It's been a rather peculiar twelve months for Raheem Sterling.
The 27-year-old struggled for form and minutes for Manchester City during the latter stages of the 2020/21 campaign, before going on to play a starring role for England in their run to the final of the European Championships.
The arrival of Jack Grealish for a club-record £100,000,000 in the summer had many questioning whether Sterling's time with Manchester City may be drawing to a close but with five goals in his last four Premier League outings, is Raheem Sterling back to his best?
The continuous rotation rolled out by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City makes it difficult for any player to secure a starting spot week-in week-out, especially in a forward line that has such heavy competition for spaces.
But despite this, Raheem Sterling has seen himself play the full 90-minutes in four of City's last five Premier League fixtures, making the most of the opportunity handed to him by scoring five goals in the stretch, including his 100th Premier League goal with the winner against Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier this month.
It is the first time since September 2017 that Raheem Sterling has scored in four successive Premier League games, and in this sort of form, it looks unlikely that Raheem will find himself out of the team anytime soon.
Taking His Chance
If Sterling hadn't done enough to lock down a starting role already, his cause will be helped by a lack of options in Manchester City's front three over the course of the next month.
Ferran Torres' departure to Barcelona is all but confirmed, whilst Riyad Mahrez will be heading off on international duty as he leads Algeria into the African Cup of Nations.
Jack Grealish and Phil Foden have found themselves in hot water with Pep Guardiola after going out and partying following Manchester City's 7-0 victory over Leeds on Tuesday evening. Neither player has been named in Pep's starting eleven since.
With Guardiola insistent that the side will not be going out and signing a striker in the January window, it would appear that they will continue to run with a false nine, a formation that has fared well for the Citizens over the course of the last 18 months.
Raheem Sterling is arguably the most diverse forward that City have got, with the 27-year-old deployed on the left, the right and the centre forward role already this season. It looks increasingly likely that Raheem will be afforded plenty of opportunities in the early weeks of 2022, but will it result in a contract extension for the Englishman?
Long Term Future
With Raheem Sterling's contract coming to an end in the summer of 2023, the next six months look to be crucial in securing his long-term future.
Whether Sterling sees his long-term future at Manchester City or not remains to be seen, but he isn't short of admirers should he opt for a move away from the Etihad Stadium. Newcastle United, Arsenal, Barcelona and Real Madrid are amongst those linked with a move for the City forward.
It is believed that Guardiola & co would prefer to see Sterling remain in East Manchester, but only if his performances warrant a new deal.
If Raheem makes the most of the opportunities presented to him over the course of the next six months, it looks likely that the hierarchy at the Etihad Stadium will offer the Englishman a new deal, and if not, they would be expected to cash in this summer to avoid the risk of losing their man on a free.
He may not be back to his scintillating best just yet, but he isn't far away.