Why is Sergio Aguero struggling to score goals for Manchester City this season?
With the nimble exchange of passes with Yaya Toure, immaculate balance and quick feet to drag the ball away from a confused Gary Cahill and into just enough space in a crowded box to find the bottom corner of the net, it looked as though normal service had resumed in the world of Sergio Aguero. Aguero, on the bench for City’s resounding 3-0 win at West Bromwich Albion after his summer excursions in the Copa America, looked sharp and elusive as he terrorised Chelsea’s back-line in the opening half of their meeting in the second week of the season.
Only the reflexes of Asmir Begovic would deny Aguero opening his account before he eventually broke through in the 31st minute with a goal that encapsulated every inch of his brilliance. The intelligence and patience to link the play outside of the box and his composure when in it, the devastating ability to shift his weight from one side of his body to the other, on the turn – all the while knowing exactly where the ball is.
As Cahill and Nemanja Matic, who failed to stop Aguero converting with a desperate lunge, discovered, when the striker senses an area of space to weave the ball into it is almost impossible to stop. They are the qualities that got Aguero 32 goals for City last season. And with the opening strike against Chelsea it seemed as if the Argentine was in the mood for many more this term.
But it hasn’t yet quite gone the way he, and everybody else who witnessed him tear Chelsea’s defence to shreds at the Eithad, expected.
Premature for accusations of Aguero’s poor form?
That strike against Chelsea back in mid-August remains Aguero’s solitary goal in 7 appearances in this new campaign. And after the disappointment of a 1-2 defeat at home to West Ham, following City’s loss to Juventus in the Champions League four days before it, the striker and his club both find their form being put under the microscope.
Aguero only managed seven minutes of the tie with Juventus, returning from the injury that saw him exit the 1-0 win at Crystal Palace after 25 minutes following a dangerous tackle from Scott Dann.
It has admittedly been a stuttering start to the campaign from Aguero who has managed to play over 60 minutes in just four of the seven matches. But the early scrutiny is a result of the incredibly high standards he has reached across the four years he has spent in the Premier League with City, for whom he has plundered 108 goals in 171 games and won two league titles.
So what’s behind Aguero’s goal-shyness?
In the win at Everton he was frustrated by two smart saves from Tim Howard but he was largely subdued at Goodison Park, though the main concern comes from a peripheral display in the win over Watford the following week. Quique Flores’s team swarmed Aguero and limited him to two shots on goal, both of which trickled wide, with the majority of his 37 touches coming in deeper areas outside the box.
He would have more joy against West Ham, who were similarly cautious but were far more potent on the counter-attack, having four shots on goal – one which was saved by the excellent Adrian in the visitors’ goal and one that he diverted wide with the goal gaping after the ‘keeper had been rounded.
Aguero would see more of the ball in the opponents’ box however, possibly due to the inclusion of £56 million new signing Kevin De Bruyne supporting him from attacking midfield. He would even provide the lay-off for the Belgian’s goal just before half-time. There was enough from the link-up between the two to suggest they will form an effective partnership even if the Argentine was distinctly off-colour.
Aguero will benefit from the addition of Kevin De Bruyne
The arrival of De Bruyne, pitching up at City after scoring 15 goals and registering 25 assists for Wolfsburg last season, will definitely add a more direct element to City’s attack and will help ease the goal-scoring burden on Aguero who cut a frustrated and ineffectual figure in the second-half against the Hammers.
The Belgian’s presence and incisive movement around the box will create space for the striker but he will have to rediscover the ruthless assurance in front of goal that has eluded him in recent games if he is to start converting the chances that De Bruyne, David Silva and Raheem Sterling are sure to create for him.
As shown against Chelsea, Aguero is at his best when occupying defenders close to their goal but Manuel Pellegrini’s use of Silva behind the Argentine prior to De Bruyne’s signing may have curtailed the striker’s capacity to play in dangerous areas.
Silva, although majestic when in possession, naturally drifts to the right-side which leaves a withdrawn central space for Aguero to move into, away from goal as he did against Everton and Watford. That, partnered with defences choosing to drop deep and stymie City’s powerful attack, is hindering Aguero. But De Bruyne’s pace and direction in support of the Argentine will certainly help.
Why Man City need Aguero back to his best
Wilfried Bony failed his audition with a lethargic display in Aguero’s absence against Juventus and although Kelechi Iheanacho was the match-winner when the Argentina international went off injured against Crystal Palace, the Nigerian is still too inexperienced to be given a sustained run in City’s starting XI. Meanwhile Sterling, Silva, De Bruyne and Toure, all capable of finding the net, will be cast in the role of supplier.
Aguero, last season’s EPL Golden Boot winner with 26 league goals, is still City’s chief goalscorer. And with Manchester United beginning to find rhythm following the arrival of Anthony Martial and the threat of current champions Chelsea still looming despite their sluggish start, City can’t afford many more results like the one against West Ham if they are to wrestle back the title they last won in 2014.
For that to happen, Aguero has to be the razor-sharp bundle of energy and rapier-like movement he was against Chelsea. Not the muted and anxious shadow he was against Watford or the barren striker he was against West Ham, seemingly void of belief. It could yet be too early to accuse Aguero of poor form, he will turn this around. He has to, he is simply too good not to.
Stats taken from WhoScored