Pep Guardiola believes in-form Raheem Sterling can get even better
The winger scored twice and put in a stunning performance as Manchester City cruised past Southampton at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola warned rivals there is more to come from Raheem Sterling after the winger inspired Manchester City to a 6-1 rout of Southampton which sent them back to the top of the Premier League.
Sterling scored a brace – taking him to 50 City goals – and added two assists to cap off a week in which he verbally agreed a new five-year deal with the reigning champions.
“He is in incredible form,” Guardiola said. “He is sharp, fast, clever, fighting, ambitious and is decisive.
“He can play on both sides and in the middle and receive the ball behind the lines and always commit the centre-back with a lot of aggression.
“It was an incredible performance with and without the ball but still with the young guys like him and Leroy (Sane) I would like to feel they can still improve.”
On this form it was easy to see why City have worked so hard to tie down the 23-year-old Sterling to new terms.
He was the man Sane was looking for when his cross was turned into his own net by Wesley Hoedt for the opening goal, and Sterling then set up Sergio Aguero for the second before playing a role in David Silva’s strike that made it 3-0.
After Danny Ings pulled one back from the spot – Southampton’s first league goal since September 17 – Sterling got City’s fourth in first-half stoppage time, then the fifth in the 67th minute before ending the day by setting up Sane for number six.
“I have the feeling he is now enjoying scoring goals and making assists and being important in winning games,” Guardiola added. “He is becoming a winning player and he is just 23 years old. We cannot forget that.
“He is stable and is focused on what he has to do to become a better player. If he has his mind to become a better player, and think it is not enough what I am like as a football player, he can reach whatever he wants.”
Sterling could take inspiration from Aguero, who scored his 150th Premier League goal but also turned in the sort of performance Guardiola demands of his forwards, regularly tracking back and winning possession.
“Of course,” Guardiola said when asked if this was how he wants to see Aguero play. “I spoke many times with Sergio. I am not asking Sergio to be Gabriel (Jesus) or Kyle Walker but I am asking for the best Sergio…to be aggressive, with and without the ball.”
Very happy for this win and for scoring my 150th goal on the @premierleague with this great club. A big thanks to all the team and fans for their support. And we're going for even more! 🤟🏽 #mancity pic.twitter.com/ihFD7qc55q— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) November 4, 2018
Southampton may have ended their barren run in front of goal, but Ings’ 30th-minute penalty never felt like changing the game after City scored three times in the opening 18 minutes.
“That is the game gone right from the outset,” manager Mark Hughes said. “Any other work you have prepared and the game plan you want to implement goes out the window.”
But Southampton kept battling and had six shots on target, the most City have faced in the league this season, to offer some encouragement.
“It is difficult when you are down,” Hughes added. “You can’t overcommit because Man City have the ability to run over the top of you and it gets even more embarrassing.
“Six-one is not a result we take any pride in but the fact we were trying to create chances when the game was gone shows the character was good.”