consistency.

A lack of goals has been Chelsea’s biggest problem this season. They have found the back of the net just 36 times in 35 Premier League matches – Erling Haaland has as many goals for himself as Chelsea do as a team. Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter and now Frank Lampard have all struggled to get the Blues firing in and around the penalty box.

Sterling could be a big part of the solution. Chelsea might lack a truly top-level number nine, but they could still build around Sterling as a wide forward like Manchester City did for so long. Liverpool also did this with Salah – Jurgen Klopp never needed a proven goalscorer as his number nine because Salah was so prolific.

“Raheem’s a player that has the credit in the bank, he’s been a regular scorer in the Premier League and for his country,” said Lampard after Sterling bagged a brace against Nottingham Forest, underlining the experience he brings to a squad that appears to be lacking in natural leadership.

“To see him score there (the first goal) was Raheem,” continued Lampard, analysing Sterling’s performance and his finishes. “Arriving for a cross, and then individual brilliance to score the (second) goal. I’m very happy for him. It’s what we need across the top end of the pitch.

“Raheem has done it and he’s produced it again. If you’re going to win games when you have 76 per cent possession, you need to be killers at the top end of the pitch, and Raheem is proven to be that. At the moment we don’t have enough of that.”

Of course, Chelsea must do a lot more than just get Sterling scoring if they are to make strides forward under their new manager, whoever that ends up being. The Blues’ squad is a mess after two aimless transfer windows with serious trimming set to happen this summer – numerous players could be on their way out of the club.

Sterling, however, is one asset Chelsea should aim to keep and harness. He is one of the few players at Stamford Bridge who knows what it takes to win major honours at the elite level. He’s been there and done it many times before over the course of his career. Sterling’s performance against Nottingham Forest highlighted how he could still be an important part of Chelsea’s future.

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