Raheem Sterling aiming to build on impressive start to season
Manchester City striker not tempted for ‘one minute’ by Arsenal’s interest in his services
Raheem Sterling: “It is massive year for me, for the team and I need to keep building, keep working hard and go to the World Cup on a positive note.” Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA
Raheem Sterling has stated he did not “think one minute” about Arsenal’s wish to buy him in the summer when he learned of the club’s interest.
The forward was wanted by Arsenal as part of a deal that would have taken Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City.
However Pep Guardiola did not contemplate allowing the 22-year-old to leave and Sterling has rewarded the manager’s faith by scoring six times in the Premier League and seven in all competitions.
Sterling said he did not discuss with Guardiola a potential move to Arsenal, after discovering the club’s interest when with England in August.
“I didn’t need to speak to him because I already spoke to him in the summer,” Sterling said. “I didn’t have any negative thoughts. I just woke up one day with England, didn’t believe a word of it. I didn’t need to worry about it – didn’t think about it one minute.”
Sterling signed from Liverpool in July 2015 and views his long-term future at City.
“I signed for five years,” he said. “I have three and a half years left.”
City host Napoli on Tuesday and Sterling wants to continue his stellar form with the World Cup in Russia at the close of the campaign.
“Yeah, it is massive year for me, for the team and I need to keep building, keep working hard and go to the World Cup on a positive,” Sterling said.
His highest club tally of goals in a season is 11, achieved twice with Liverpool. Sterling appears certain to eclipse this, having managed 10 last term.
“I just need to continue focusing on getting into goalscoring areas, getting into the box because that is where the majority of my goals come from,” he said.
“I am trying to build on the year before.”
Sterling praised Guardiola’s contribution to the development of his game.
“He’s been massive for me especially with basic stuff – he always tries to get you to do the simple things at top level and that’s the genius thing about him. It works, too.”
Sterling’s six league goals have come at the best strike-to-minutes ratio in the Premier League.
“It is something I have been trying to improve, scoring more goals, being more efficient and being more clinical,” he said. “That has been a massive question mark.”
Whereas City have won both group games, Napoli lost their opening match at Shakhtar. However Maurizio Sarri’s side are unbeaten in Serie A which they lead by two points.
Of the challenge that awaits his side, Guardiola said: “It is not a team that is going to wait. They make high pressing and amazing build-up in the middle. They have three guys who are so dynamic: [Lorenzo] Insigne, [Dries] Mertens and [Jose] Callejon. They make runs in behind – especially Callejon. In the middle they have [Marek] Hamsik who can also run in behind.
“The set pieces are also good. The goalkeeper [Pepe Reina] is also good; the leader of his team-mates, he has the quality to make the build-up.”
Guardiola has a fully-fit Aguero available, following a rib injury.
“Yesterday he had an amazing training session,” the manager said of the striker.