Agüero look­ing vul­ner­a­ble as City evolve un­der Guardi­ola

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORT -

MANCH­ESTER CITY’S spine of goal­keeper Joe Hart, cen­tre back Vin­cent Kom­pany, mid­fielder Yaya Touré and striker Ser­gio Agüero has an­chored the team since 2011 in the most dec­o­rated pe­riod in its his­tory.

One by one, it is be­ing dis­man­tled by Pep Guardi­ola. Hart has been sent out on loan to Italy. The in­jury-ham­pered Kom­pany no longer ap­pears first choice. Touré has been os­tracised. And the seem­ingly un­think­able is hap­pen­ing: Agüero is com­ing un­der pres­sure for his place.

Agüero started on the bench for the English Pre­mier League game against Ever­ton last Satur­day af­ter play­ing two matches for Ar­gentina dur­ing the in­ter­na­tional break. More sur­pris­ingly, he stayed among the sub­sti­tutes for the Cham­pi­ons League match at Barcelona on Wed­nes­day, when Guardi­ola pre­ferred to play mid­fielder Kevin De Bruyne up front.

Agüero has been un­touch­able, a guar­an­teed starter since join­ing from Atletico Madrid in July 2011. Sud­denly, pos­si­bly the most pop­u­lar player among City fans – and a scorer of 102 league goals in his first five sea­sons at the club – is vul­ner­a­ble and seem­ingly dis­pens­able, even if he is likely to re­gain his place for the Pre­mier League match against Southamp­ton to­mor­row.

When asked if Agüero was be­ing phased out, Guardi­ola said yes­ter­day that the player’s fu­ture was at City.

“When Ser­gio de­cides to leave Manch­ester City, it will be his de­ci­sion,” Guardi­ola said. Then, echo­ing com­ments he made about Hart in Au­gust be­fore al­low­ing him to leave, Guardi­ola added: “I ap­pre­ci­ate him (as) a foot­ball player. I ap­pre­ci­ate (as) a man what he did here.”

It’s not just the re­cent se­lec­tion de­ci­sions that hint at a sense of un­ease be­tween Guardi­ola and Agüero.

Guardi­ola has said pub­licly on at least two oc­ca­sions this sea­son that he wants more from Agüero than just goals, just like he wanted more from Hart than sim­ply mak­ing saves. Af­ter Agüero’s hat­trick in the Cham­pi­ons League win over Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach, Guardi­ola said: “I can­not teach him (about his tal­ent in the penalty box), but he has to know that be­hind, the rest of the team wants to help him, and that is what I want to con­vince him.”

While on in­ter­na­tional duty with

Ar­genti­naas “is good. tellingvery picky Ar­gen­tinethis about month, me­dia ev­ery­thing, (and) it’s Agüero was quot­edthat Guardi­ola

“The good thing is that I’m get­ting used to him and au­to­mat­i­cally get­ting used into press­ing the cen­tre backs.”

Agüero, who is con­tracted to City un­til 2020, has 11 goals in 10 ap­pear­ances this sea­son, and 19 in his last 20 dat­ing to last sea­son. There are few bet­ter, at­tain­able strik­ers around and it will be in­trigu­ing to see how the sit­u­a­tion pans out, es­pe­cially with Brazil for­ward Gabriel Je­sus due to ar­rive in De­cem­ber to pro­vide com­pe­ti­tion up front.

Guardi­ola said on Fri­day that he had no re­grets about his de­ci­sion to drop Agüero for the Barcelona game, which City lost 4-0 af­ter hav­ing goal­keeper Clau­dio Bravo red-carded. That made it four games with­out a win for Guardi­ola, and a fail­ure to beat Southamp­ton would equal the long­est streak with­out a vic­tory in his coach­ing ca­reer.

In an an­swer that lasted more than 61/2 min­utes yes­ter­day, he de­fended his tac­tics at Camp Nou and praised the per­son­al­ity of his young play­ers like John Stones and De Bruyne.

Guardi­ola re­peated he will not change his style.

“I think about that, yes,” he said. “But af­ter that, the so­lu­tion is not bet­ter than what I be­lieve, so I can­not. Do you know why as well? Be­cause in seven years (at Barcelona and Bay­ern Mu­nich), I won 21 ti­tles. … So it’s three ti­tles per year play­ing in that way.

“No, no, I’m not go­ing to change. First, it’s go­ing to hap­pen that (if) it’s not go­ing well in the fu­ture, next sea­son isn’t go­ing well in that way, I will go home.”

Manch­ester City’s Ser­gio Agüero

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