Southgate, who named his final 26-man squad for Qatar yesterday, also revealed concerns over Harry Kane’s fitness ahead of the tournament, with the England manager set to make managing his two leading forwards a priority before their opener on November 21.
Sterling has scored just once since Graham Potter took charge at Chelsea and has been switching between a wing-back role and the front three.
Asked about the 27-year-old’s stuttering form, Southgate said: “The first thing is always to sit and talk to players and look them in the eye and find out what is going on. Raheem has had a change of club and his scoring at the start was very good.
“He has had three managers in a short space of time if you go back to [Manchester] City. There is a lot to take on for a player when they move club.
“Of course, we expect instant transfer of performance on the pitch, but there can be many reasons [why that is not the case]. We have a few players in that sort of situation and I have to work out how they look on the training pitch and how they are within themselves.”
Kane, meanwhile, has been in fine form for Spurs but has started every game so far this season, and Antonio Conte revealed he was replaced in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup third-round tie against Nottingham Forest because of “fatigue”.
The Italian’s decision not to rest him at the City Ground raised eyebrows, but Southgate said he understood Conte’s thinking and would put his captain on a bespoke training programme ahead of the World Cup.
“I wasn’t surprised [Kane played Wednesday ] because Tottenham have lost attacking players,” Southgate said. “I empathise with the club managers at this time. We would like it to be slightly different, but if I am Antonio I have to win football matches for Tottenham, and the same with every other manager.
“We have 26 unique cases in terms of how we physically have to look after them. We haven’t got time to get that wrong. We will have some like Jude [Bellingham] and like Harry who have played almost every midweek and others who will need a bit more.
“When we are putting training sessions together we are not just training the team, we are looking at all those physical aspects as well and what each individual needs. Its no different to a normal camp, but on the schedule we are on the back of, it’s even more important.”
James Maddison, Callum Wilson and Conor Gallagher were the standout inclusions in the squad, with Ivan Toney among the players to miss out.
“Callum’s just in that really rich vein of form and has been with us a little bit more, been on the pitch with us, we know him a little bit better,” Southgate said of Brentford striker Toney’s exclusion.
Southgate also insisted he would defy FIFA’s request for nations to “now focus on football” in Qatar after a controversial build-up, coloured by criticism of the host nation’s human rights record.
“Frankly, I will choose if I speak or not, and I am sure the players will as well,” he said. “I don’t think we are necessarily going to be swayed by that communication. That said, we have to be focused on the football. We have to get the team right. We have to make sure our energies are towards the football, but we will speak when asked.”