Sergio Aguero class can be pivotal for Manchester City in Premier League title race

Forward scored winning goal as Manchester City came from behind to beat Watford

Jack Pitt-Brooke
Monday 04 January 2016 00:00
Comments

Quique Sanchez Flores was crestfallen but he cannot have been surprised. For the second time in five days his team had lost 2-1, conceding a late winner to a bigger club who they had outplayed. On Monday, it was Tottenham Hotspur; on Saturday, Manchester City. And this time the winning goal was scored by someone the Watford manager knows well.

Sanchez Flores managed Sergio Aguero at Atletico Madrid, pairing the 21-year-old up front with Diego Forlan, winning the 2010 Europa League. He still rates Aguero as the best player he has ever managed, along with David Silva, whom he coached at Valencia. “I managed a lot of good players,” he reflected, “but Silva and Aguero were a little bit different.”

Aguero was not fully fit on Saturday, still recovering from a series of injuries which have ruined his season. At Arsenal and Leicester City recently, he was hauled off after an hour for Wilfried Bony. At Vicarage Road, Aguero was struggling to run in behind, missing that burst of pace that takes him away from defenders.

A blunted Aguero means a blunted City – and they were outplayed for the first 80 minutes by Watford, 1-0 down before Yaya Touré’s instinctive volley drew them level. But with six minutes left, Aguero, even on one leg, summoned enough power with his header to win City the game.

That is what the Argentine can do, even when operating nowhere near his best. If he can stay fit for the rest of the season then City will surely win the title. Sanchez Flores has thought all season that City would do it. On Saturday, his former player showed why.

“Aguero was at a high level, then he was injured for a short period,” Sanchez Flores said. “It was enough to have some doubts, maybe. When you are injured, you lose your rhythm. But these kind of players have good physique, they recuperate their shape. Aguero is a completely different player. He is one of the best players in the world.”

City manager Manuel Pellegrini spoke afterwards with the relief of a man whose team had just been sprung out of jail. They are now just three points behind leaders Arsenal, rather than six. It felt like a turning point in their season – and in Aguero’s. Pellegrini was happy to embrace it as one.

“He has improved a lot in his whole performance, if you compare with his last game [at Leicester],” Pellegrini said. “We know Kun needs three or four games to return to his top performance. For him, the goal was important. Hopefully, he can go on. He is very important to our team, more than just one player.”

Of course, City cannot hope to be bailed out by their big names in the last 10 minutes of every away game. “We have to be more careful,” warned full-back Bacary Sagna. “Because that won’t happen every time. You have to take the game and create more chances before you concede.”

As City returned to Manchester to prepare for their Capital One Cup semi-final first leg against Everton, Watford were reminding themselves how far they have come. Even after two painful defeats they were still in ninth place, more than halfway to safety and looking upwards.

“We have plenty of reasons to be positive,” Sanchez Flores said afterwards. “We have 29 points, we are in the top half of the league, we are competitive and always have the opportunity to win, including against the big teams.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in