Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Raheem Sterling has been told that improving his goalscoring record is the key to securing his long-term Manchester City future.

Sterling could have moved to Arsenal in August as City tried to secure the £60million ($78million) signing of Alexis Sanchez, but both deals ended up falling through.

The England winger declared last month he never considered the prospect of moving to Arsenal, and he was determined to make himself a success in Manchester.

Manager Pep Guardiola has made clear Sterling needs to be a regular goalscorer in order to thrive at City.

The message appears to have got through as Sterling is now on course for the best goalscoring season of his career, with the help of City coach Mikel Arteta, a former Arsenal captain.

“I think Raheem is enjoying scoring goals,” said Guardiola as his team prepared for Sunday’s home game against Arsenal.

“He’s not scared, he’s not afraid to take a risk.

“And now he’s seeing how fun, how good it is to score goals. Now he’s more focused on that.

“Mikel Arteta is working many, many hours and days after training specifically about the last action on the pitch -– that control in the last moment to make the right movement in the final three or four metres.

“Raheem has wanted to stay there on the training pitch, to improve, to practise, to shoot at the goalkeepers.”

Goalscoring used to be a problem for Sterling -– who often looked nervy when chances came his way, particularly in his early career.

He has never scored more than 11 goals in a season, but has 10 already this term, having hit four in his past five matches.

Guardiola added: “I think it’s mainly because he’s decided: ‘I want to score goals. I can do that and I’m enjoying that.

“His final pass still has to improve – he has to do it better. He has got better but he can still do better.”

– ‘Agree a referendum’ –

Meanwhile, Guardiola has called for a referendum to resolve the Catalonia independence crisis after describing the jailing of eight politicians as ‘scary’.

A Spanish judge sent eight members of the sacked Catalan government to prison on Thursday pending possible charges over last week’s declaration of independence.

It follows the decision by the same judge, Carmen Lamela, to imprison two pro-independence leaders for alleged sedition in the run-up to a non-binding public independence referendum on October 1, which was held despite being declared illegal by the courts.

Spain’s central government suspended Catalonia’s autonomy, and called snap elections in the area for December 21, after its regional parliament voted in favour of independence last Friday.

Former Barcelona player and manager Guardiola, who voted in last month’s referendum by post, is known as a proud Catalan.

“I wish the 11 politicians that they have put in prison are released soon,” he said.

“I’m a little bit worried, because what happened to them could happen to us for giving an opinion.

“If it could happen to them, then it could happen to anyone, even to people who don’t think it could happen to them.

“The two persons leading the Catalan organisation were put in prison for asking to vote in a legal referendum.

“I think that the Spanish government and the Catalan government should sit and talk and try to agree a referendum. Until then, it’s a really difficult situation to be solved.