Belfast Telegraph

Pep Guardiola: Leroy Sane back on song after a disappointing summer

Leroy Sane delivered a brilliant performance in Manchester City's 5-0 rout of Crystal Palace, but boss Pep Guardiola revealed the German had not merited inclusion in his starting XI earlier this season after a poor summer.

The 21-year-old was nominated for last term's PFA Young Player of the Year award having scored nine times from December onwards, yet he only started one of City's opening five Premier League fixtures this season.

However, Sane was brought in for Gabriel Jesus against Palace on Saturday and responded with a stellar showing, scoring the first and creating the second as the hosts - for whom Raheem Sterling scored twice and Sergio Aguero and Fabian Delph also found the net - heaped more misery on pointless Palace.

Asked about Sane's omission from his starting line-up in the season's opening fixtures, Guardiola responded: "(It was) because he didn't arrive good. He didn't have a good pre-season, he was not good in the first pre-season games. He didn't deserve to play.

"Now I have five strikers and all of them deserve to play - all of them. All of them are going to play. Some of them are going to rest and the next game play. I need them sharp.

"Leroy the last five, six months, especially the second part of last season, was so important for us.

"He's a guy who runs in behind in the right tempo in the right moments like anyone else in the world. He's a guy who's improving the simple things. He's scoring a lot of goals, creates chances, gives assists, he's a young player and he's so important for us."

City scored at least four times in a game for the fourth time this month and Aguero moved within one goal of City's all-time record with his 176th for the club.

Yet until Sane broke the deadlock in the 44th minute, Guardiola cut a frustrated figure on the sideline, angry with what he perceived to be an overly patient approach.

At one point City's boss even spoke to one of the ball-boys about increasing the tempo and when the half-time whistle blew he kicked his chair before retreating to the dressing room.

"If you analyse the first 30 minutes in the first half we were not ready," said Guardiola, whose side have scored 21 times and collected 16 points from their half-a-dozen league fixtures.

"Nobody was going to take the ball and start to play. It was five, 10 seconds before one guy goes there, takes the ball and starts to play out.

"When that happens every thing is low, the ball-boy was low, everybody was low. We have to create the game, we have to provoke the situations and we didn't most of the time in the first half. The second half we saw immediately the team was ready."

Palace fans are still waiting to see their team score or pick up a point this term and they have set a new record for the longest goalless start to a top-flight season ever.

And the prospect of them ending their drought has also been dealt a blow by the fact last year's top scorer Christian Benteke was forced off in the second half.

"We think it's a form of ligament damage," Eagles boss Roy Hodgson revealed. " I don't know quite how bad that ligament damage is.

"He's going to have a scan (on Sunday) but it will mean he won't be playing in the next game, I'm pretty sure of that."

Up next for Palace are the other division's other high-fliers Manchester United and Chelsea.

"We've got to accept that we've been given a headache and during the course of the week we've got to try and find the aspirins that will ease the headache, and keep working on what we're trying to," Hodgson said.

"Unfortunately there's a risk Manchester United and Chelsea will also be as capable as Manchester City of punishing us if we don't get things right."

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