Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola admits he has been surprised by Raheem Sterling’s prolific start to the campaign with the Premier League leaders.
The England forward scored the winning goal in the midweek Champions League victory over Feyenoord, taking his season’s tally to 11 goals, equal with the most he has ever scored in an entire campaign.
He has finally been showing the sort of potential that convinced City to pay Liverpool around £50 million ($67 million, 56 million euros) for his services, important for the club given that Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus have not been automatic selections this season.
And that form has even taken aback his manager.
“Yes — but it’s good,” said Guardiola when asked on Friday if Sterling’s record surprised him.
“Sergio didn’t play all the games, Gabriel too. Normally both or one are better. It’s good that the players know he can score goals like the one against Feyenoord.
“We have a lot of players who can score and that’s good. You can’t win the title with just one or two scoring goals. We have goals from wingers, from set-pieces Kevin (De Bruyne), Nico (Otamendi) — it’s so important.”
Guardiola has also been relieved by the fact that there was no retrospective punishment taken against Sterling when he won a crucial penalty against Arsenal in their recent league victory.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accused Sterling of diving to win the decision although City were furious with the accusation and the English Football Association found no grounds to take action against him under their new retrospective regulations.
Everton’s Oumar Niasse became the first Premier League player punished under that rule this week, as he was banned for two games after he was judged to have dived to win a penalty in a draw with Crystal Palace.
“Well, we have to accept the rules, it is what it is,” said Guardiola. “Always football is a quick game, a fast game, the referee has seconds to decide, so complicated, sometimes it helps.
“I don’t know what will happen in the future. We decided from the beginning of the season they are going to ban, we knew it so that’s what it is. That’s why I was so happy that Raheem against Arsenal was not banned.”
Guardiola, whose side travel to Huddersfield Town on Sunday, has also appealed for patience as he continues to bring promising young local talent Phil Foden into his first-team plans.
The 17-year-old midfielder, who starred in the recent Under-17 World Cup, made his first-team bow as a substitute in the win over Feyenoord
“I don’t know, we are so pleased,” said Guardiola when asked whether Foden would be involved again in the near future.
“It’s so important for the club to have one, two or three local players from the academy. His family are City fans and that’s so important.
“But when it comes to the decision on whether he plays or doesn’t play, it depends on his quality and his development, a lot of things.”
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