MANCHESTER (UNITED KINGDOM) (AFP) –
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was relaxed about the possibility of losing star forward Sergio Aguero to suspension after television footage appeared to show him elbowing West Ham United’s Winston Reid on Sunday.
Aguero could face retrospective action by the Football Association, and suspension, if the incident in City’s 3-1 Premier League win is judged to have been deliberate.
That would rule him out of City’s next game, the eagerly-awaited derby away to Manchester United at Old Trafford on September 10.
“I didn’t see it,” said Guardiola of the incident at Eastlands following a win that left City top of the table on goal difference.
“I am new here so I don’t know how it works,” the Spaniard added. “I didn’t see so I cannot comment. Hopefully nothing happens. If it happens, we accept and adapt. If we lose him, we lose him. We are going to play with 11.”
Two goals from Raheem Sterling and one from Fernandinho clinched a fifth win in as many league and cup games under Guardiola’s management, although a header from Michail Antonio — called up into the England squad for the first time later Sunday — brought West Ham back to 2-1 and provided City with some anxious moments.
However, for all the changes former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola has made at his new club in fewer than two months, the form of Sterling has been most startling after a difficult debut season with the club and a terrible European Championship campaign with England in France.
“What have I done to him? Nothing,” insisted Guardiola. “I have tried to do the best for all the players.
“Raz (Sterling) has scored two goals, was good but the games before was more brilliant than today (Sunday).
“Today in the first half he scored a goal but didn’t win too many defensive duels. Second half he was better, but of course we are so pleased.
“He can play right, left centre. He is so dynamic. I am so happy he is playing good.
“Raz is quality. We try to help him to say, ‘if you stay in that position, you receive the ball quicker’.
“After when he receives the ball, it is completely his talent. Manchester City bought this player because they believe.”
– Nasri chance –
The game also offered a rare chance for Samir Nasri, who appeared to be surplus to requirements under City’s new management, to come on as a substitute and make an impact against West Ham.
“Yeah, it depends on the player but he can play,” said Guardiola when asked if the Frenchman still had a future at the club.
“Samir arrived overweight but after one week, 10 days, it was fantastic how he trained, how he competed. His quality is on another level but it depends on him. If you want to help us, want to stay, want to be part of something, it depends on him, not me.”
Should City be without Aguero for the derby game, there is considerable consolation in the fact that they will have three big pre-season signings — Leroy Sane, Ilkay Gundogan and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo — available for selection in their first meeting of the season with Jose Mourinho’s club.
“Of course we can do better,” said Guardiola. “No doubt about that. But we are just one and a half, two months here.
“We created many chances so we deserved to win clearly with more goals. The performance is good. We need Ilkay and Sane and all the guys because the guys who play today cannot play every three days.”
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic had no complaints about Aguero’s alleged elbow on Reid, saying he did not see the incident, and with so many injured players unavailable at Eastlands, took some consolation from the performance.
“With so many players we are missing, you have to praise the team,” he said.
“Especially in the second half. We can’t play much better than that when you’re missing six, seven, eight top players and you’re playing against them (City).”