When Alex Neil took over as Stoke City manager, he didn’t have enough time to leave a great imprint on this year’s Summer transfer window. In fact, Stoke City didn’t confirm signing Neil until August 28th.
That left the new Potters boss with just a few days to scour over any possible remaining transfer deadline moves. Within this short amount of time, Neil made the first of what he hopes is a long line of impactful signings for the club, in the form of 22-year-old wing-back Dujon Sterling on loan from Chelsea.
Sterling, who picked up a preseason injury while still with Chelsea, hasn’t been back to 100% health to make a matchday squad. However, his time could come either this week against QPR or, even more likely, it will come after the international break in early October. Though one thing is for sure, when Sterling does finally suit up for Stoke City, he’ll bring a tremendous boost to Neil’s side due to his upside.
Dujon Sterling has already had three prior EFL loan stints at Coventry City, Wigan, and Blackpool in consecutive seasons leading into this year. In each one of those season-long stints, Sterling has progressed more and more although coupled with some career roadblocks as well. One of those roadblocks for Sterling unfortunately came near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with Sterling missing time due to illness. The others were due to various injuries.
Of course Sterling can’t really help any of those, especially an illness that struck the entire planet. But still, those injuries he’s suffered on the field have been huge hurdles in his career thus far.
The upside has always heavily outweighed the lows though, which is why teams such as QPR and Preston North End were also vying for the 22-year-old wing-back this Summer. Stoke City will be counting on that upside showing through this season.
Scouting Dujon Sterling
With Dujon Sterling, you can put most of his skill sets into two categories: the good and the great. It’s that simple. Sterling does some great things and he does some good things.
Like every player, there are some things he needs to improve upon, of course. After all, he is still only about to be 23-years-old, still growing his game. But for the most part you see things from Sterling that could make him a future Premier League starter with some of these highlighted skills.
- Strength – His physical strength on and off the ball. At 6 foot 1 and around 178 pounds, Sterling packs a punch for a wing-back. He does not get pushed around defensively when he doesn’t have the ball. And when he’s on the ball, he’s very good at shielding the ball or moving around defenders with his physicality.
- Crossing Ability – To be a great wing-back, you must be able to accurately deliver crosses into your opponents 18-yard box. Something Sterling has covered. He’s very good at creating space and delivering accurate crosses into the box. What makes Sterling extra special with this is his ability to give service to his teammates by either standing up a cross more or hitting it on a direct line into the box. He makes the right decision on the fly as to which cross to put into the box
- Sterling’s Workrate – Another important tangible as a wing-back is your ability to join an attack giving width, but also get back to defend. Sterling does not have an issue with doing either because of his workrate, especially defensively. Sterling does not give up on the play. Sterling will run back to make a tackle
- Sterling’s 1v1 Ability – If Sterling was even more dominant 1v1 offensively, this one would be above in the great category. But we’ll just stop shy of saying he’s great 1v1 with the ball as of right now. He’s very close though with how well he can take on fullbacks or wing-backs 1v1 to create space for a pass or shot.Other side of the ball 1v1, Sterling can be trusted at all times as he rarely gets beat one on one with an attacker. Sterling is also comfortable 1v1 defending which means you can put him on an island if needed.
- Sterling’s Tackling Ability – Sterling is very good at putting in a challenge when needed and winning the ball back. He’ll sometimes sell out for a diving tackle, but rarely misses.
- Defensive Positioning from Sterling – A big part of defending is being in the right position to start with. This is where Sterling gets ahead of the play and puts himself in great positions to defend. He does a good job not giving attackers any inch to run around him, or at the very least showing them the outside run and then closing down with a tackle.
- Injuries for Sterling – Again, a lot of injury issues can’t be avoided. Outside of preparing your body the best you can, injuries will always pop up on the pitch. So, some of the improvement on this will come down to luck. But injuries have been a main momentum-killer for Sterling, even to begin this year. One must hope the injury-prone tag doesn’t end up defining Sterling’s career.
The Verdict on Dujon Sterling
If Sterling can stay on the field when he returns and show off all of his talent, Stoke City will consider his loan spell this season a success. That success could lead Stoke City to top of the table this year or at the very least be competitive and challenge for a top spot. His success will be crucial should Alex Neil continue to want to play in a 3-5-2, as Jacob Brown, a normal winger can’t be trusted at right wing-back for an entire season defensively.