Sergio Agüero is undoubtedly the man at City. The poster boy. The superstar. The icon. He’s also, unfortunately, very injury prone and seven City Watch writers have assembled to discuss what sort of effect this is having on Kun. Is he evolving as a player? Has he lost that burst of acceleration or is he better than ever? And how might Pep’s arrival impact him? We start with Anis, whose worries have provoked this debate.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worrying about Sergio Agüero. In many sums, he’s better than ever; every facet of his game even better than last year. He’s also definitely a better finisher than he has ever been and he’s posting good shot numbers, goals-to-minutes ratio and every other stat that matters to a forward. Yet I can’t help but feel like something’s missing. Those abject games where Kun would be a non-entity seem to be getting more frequent. The ferocious burst of pace that’s such a feature of his game is dwindling. Whisper it quietly but it looks like Sergio Agüero might be physically declining.
While that might be hard to fathom, it’s important to remember that no-one in Europe born in 1988 has played more league games that Sergio Agüero. Cesc Fabregas, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen. There’s quite a long list of players who were rushed into the game at a young age and didn’t have their injuries managed properly. Those players inexplicably began declining at an earlier age and lost their power and mobility. For some whose career is built on those traits, it’s fatal. For others, they try and adapt their game. Kun might have much more quality than those players but it is his Romario-esque turn and spin that gives him that slight edge in a game. That unbelievable burst invariably places him in that 0.1%. It is his X factor. While he might continue to be one of the best strikers in the world, I worry he’ll cease to be one of the best players in the world.
Sergio Agüero is what I like to call a ‘coaster’. He coasts along, doing what he does with very minimal effort and with absolutely no concern of his place in the side ever being taken away from him. Because Agüero is an incredibly gifted footballer, because he is something more than a just a player to Manchester City and because he is currently being managed by an individual who is on his way out and also lacks assertiveness, this is OK; but under Pep Guardiola, a manager who does not care for history building strikes in the 93rd minute, Sergio may finally be challenged to reach a higher level. Don’t get me wrong, he’s already at a level much higher than any other player in this squad, but soon he’ll be joined by a coach who occupies the same air space. Being the fantastic player he is, he’ll be pushed and forced to do things he wouldn’t normally do. He’ll have to press, he’ll have to track back and he may even have to look over his shoulder at a striker much better than Wilfried Bony. Agüero hasn’t lost any of his power, speed or confidence – he just needs a reason to show it.
Concern over whether Sergio Agüero’s persistent injury set-backs are beginning to effect his lightning pace is legitimate but to my mind premature for the time being. We’ve seen this before: the five or six games in recovery mode followed by a spell where he is almost but not quite there. Very good rather than sensational. On this occasion it is lasting longer than usual but on this occasion he is playing in a side that is clicking only in fits and starts. He is trying to take on the burden but his body is half-disagreeing and to this end he would be much better served with Kelechi in support. Maybe this is written in hope rather than expectation but Sergio at his very best always returns. Unplayable and clearly relishing every minute out on the pitch. That’s not to underestimate the concern however nor how critical his pace is. It’s that top-end 5% that brings together every other facet of his game, that smooth acceleration into fifth gear from a casual amble facilitates his predatory movement and affords him space and a sight at goal. Without it he would still be a huge asset. With it he is priceless.
I get the sense with Sergio recently that he’s not playing with the utmost of trust in his teammates. There seems to be a growing tendency of his at the moment to try and do far too much himself, almost as if the team’s crazily inconsistent form has made him doubt them a little. There was less of this when he first joined, and that’s what made his sudden changes of pace a lot less predictable. He’s Sergio Agüero, so he gets a relatively free pass of sorts, but he doesn’t seem anywhere near as relaxed he was once was on the pitch and he’s running down blind alleys with a greater frequency. I get the impression it could be temporary though – it’s notable that he seemed a lot more willing to trust his offensive partner and exchange passes when he was alongside Kelechi for example, a player with a clear intelligence and vibrancy to his game. A confident, controlled team, one brought by Pep perhaps, could be exactly what he needs.
Agüero is an absolutely incredible player. He is a lethal finisher, averaging around 4/5 shots on average, per game – a high number indeed. However, having said that I do think that it will be a real challenge for him to adapt to Pep’s style of play. You only have to watch Lewandowski play a couple of times with Bayern to realise that it will take a huge adjustment for Serg. Guardiola demands that his forwards lead the press, and I whilst I don’t doubt that Aguero is capable of pressing, his work-rate off the ball in recent years has undoubtedly been quite low. Moreover, Agüero will have to learn to be more disciplined in his movement – and not stray too far out of the final third, as Guardiola wants his forwards to stay as high-up the pitch as possible.
Agüero is still undoubtedly one of our best players, however I’ve noticed a couple of things creeping into his game that have had a negative effect on his performances. One thing I would like to see him remove is his need to take the ball outwards, towards the side of the goal. It seems to happen quite a lot recently and results in some good chances being spurned. Another thing, due to a lack of chances he’s receiving and ultimately frustration, he’s felt the need to come further back and out wide, which for me isn’t his role. This means that he’s been absent in the box on multiple occasions. However, like I said, he’s still one of our best players – who has had a few seasons hampered with injuries. I’ve got faith that he’ll return back to his best, as long as he is able to stay injury free and not overwork himself when recovering.
Since he arrived at City, it’s evident that Agüero has lost a yard of pace. His various muscle injuries seem to have taken their toll, and his ability to effortlessly outpace defenders seems to have diminished. This isn’t a slight, because Agüero has shown remarkable intelligence to adapt. This season has showcased for me just how brilliant a player he is. He’s developed a more ruthless streak, often occupying space in the box, making it impossible for defenders to pick him up. In years gone by, the harshest of critic could claim he was too eager to constantly run in behind. Now, he’s become a better player through his use of constantly finding space, as well as anticipating fellow player’s movements better. If we look at many of Agüero’s goals this season, he’s rarely scored by simply running in behind – his strikes against Everton, Newcastle and West Ham were all the result of him taking up excellent positions. For what it’s worth, I still believe he possesses the raw power, as well as skill to beat defenders, he’s just tempered his movements to ensure he hasn’t become a one dimensional forward. For me personally, we should be lauding the magnificent Argentine for his ability to change his game. It’s enabled him to terrorize opposition defences, but in a whole new way.
What do you think? Is the iconic Sergio Aguero better than ever? Anis made the point that early starters often decline before others, so could we have seen the best? Or is he just needing a coach like Pep Guardiola to make him even better?