Tuesday 17 September 2019

Pep praises Sterling's stellar efforts but can't guarantee a deal

Manchester Cit manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Glyn Kirk / AFP
Manchester Cit manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Glyn Kirk / AFP

Luke Brown

Pep Guardiola praised Raheem Sterling for his performance and opening goal in Manchester City's comfortable victory over Arsenal, while admitting he has not yet spoken to the 23-year-old about signing a new contract and is ultimately unlikely to do so.

After a difficult summer playing for England at the World Cup, during which his lack of success in front of goal resulted in much criticism, Sterling was superb against Arsenal, giving City the lead with an impressive driven finish from the edge of the box.

And Guardiola was delighted with how Sterling fared in his first game back, overcoming a hostile north London crowd to score the 50th Premier League goal of his career.

"I want to thank his mum and dad for giving him such a special body shape," Guardiola joked after the final whistle.

"He is so small and tiny, so these guys in one week are ready. He has been good in training. We needed that guy in that position, and he did it so well apart from in the last 25 minutes when he started to get tired."

Guardiola added that Sterling should not be judged too harshly for his performances with England this summer.

"You cannot judge the players in the World Cup on if they score a goal or not. Raheem has this special relationship with English football, but he is so loved in the locker room.

"He did some very good things at the World Cup, moving space and creating for others. He would have liked to have scored a goal and tried, but I am sure in the European qualifiers he will score goals for his country."

In June Sterling failed to reach an agreement with City over a new long-term deal with the club, as talks stalled over wages. Guardiola (right) added that he wanted the player to remain at the club, but that as a "trainer, not a manager" he was in the dark over the player's future.

"No," he replied, when asked if he could provide an update on Sterling's future at the Etihad. "For the record I am not a manager. I am a trainer.

"I try to make a good team spirit in the locker room and win games. But we are delighted with him and would like Raheem to stay.

"We arrived after a difficult season and I told him I want to help him and want him to stay. But, in the end, the agents may not have agreements and that may not happen. But he knows we like him and want him a lot."

Guardiola also said he has no concerns over how hungry his players remain after their record-breaking 2017/18 season.

City broke a staggering 11 Premier League records in their title-winning campaign - including the most points, biggest title-winning margin and most goals - while also winning the League Cup, but Guardiola insists his players are as hungry as ever.

"Well, it's a good question but not one that needs an answer," he said. "If I ask the players, they'll tell me yes. They show me on the pitch whether they are hungry or not.

"That's where I discover if they are hungry or not, and we are still there from what I've seen in training and against Chelsea. We are not going to judge what will happen, but we try to be what we were, what we are. If we are beaten, maybe we'll deserve it.

"This team scored five goals against PSG and had a good pre-season. So to come here and win against Unai Emery in his first game is so important."

New Arsenal manager Unai Emery has admitted he is no closer to settling on a new No 1 goalkeeper, after selecting Petr Cech rather than summer signing Bernd Leno to start the club's opening match.

Leno was widely expected to become the club's first-choice goalkeeper when he completed his £22.5m move from Bayer Leverkusen, and yet Emery left him on the bench in favour of Cech.

Cech, who also wore the captain's armband, was unable to reward his manager's loyalty with a reliable performance. He could have done better with Sterling's opening goal, while looking uncharacteristically shaky in possession, almost passing the ball directly into his own net at one stage.

But Emery said he was pleased with Cech's performance and suggested he would be regularly rotating his goalkeepers.

"We want competence with the goalkeepers and all the players in the squad," Emery said. "The position is the same as the others and there is the same chances for all the goalkeepers.

"Today, Cech played good. And he has this experience of defending our goal. Leno is starting with us. He is working very well, he played also well in pre-season. But he can wait to arrive his moment."

Emery also insisted he was happy with the performance of his team despite their opening day defeat.

"It's very hard," Emery added. "Today, Manchester City demanded our best performance. Today we watched and saw we have to continue working.

"But I am happy with the players. They ran and they fought."

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: 'Jim Gavin has achieved what Mick O'Dwyer and Brian Cody couldn't do'

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport