Pep Guardiola has told Raheem Sterling that he needs to relax a bit to fight his way back to top form.
The Manchester City star has shown glimpses of reclaiming old glories by scoring in the last two games – a poaching goal against Paris Saint-Germain after a fantastic finish against Everton a few days earlier.
But with the Blues’ mini-injury crisis starting to clear up – Phil Foden likely back in Sunday’s clash with West Ham, Jack Grealish not far behind him and Kevin de Bruyne coming out of Covid isolation next week – Sterling faces a battle to stay in the team.
City are still reasonably confident he can turn it around after a big dive in his game in the last nine months, which increased the prospect of him having to leave it and they are still hoping to tie him to a new contract.
Sterling has played well, as well as getting the two goals, but Guardiola – though he sees it as a positive sign – believes there is still plenty of work to be done to get back to his best.
“I’m so happy for him, he’s definitely helped us,” the manager said. “He will fight to get better and better.
“It’s important for strikers and wingers to score and get assists. He was crucial and crucial in what we have done in recent years.
“Scoring goals can give confidence, but he has to do better, it’s the first step for him to come back.
“We do not put pressure on (goals and assists) numbers – they try to score goals and help us win the matches.
“The group is everyone and everyone contributes to the team winning matches. At the end of the season we see how many goals have been scored, clean sheets. He has to play as he knows he can do it and the rest he can do it.”
Guardiola said the hectic schedule has played a role in Sterling’s dives – he was a key player for England this summer and as a result he has had some rest, unlike his international teammates Phil Foden, John Stones and Jack Grealish, who all have had pronounced injured.
“When they do, they go back to the basics, they need to know it’s normal,” Guardiola said. “In this crazy calendar, more games, there is no time to rest.
To access the upcoming matches on Amazon, you must have an Amazon Prime subscription.
Subscriptions are available for free for the first 30 days. The price thereafter is £ 7.99 per month and comes with additional perks, including next day delivery, and sometimes same day, from amazon.co.uk.
Amazon’s first Premier League matches will be all 10 matches on the 14th day of play between Tuesday 30 November and Thursday 2 December.
Click here to start your free 30-day Amazon Prime subscription.
This article contains affiliate links, we may receive a commission for any sales we generate from it. Learn more
“English players go to the final of the European Championship and two or three weeks later they come back, it’s Community Shield, then Tottenham. You can not imagine how difficult it is, especially for the talented players – every three days they have to be creative.
“The guys who are physical and don’t have to think, they just run. They have to dribble, be creative, so demanding, and sometimes you go back to the basics because we know your quality.
“Sometimes you help the team, and the basics are enough. Then the confidence comes back and the team wins. When a player does not play well, I do not doubt them, I do not think they do not have the skills.
“I’m not going to tell Raheem that he does not have the quality he had in the last six years. He’s the same guy, get back to basics, and step by step he will come back.”
Guardiola also said he has no complaints about the way Sterling has worked while out of the team.
The player said last month, in response to a direct question, that he might have to consider leaving if he can not force himself back into the team, but there has been no sulking or acting.
“The setting has always been good, always,” Guardiola said. “I’ve always told the players to make demands on yourself, but do not put a lot of pressure on your shoulders.
“In a career as a player you can not always be ten out of ten. You have ups and downs. The important thing is not to get so low. When you do well, you want to perform and achieve the statistics you have done in currently.
“We have won the Premier League, but I’m not sitting here thinking we should win the Premier League. I want to live well, and to live well is to take responsibility and relax. Do your best, priest your maximum.
“But on a team like Man City, it’s not entirely up to you to be successful. There are many reasons. Go on the pitch when you have the opportunity to play and do your best. That’s all.
“Your teammates, the manager, our fans will help you. We are lucky that every player gives everything in every training, how we run and fight. That’s enough.”