Goalscoring has always been about timing. In one respect, it took Sergio Aguero 13 minutes to strike. In another, it was just over 54 hours. Either way, he showed his speed.
The news emerged on Friday that Gabriel Jesus had signed a five-year contract with Manchester City. The Brazilian can seem the best stylistic fit for a Pep Guardiola side, but Aguero remains City’s finest goalscorer.
Not just now, but in their history. A Community Shield double against Chelsea rendered him the first man in City’s 138-year history to score a double century of goals for them. In a year of City records, landmarks and statistical distinctions, Aguero added another.
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The defining theme of his City career has been sharpness and, if there was a sense the champions could be rusty, Aguero rebutted it. Chelsea’s players had more pre-season minutes under their belt, but City’s had more cohesion and quality.
It amounted to an inauspicious bow for Maurizio Sarri, whose tactics were expertly dissected by City. Aguero has long preyed on defensively-suspect sides and by the end Chelsea were so ragged that Brahim Diaz could have had a hat-trick in his 15-minute cameo.
The FA Cup winners were spared a thrashing by Willy Caballero, whose CV, like Aguero’s, features City and Argentina.
The forward beat an old colleague twice, and perhaps should have done twice more. Yet his persistence was a sign of hunger, the goals he scored proof of quality.
He reached his landmark in under seven years and under 300 games. The familiarity of his high-class finishes should not dull the sense that he remains remarkable.
Few find the corner of the net as often as Aguero, as his opener demonstrated. His second showed similar precision, finding the near post after he sprang the offside trap. It illustrated a shortcoming in Chelsea’s system.
There is space behind Sarri’s high defensive line. When the back four retreat, there is room ahead of them, and few sides savour an opening between the lines as much as City. Either way, space was a recurring theme. Whichever approach Chelsea adopted, David Luiz floundered.
The positioning reflected the different ethos after regime change. Antonio Conte preferred the insurance policy of two deep-lying, often defensive, midfielders. Sarri does not share his predecessor’s safety-first instincts. He has put the emphasis on the front foot, but their midfield were caught ahead of the ball as Phil Foden advanced unchecked to find Aguero for the first goal.
Chelsea will be altogether more robust when N’Golo Kante is available again to add energy in inimitable fashion, but Cesc Fabregas and Ross Barkley permitted Foden and Bernardo Silva to burst beyond them too often.
The debutant anchorman Jorginho was left outnumbered, an essentially constructive player who found he needed to be destructive.
City had wanted him. Yet if the failure to sign the £57 million (Dh272.2m) midfielder, means Ilkay Gundogan is used more as the alternative to Fernandinho, Foden may be an indirect beneficiary of Chelsea’s transfer business.
The 18-year-old relished his chance to deputise for Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva. His was a precocious display of class. Bernardo Silva also excelled as a No 8 before moving further forward when Leroy Sane came off, meaning Riyad Mahrez switched flanks in an encouraging debut.
Guardiola ended up improvising, pushing John Stones into midfield to provide slick passes. He had instigated the move for Aguero’s second by intercepting Callum Hudson-Odoi’s pass. The 17-year-old had been Chelsea’s most enterprising and eye-catching attacker, but even a positive contained a negative.
Meanwhile, Aguero ended up raising the trophy, his medal in his mouth and with a double century of City goals to his name.