Pep Guardiola has challenged Raheem Sterling to maintain the standard he set in Manchester City’s impressive win over Arsenal last week.
England forward Sterling struck the winner as City came from behind to beat their title rivals 2-1 in a Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium.
It underlined the 22-year-old’s generally impressive start to the season – after a difficult end to 2015-16 and a harrowing Euro 2016 – but Guardiola felt his level had just dipped slightly in preceding weeks.
Guardiola said: “In the last game, he came back to the level he started the season.
“The last month and a half, he was a little bit down, but you can forget how young he is. He needs to live a lot of experience to become more stable.
“In general, his performance has been high and we need this guy for one against one. Of course, he is not our top scorer, but he has to feel how beautiful it is to score goals, how important it is for the team and for him as well.
“He scored a beautiful goal in the last game and he gave us a lot during the first month and a half. He was our key, key player in front and of course we need him.”
Guardiola has tended to play with a lone striker – usually Sergio Aguero – with either three or four attacking players operating behind him. The likes of Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Nolito and David Silva have all taken turns at playing either centrally behind the striker or out wide.
Sterling, however, actually played the striker’s role against the Gunners in the absence of Aguero through suspension.
Guardiola believes he can get the best out of the former Liverpool man as he becomes more comfortable in all the positions.
He said: “He can play more narrow, he can do that. Sometimes I say to him, ‘You need to play wide, wide, wide and stay there and make action one against one’. When he does that, it’s difficult for him to get into the box.
“But for example, the first goal against Sunderland, he played wide like a winger but he arrived on the penalty spot (and won a penalty).
“I think the strikers and the wingers they have to move how they feel, especially in the last metres.”