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Pep, Sergio and City's family silver

How do you refer to a man who’s scored 159 times in 203 starts and 37 substitute appearances for Manchester City in five- and-a-half seasons – including 23 goals in 2016/17?

Answers could range from sensational, exquisite, revered, goal-scorer, insatiable, one of a kind or, more succinctly…Sergio.

City’s Argentine pocket rocket Sergio Aguero has already achieved legendary status and is contracted to stay at the Etihad until 2020.

He’s a prolific marksman, one of the best players ever to adorn the Premier League, still only 28-years old and at the peak of his powers.

Stories, rumours and innuendo have been rife all season long, as to whether or not Pep Guardiola sees Sergio as an integral part of City’s future.

Pep has said he wants Sergio to stay. The club has said it has no intention of selling Sergio this summer. Sergio has said he wants to stay at City.

Surely then, there’s nothing to discuss, no issue – Sergio is going nowhere, other than sticking around to win, and win big, with City and Guardiola.

Realistically, how many City supporters of sound mind, would want Sergio to depart any time soon?

But still the niggling worries and doubts persist.

The arrival of Gabriel Jesus – a prodigious talent and nearly 10 years junior to Aguero – has sparked speculation that the more senior marksman may fall foul of Pep’s changing of the guard at the Etihad.

Sergio only regained his starting berth after a broken metatarsal forced Jesus out of Pep’s first team plans, but he’s done everything – everything – that has been asked of him.

He replaced the stricken Jesus at Bournemouth and was unlucky not to have been credited with City’s second goal on the night.

Sergio’s touch was clearly going past Boruc in the Bournemouth goal, before a further deflection from Tyrone Mings (he of the head-kick to Zlatan’s ‘swede’ infamy) achieved the same outcome.

Since then he’s started all five games against Huddersfield (twice), Monaco, Sunderland and Stoke, scoring five goals in the process. Pep even awarded Aguero the Captain’s armband in Wednesday night’s stalemate with Stoke.

Those questioning Sergio’s long term future at City claim he doesn’t do enough off the ball, to satisfy Guardiola’s high intensity style of play.

If ever there was a case to answer, his recent indefatigable showings, have surely put that argument to bed – he’s worked tirelessly, pressing opponents, tracking back and tackling.

As City go into a crucial FA Cup Quarter Final at Middlesbrough this lunchtime, it’s worth rewinding to the 5th round tie away to Huddersfield, a game City could and should have had won by half time but, by the final whistle, could so easily have lost.

As ever, so many hopes were riding on the shoulders of City’s superstar striker as he spearheaded a weakened City line up.

But let’s look at it from Aguero’s perspective. He was playing as a lone striker, isolated up front and with very little by way of service.

Such is his stature, reputation and achievements with City, Sergio is a man expected to do something amazing, expected to score and expected to create goal scoring opportunities in every game.

He has demonstrated time and time and time again he can do wonderful things with the ball, but he needs a good service from the midfield and the wings…and a quick service at that.

This requires sharp thinking team mates, pulling strings in midfield looking for runs off the shoulder of a defender.

It cries out for wide players hugging the touchline and making darting diagonal runs behind defenders, thereby creating the space for the striker (Sergio) to ghost into unmarked.

Space may have been the Final Frontier in Star Trek, but not so for Sergio. He only requires a miniscule amount of space to inflict goal damage on any opponent.

This didn’t happen against Huddersfield for three reasons, namely Delph, Fernandinho and Fernando.

All did the same job on the day – they were ‘solid’ but predictable – quick enough to spot danger, but too slow to see advantage.

They feasted on simple and safe short passing patterns, but none of them had the confidence in their own ability to thread a ‘killer’ ball between the centre backs.

It meant a famine for Sergio.

The City midfield took to spraying 40-yard diagonal passes to a wide player – Navas – who constantly has his head down, leaving Sergio having to guess when and where the ball might be delivered into the 18-yard box.

Faced with this scenario what was Sergio to do?

Frustrated, he was forced to drop deeper and deeper to try and get on the ball and make something happen.

As the ‘star’ man, he felt a responsibility to galvanize his team, but in doing so it pulled the team out of shape, making City look disjointed.

So why would he do that?

He did it to show his manager that things weren’t working on the pitch, that something had to change. Guardiola would have been more than aware and it showed that both striker and manager were on the same wavelength.

In a match that wasn’t going well, it showed Aguero’s ‘football brain’ and his intelligence, something that wouldn’t have been lost on Pep.

Aguero’s clever, he knows how to change games with or without the ball, how to influence the bench with movement and body language.

He also knows what all the City fans know – he can win a game in an instant, if he has the right calibre of players behind him.

If it's not working he'll work his socks off to prove it and give an understanding of what will.

Without a doubt, Sergio is already one of the hardest working strikers in the Premier League, but Pep is a very demanding manager, always wanting more, his teams have to work, work, work, almost like no other.

What has become increasingly apparent in recent weeks is that Aguero seems to trust Guardiola and, after Huddersfield, it looks like the manager trusts him.

Super Frankie Lampard recently remarked that far from being at loggerheads with each other, Guardiola can actually make Sergio an even better player.

Such a prospect must strike fear into the hearts of every defender in the Premier League and Champions League alike.

City are in the embryonic stages of what promises to be a glorious new era, one that could and should include a hungrier Sergio Aguero, a version that can and will prove any doubters wr

At Barcelona Guardiola had Messi and David Villa working in tandem. At Bayern Munich he had Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, so why can’t Pep deploy Sergio with Gabriel Jesus?

Why do all the so-called pundits say City’s frontline can only accommodate one or the other?

There’s a school of thought – misguided – that Aguero is on the wane and, that with the arrival of Jesus, it may be time to cash in.

Football is a hard-nosed business with little room for sentiment.

If you consider Juventus paid Napoli £80m for Sergio’s Argentine compatriot, 28-year old Gonzalo Higuain, in 2016, who’s to say any sale of Aguero wouldn’t command a world record fee in excess of the £89m+ paid for an under-performing French midfielder?

Pep is on record saying he puts an emphasis on buying exciting young talent, players who will truly blossom under his guidance – players such as Paulo Dybala, another Argentine striker, who at just 23 years of age, is earning rave reviews at Juventus.

Dybala is reported to have a £38.3m buyout clause in his contract. Weigh that against a £90m+ outgoing Aguero and City are £50m+ up on a deal.

The big unknown is whether someone like Dybala – as good as he is – would flourish in the Premier League and emulate the achievements of Aguero?

Pep’s first season in England has been one of adapting to challenges the like of which he has never experienced in La Liga or the Bundesliga.

City’s Catalan boss said: “If I have no silverware, I will not be here for a long time. No silverware – it will not be a good season.”

Irrespective of winning any trophies this season – and he may yet – Pep is clearly already on a fast track to deliver sustained success to City.

Nonetheless, it would puzzle and perplex the most devoted of Pep’s admirers if, in the pursuit of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup honours, he decided to sell off City’s ‘family silverware’ in the shape of Sergio.

By David Walker

Written in collaboration with fellow City fan Brian Entwistle - a man who knows a thing or two about football coaching and whose tactical acumen far outweighs mine! @djwskyblu

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