Pep Guardiola is confident Raheem Sterling will soon get back on the goal trail after a tough run of form at Manchester City.
England forward Sterling enjoyed a prolific start to the campaign that included hat-tricks against West Ham and Atalanta.
However, he is now scoreless in 12 matches, with the last of his 20 goals in all competitions coming when he netted a
brace in a 3-2 Premier League defeat to Wolves in December.
A hamstring injury further compromised the 25-year-old and, although he produced a telling cameo from the bench in City’s 2-1 Champions League comeback win at Real Madrid last month, his trails in the opposition penalty area were again laid bare during Sunday’s 2-0 derby loss at Manchester United.
Nevertheless, much like goalkeeper Ederson – whose two mistakes led to United’s goals – manager Guardiola has no fears over Sterling’s levels of belief heading into Wednesday’s Premier League match against Arsenal.
“He’s incredibly positive, especially in the fact that when he misses one chance he tries again,” he said.
“He was injured for two or three weeks and sometimes you need a little bit more time, but he’s coming back.
“I never was so much worried about these kind of actions, like Ederson last time. It happens.
“These are the guys who suffer the most. When it happens they have been supported and we try to let them feel we are here for them.
“Sometimes you speak with them and sometimes you leave them free. They are so mature to understand what they have to do.”
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) February 26, 2020
City’s attack was unusually toothless in the Old Trafford derby, with a left-sided berth for Gabriel Jesus one option available to Guardiola in terms of freshening things up.
A centre-forward by trade, the Brazil international has played on the flank for his country and excelled out wide before scoring at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Deploying Jesus on the left of a front three could give Sterling a chance to freshen up on the right of City’s all-time top scorer Sergio Aguero, although the specific characteristics of opponents and the identity of his full-backs – Benjamin Mendy and Oleksandr Zinchenko offering very different interpretations of the left-back role – will also be factored into Guardiola’s thinking.
“I think Gabriel can adapt perfectly in that way, especially as he doesn’t play wide, wide wide,” he explained.
“He can play a little bit more inside like how Arsenal play with Aubameyang. Gabriel can play perfectly in that position and in the games he played he played really well.”
Leroy Sane, a specialist on the left wing, could make his long-awaited return from knee ligament surgery against Arsenal and Guardiola added: “Sometimes we need more specific winger in that position, it depends on the quality of our full-backs as well.
“To attack a defence with five players in the back and so deep, you have to make the pitch wide. If you don’t it is more difficult.”
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