Pep Guardiola has insisted that Raheem Sterling can continue to improve certain aspects of his game despite the winger’s hat-trick during Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Watford on Saturday.
The 24-year-old was in sensational goalscoring form at the Etihad sealing his hat-trick in 13 second-half minutes to put City 3-0 up and effectively put the game beyond the visitors who struck a consolation through Gerard Deulofeu.
Sterling’s goals took him to 15 in the Premier League this season which added to his nine assists means he has been directly involved in 24 league goals this season. That total is joint-top in the division with Eden Hazard, Mohamed Salah and his teammate Sergio Aguero.
The England international is being tipped as a potential Player of the Year contender off the back of another stellar campaign, yet Guardiola seems keen to keep him grounded by suggesting that he must get better defensively.
Speaking ahead of City’s Champions League game against Schalke, Guardiola said: ‘He didn’t follow his full back two times against Watford, the second time he dropped him. ‘He lost two, three or four balls when he has to avoid it, because he conceded counter attacks and, many simple things.
Of course, I am so glad in terms of what he has done, scoring three goals. I would like to play the first half he played then score three goals, I would be the happiest man in the world.
But I think it is good for myself too, to feel that we can do better, and I felt the first half was not the best first half Raheem has done this season. That’s why I tell him, and we will work on that.’
Sterling was one of the standout stars of City’s record-breaking title win last season, contributing 18 goals and 11 assists in total and he is on course to match or exceed those totals this term.
Alongside Aguero and Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk, Sterling is considered to be amongst the front-runners to be named PFA Player of the Year due to his exceptional performances.
City’s Sterling-inspired victory over Watford saw them maintain their position at the top of the Premier League table although just one point separates them and second-placed Liverpool.