Mauricio Pochettino believes Raheem Sterling can prove Gareth Southgate was wrong to leave him out of another England squad after the Chelsea forward inspired his side to a 4-1 come-from-behind win at Burnley.
Days after Southgate left him out of the squad for next week’s internationals, Sterling took his frustrations out on his old Manchester City team-mate Vincent Kompany and Burnley, having a hand in all four Chelsea goals, scoring one.
Sterling has not played for England since last year’s World Cup, and although fitness accounted for his absence in March and he asked not to play in June while he focused on getting fully back up to speed, Southgate has now chosen to leave him out of the last two squads.
But at Turf Moor he showed what England are missing as he was the man to open up Burnley after the Clarets had taken a surprise early lead through teenager Wilson Odobert.
Sterling’s cross deflected off Ameen Al Dakhil for the equaliser and he then won the penalty which Cole Palmer scored for his first Chelsea goal at the start of the second half. Sterling got his own goal in the 65th minute before having a hand in the fourth, finished by Nicolas Jackson.
“I think a player with his experience knows he needs to perform and to show the manager of the national team he was wrong in the decision,” Pochettino said. “Only with performances and scoring goals is he going to show he deserved to go.”
Although Sterling stole the headlines, Pochettino was keen to talk up the overall team performance as Chelsea made it back-to-back league wins for the first time since March, scoring four or more goals for the first time since thrashing Southampton 6-0 in April 2022.
“It was a fantastic performance, they deserve it and I’m happy for them to go into the national break with a different feeling,” Pochettino said.
“We need to be consistent. We have good competition, a very talented squad but at the moment for different reasons we cannot use all of the potential from the squad. But I think with time we are going to be in the position we want to be.
“With all the players fit there will be massive competition and that’s going to be good for the team to keep the level we need to fight for big things.”
Burnley’s worries are different. They have now equalled the record of five straight home defeats to start a top-flight campaign, joining Manchester United (1930-31), Portsmouth (2009-10), Bolton Wanderers (2011-12) and Newcastle United (2018-19) on the unwanted number.
Of the other four, only Newcastle avoided relegation in the same season.
“We had a very solid foundation defensively (last season), the best defence in the league but it’s a different level now and everybody has got to level up,” Kompany said.
“I wish there was a magic wand to solve everything but it’s a lot of work on the training ground to get the basics right. We’ve done it in games and done it well but it’s been spells and that’s our own mistake and we have to work on it.
“It’s extremely difficult against teams like this. We need a little bit of luck and we need to take chances…Performances have not been the issue, just the different calibre of players. A couple of them I’ve played with myself and I know what they can do to teams.”
Kompany, who was part of two title-winning City sides with Sterling, could only puff out his cheeks when asked about his old team-mate.
“He’s a top player,” he said.