After the disappointing defeat to Spurs at the weekend, there is much to learn from the low-key performance from many of City’s leading lights. But with the return of Sergio Agüero from suspension, this could be timely.
His form early on in the season has been well documented in the past and thus it’s imperative that City keep him on the pitch as much as possible. His suspension after elbowing West Ham’s Winston Reid cost him and City three-games, and although that didn’t impact any of the end results – there are other ramifications.
Three games is a lot in the early part of the season, when pros are looking for consistency, as they aim to get to an acceptable level of fitness to perform at their optimal level. Missing a chunk of the start of the season disrupts that continuity. You could argue Agüero wasn’t at his best in the Champions League game against Celtic and the poor showing at Spurs, which resulted in City’s first defeat of the season.
Maybe the Spurs result was a reality check. Everything had gone so smoothly since the appointment of the mercurial Pep Guardiola – the man that could do no wrong. However, City were facing a Spurs side who on their day are as good as anyone in the league. City were also coming up against the in-form Son Heung-min who for all intents and purposes is still an unknown quantity in the Premier League. That said, journalist James Middleton pointed out that Heung-min had scored five goals in as many games prior to the fixture against City, and that South Korean was in a rich vein of form and the most likely to score against Guardiola’s City team.
What happened next, we all know. The aforementioned journalist was pretty accurate in his predictions; although Son Heung-min didn’t score, he set up Dele Alli’s and Spurs’ second goal, which sealed the result and moved them within a point of City. Although Agüero was on the pitch, you can’t help but think his recent inactivity could have contributed to City’s demise last weekend amid other worrying performances and absentees.
If Leicester showed anything last campaign it’s by putting the same players out on the pitch week in week out, it helps them learn together and grow together. While Agüero has been a fixture in the City team for years, the new players need to understand his movement and idiosyncrasies to make sure they operate on the same level as the Argentine. Missing three games mean that’s valuable time lost in real-game scenarios on the pitch. Tottenham also proved last campaign that this was a successful formula. Chelsea the season before. Guardiola isn’t by any stretch as brittle as Jose Mourinho when it comes to his team selection, but he’ll certainly want his best XI on the pitch at all times during a tough Premier League season.
With so many new arrivals at City in both playing positions and coaching appointments, the directive should be to have all keys players on the pitch. Injuries to Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne mean Guardiola is having to reshuffle his pack. Also, there’s the on-going saga with Yaya Toure – a distractions City could do without, with the Ivorian’s agent as vocal as ever, claiming Guardiola “treats his players like dogs,” according to ESPN Asia. Therefore, the need for the likes of Agüero staying on the field is one of paramount importance for so many more reasons that just putting the ball in the back of the net. This is a time for learning, and is ultimately a crucial time in City’s evolution under the manager our fans have yearned for since the club was bought by Khaldoon Al Mubarak in 2008.
Here’s the Week 7 podcast for you to listen to which talks about the City loss in-depth.