Belfast Telegraph

Sterling's game is improving all the time: Guardiola

By Tim Rich

When Pep Guardiola arrived in Manchester, one of the most intriguing questions was how he would impact on the club's few English players.

While John Stones has struggled to demonstrate the obvious talent that earned a £50m move from Everton, Raheem Sterling has made better progress, although his manager said he still needed more experience.

The Christmas fixtures that began with his scoring the winner in the 2-1 win against Arsenal ends on New Year's Eve with his return to Anfield.

After the win over the Gunners, Sterling said Guardiola had tried to make him more direct.

"In the last game, he came back to the level he started the season," said Guardiola. "In the last month-and-a-half, he was a little bit down but you forget how young he is. Raheem needs a lot more experience to become more stable."

His former manager at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers, said Sterling "drifted" after forcing his way out of Anfield in a £49m deal. Assessing his progress in his first season under Manuel Pellegrini, Rodgers said: "He lost what he was - which was a one-versus-one guy who is dynamic and can take people on."

"We need this guy for one against one," said Guardiola. "Of course, he is not our top scorer but he has to feel how beautiful it is to score goals, not just for the team but for him as well. He scored a beautiful goal against Arsenal and, in the first month-and-a-half, he gave us a lot. He was our key, key player up front.

"Sometimes, I say to him: 'You need to play wide, wide, wide. You need to stay there and make the action one against one.' But when he does that it is difficult for him to get into the box. But he did do that in the first match, against Sunderland."

Guardiola sees no reason why City should enter the transfer market and is looking forward to the arrival of £27m striker Gabriel Jesus from Palmeiras.

"I am happy with what we have and I have confidence in the players," he said.

"I am not denying that we are looking for something, I am not saying that. But right now I don't think that is going to happen. We have Jesus coming, Christmas is coming. We have another striker so I am happy."

It is, however, defensively where City are most obviously weakest under Guardiola.

He added: "When you dominate so clearly and you have problems scoring goals, it is so important to be solid in the middle and at the back."

Asked how he was looking forward to his first Boxing Day match, Guardiola smiled and said: "I cannot sleep. This is my first year here and people tell me that at Christmas you have be focused, focused because at home you celebrate with dinner and lunch but now we have to be prepared."

Belfast Telegraph


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