Pep Guardiola has thrown his support behind Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, insisting his uncharacteristic goalless streak is of no concern to him.
Guardiola watched his talisman go an eighth successive appearance without registering a goal at the weekend, having scored 20 in all competitions by 28 December but failing to hit the back of the net since.
There is no denying his influence remains over City, but while some have expressed worry at the downturn and how it has coincided with his team falling even further behind leaders Liverpool, Guardiola says there is nothing to worry about, and his performance levels prove that.
A bad result and overall performance... We should have done the job and score way before being punished tonight. Lessons got to be learned for the next important games ✊ #ComeOnCity pic.twitter.com/odqDXDp9Ni— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) February 2, 2020
"Raheem defended incredibly well against Wan-Bissaka vs Manchester United and he had the clearest chances that no other player can create for himself," he said, as per AS prior to City's 2-0 defeat to Tottenham. "Unfortunately he could not score a goal.
"But he was there and so I am more than delighted with the performance he made against United.
"A month ago, people were talking about his statistics, the goals, the assists, but I always said that I was not just judging Raheem on those points. It was important, but not the only one."
In an attempt to explain his dip in form, many have pointed to potential fatigue, having played over 100 games for club and country since the beginning of last season - with the potential for as many as 29 more between now and Euro 2020.
"Does he need a rest? I don't think so," Guardiola responded to the suggestion. "He's a guy who recovers quicker than anyone I have ever seen before – he is incredible and he could play every two days.
"The more he plays the better he feels, but all players feel like that."