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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 February 2019

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero a pure goalscorer in age of all-rounders

Argentine who brings different skillset to team packed full of technicians has consistently scored against big teams

Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick for Manchester City against Arsenal on Sunday. Peter Powell / EPA
Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick for Manchester City against Arsenal on Sunday. Peter Powell / EPA

It was about 20 minutes before Manchester City against Arsenal kicked off, and about 20 minutes and 46 seconds before Sergio Aguero scored the first of his 10th Premier League hat-trick, when Marcus Rashford gave an illuminating interview at Leicester.

"I don't think anyone grows up wanting to be just a striker nowadays," the Manchester United’s match-winner said. "You want to be an all-round forward, you want to be able to play on the left, play on the right, play No 10, play wherever the team needs you.”

Rashford is nine years Aguero’s junior. Perhaps it is a generational thing, a sign of the changing times and differing tactics.

But while the Argentine has, if not operated as a genuine No 10, played off a main centre-forward for much of his time under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, he is what he was always destined to be: a striker, pure and simple.

Against Arsenal, Aguero had the fewest touches of any of City’s outfield starters and scored all the goals. He averages the most shots per game in the division (3.6) and has the most Premier League goals of anyone operating in it (157). He is the pure goalscorer in the age of all-rounders.

“He was born with that talent, he will die with that talent,” Pep Guardiola said.

Aguero has improved his work off the ball and his movement for the Catalan. His commitment to the team is such that he was covering in the left-back position at one point in Tuesday’s defeat to Newcastle United and no out-and-out striker can rival his tally of six league assists this season.

He is, however, essentially a scorer, bringing a different skillset to a team packed full of technicians. He delivered three close-range finishes on Sunday.

“It is a pleasure to have him with us, scoring another three goals in a fantastic performance,” said Bernardo Silva, one of those creators. “It is a privilege to have a player like ‘Kun’ in our team who scores in the big games.”

Some poachers can feel flat-track bullies but, as Silva suggested, that accusation cannot be levelled at Aguero: some 40 of those 157 league goals have come against the big six. Two came in victories against Manchester United and Liverpool this season.

It is an illustration of his excellence that he has won over Guardiola. The manager believes Gabriel Jesus’ high pressing is the best in the world and the Brazilian has scored eight times in his last four starts. But he was benched for Aguero.

The statistics show the consistency of his contribution. Aguero reached 20 goals for the season on Sunday for the sixth consecutive year, and the 11th time in 12. Even in the other, injury-hit season, he struck 17 times. He is on course for at least 27 for the eighth time in nine.

Perhaps, over the years, those goals have got less spectacular: a 2013 Manchester derby strike was compared to George Best while, with his low centre of gravity, ability to accelerate through the smallest of gaps and capacity to unleash powerful shots, he was likened to Romario by both Fernandinho and Cesar Luis Menotti, Argentina’s 1978 World Cup-winning manager.

Yet the reliable can be overlooked and the fact the Premier League’s most prolific player of the decade has only been named in the PFA Team of the Year once has suggested even his peers have taken him for granted.

Not his teammates, though. Silva was asked if Aguero was the best forward he had played with. “I have played with Cristiano [Ronaldo] in the national team so it wouldn’t be fair to say yes,” he replied diplomatically.

But in City’s history, their record scorer stands alone.

Updated: February 5, 2019 07:24 AM

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