If you were to ask someone who supports a team that hasn’t been managed by Pep Guardiola, just what exactly a typical “Pep player” is, they would give you many different answers. Some would say that they need to be an expert in possession football. Others who are less knowledgeable would say that being capable of passing sideways is a pretty important trait. These theories are common among players that Pep would like, but there is so much more to his style.
As everyone knows by now, Sergio Aguero is a natural goal scorer, and if you give him any space at all near the goal, he will score. Under Manuel Pellegrini, his game relied upon hanging in and around the six-yard box, and occasionally dropping deep when he wasn’t receiving the service that he required. But this season, Aguero has added an extra dimension to his game that not many people knew he was capable of producing.
When it comes to forwards that play under Guardiola, he demands a lot. Not just on the ball but he expects movement and pressing off it too. There aren’t too many players in the modern game who can match the level of intensity he so wishes – while also being a constant goal scoring threat throughout the duration of a game. However, Sergio can do all of this and more.
It has been very common this season to see him part of the build-up play – getting others involved by showing a good range of passing. Don’t get me wrong, Aguero may not have the vision and technique of someone like David Silva, who is a master at finding the perfect pass, but for a striker who is mostly known as a natural finisher, it’s a welcomed sight.
His stats for this season also tell the same story. He may only have one assist, but he is averaging around 25 passes per match. Compare that with other seasons, and you’ll see that he had around 22 per game. This change has seen Sergio become much less selfish in and around the box. It is required for a striker to have some level of selfishness to score as he does, but when you see the former Atletico Madrid striker create chances for others as well as scoring, it epitomises what a world class striker truly is
Another significant change in his game has been his work rate off the ball. If you were to just watch Pep on the touchline for a small period in any match (which I do recommend as it’s quite interesting), you would see him waving furiously at the players when they are not involved in the play. The actions of Guardiola had occurred a lot in the beginning of the season when he was still implementing his style of play. His fast-paced possession game requires the players to win the ball back quickly after they have lost it – something Aguero has mastered in weeks goneby.
There was no player that he frantically waved at more than Sergio and it seems like he is finally catching on. His defensive work at times has led to great counter-attacking chances being created and sometimes even goals. When he goes to press the back line, and nobody else follows him, he will look back with his arms raised and ask questions of the players around him. The next time the ball is being passed around the back, he will go to press and others will follow. Defending from the front, a trait that not many strikers are willing to implement into their game.
There has been many a time where Pep can be seen applauding Aguero for the defensive work that he is putting in. In this sense, he is becoming much more of a leader and an example setter in a season where we have been fervently missing our captain and the leadership qualities that Vincent Kompany brings.
In the last Premier League title winning season of 2013/14, Aguero had 13 tackles, 14 blocked shots, and 6 interceptions. So far, this season has had 17 tackles, 36 blocked shots and 3 interceptions. These statistics come with three matches to play (if he does manage to start any of them due to injury) and doesn’t include the Champions League – a competition he has stepped up against the big clubs to do a job defensively as required by Guardiola.
It is so difficult to understand why some City supporters are saying that he is past his best when he most clearly an integral part of this team. He should be welcome to stay until he wants to leave. Not when others push him to leave. Yes, Gabriel Jesus is very exciting, but we mustn’t forget that he is very young and still has a lot to learn. Also, how can we guarantee that any other striker that is signed in the summer he can adapt to the Premier League? A prime example would be Radamel Falcao. He was bordering on non-existent for Chelsea and Manchester United when he was at those respective clubs. Now he is decimating the majority of teams he plays against with AS Monaco. And if anyone were to tell you “it’s just the French league. It’s much easier there”, well think again. He has done it countless times in the Champions League this season including making Willy Caballero look like a Sunday league keeper during City’s 5-3 victory over the French champions in February.
All of this may not matter because there is ever increasing speculation that Aguero will depart this summer. If anyone higher up at the club were to read this (highly unlikely), I would beg you to do everything you can to keep him. I can’t help but feel that he has so much more to give and it would make me, and I’m sure every fan, jubilant to see him lift another Premier League or even possibly a Champions League trophy at Manchester City.