The Under-Valued Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero has been up there as the best player in the Premier League since he arrived. Yet has never truly solidified his position as the leagues best.

When Sergio Aguero joined Manchester City in 2011 they had truly made their intent on the footballing world official. When they signed Yaya Toure he was out of favour at Barcelona and it seemed quite an expensive acquisition at the time. History however would show that Yaya was a bargain for what he brought to City. Yet in Aguero they had acquired one of the best forwards in world football, and one of the most sought after.

It was quite a coup for City. He immediately showcased his quality as a player and finisher and became a key part of their title winning season in his first year at the club. He will be forever remembered for the most iconic moment in Premier League history when his 93rd minute goal won the title for City. Each season so much is expected of him, yet each time he seems to leave you disappointed. What are the issues with Aguero and can Guardiola now take him into the bracket of the ‘world’s best’?

Since Aguero has come in to the league there has been a healthy debate on “who is the best player in the league?”, with Aguero constantly in the conversation. During his time in England we’ve seen players like Robin Van Persie excel at both Arsenal and Man Utd, Luis Suarez shine at Liverpool, Gareth Bale emerge as a world class player, the skilful dribbling talents of Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez mesmerise and there’s also been the emergence of players like Kane, Mahrez and Vardy. All the names above have featured in the Premier League’s Team of the Year. Incredibly Sergio Aguero has not.

This is now his sixth season and he has yet to even be acknowledged in what is effectively a justification of your quality as a player. Now there’s an argument to say that if going on goals scored, Aguero hasn’t come in the top two except when he was the Golden Boot winner in 2014/15 when he scored 26 goals. In 2nd place that year was Harry Kane with 21 and Costa 3rd with 20. Yet Kane and Costa still made the Team of the Year. Pointing to an issue with either how Aguero is viewed, or perhaps the timing of these awards, coming with significant games still to play.

This constant shunning of Aguero has left quite a few people perplexed. It just seems strange to me that a player of the quality of Aguero appears to have been ignored by his peers year after year. And it’s not like he has hasn’t won trophies with Man City; he’s won the Premier League twice and League Cup twice. But there seems to be something missing.

Punished for being better than the rest

When we consider the best player in the league I have always said immediately Sergio Aguero. Luis Suarez was on comparable form in his final season at Liverpool. Other players like Hazard, Mahrez and Alexis have shown their class without doubt. But I think Aguero has suffered from the level of expectation on him. I believe that people regard Aguero with such esteem, that he is judged on a different perspective to other players in the league. And you know what, they are right.

When Aguero joined City it genuinely felt like a truly world class player had arrived. The league has often brought in players who ‘could’ be world class, but this was signing a player at the peak of his game. Remember that even Hazard and Suarez had come from France and Holland respectively and you didn’t know what you would get. Aguero was different. You were expecting a special player. And for the most part in his time in England he’s delivered.  You only have to look at Fantasy Football to see how important he is, I mean you aren’t the most (significantly) expensive player on FPL for nothing!

Look at his records. It took him 147 games to get to 100 Premier League goals. Only Alan Shearer did it faster. In total he’s played 169 games in the Premier League and scored 113, assisting 26 goals. He has the best goals to minutes ratio ever in the Premier League. This is one of the best forwards the league has seen.

However there’s something missing with Aguero. A reason why he isn’t receiving the best player awards and getting into the team of the year. So what is it? Well when you’re considered the best in the league people expect the best. So although he’s been good, he’s best tally is ‘only’ 26 league. Expectations on Aguero is that you expect over 30 for a world class player. Add in the face that he hasn’t really done in it Europe, not when it matters that is.

And of course there’s the injury issues. Yes of course the reason he hasn’t been able to get as many as expected is because he doesn’t play as many games in the season as he should be. His goal to minutes ratio is so good because when he does play he often scores. But the problem for Aguero has been a constant battle with injury. It’s curtailed his consistency, minimised the potential to score 10-15 more goals in a season and ultimately affected his ability to be regarded as the best player in the league. So is he to blame?

A lack of professionalism of the pitch curtailing his talent?

Well you have to say yes. The best players, and I’m talking here about Messi, Ronaldo and Suarez, yet also in other sports players like LeBron James and Tom Brady, are all good examples of durable players who have been shown to be able to play a lot of games, at a high level, and not suffer from injury. At their peak these players never seemed to miss a game. Which meant they were able to continue to make significant contributions game after game for their teams. And ultimately win trophies.

The soft tissue muscle injuries point to an issue with Aguero’s diet. And lessons can be learnt from his close friend Lionel Messi in this respect  Messi changed his diet drastically in his late teens and cut out red meat and ate more fish, resulting in better health, recovery and limiting muscle injuries. He suffered from consistent hamstring problems before Guardiola arrived and effectively changed his diet and micro-managed Messi’s preparation.

Ronaldo is known to be one of the most professional and dedicated athletes in terms of diet, recovery and overall fitness which has seen him continually be at his best year after year. Suarez is a little different in terms of how he plays and he appears to have the fortune of being extremely durable and resilient considering the way he plays.

Aguero has shown to be a lot more fragile. Is it because of diet? He admitted in May 2015 that he had sought to change his diet Aguero after his troubles with soft-tissue problems in his thigh, hamstrings, groin and calves. He followed guidance from Messi and started cutting out meat, pasta and sugar. As he admitted, “I needed a healthier way of life. I went to a doctor in Italy and he checked everything. I had to change quite a bit — no more pasta, no more sugar and no meat, which I used to eat quite a bit because Argentinian meat is very good.”

Effectively Aguero learnt the lessons Messi had, only six years later. Imagine had he been given the guidance younger if he could have been ever better. You have to imagine he would.

Another aspect to Aguero which I’ve felt must be a problem for him is the size of his bottom half. He has quite large thighs and glutes, which appear to have become significantly bigger since his time playing at Atletico. While Aguero is quick, I wonder if he suffers with speed endurance issues and if this puts stress on his muscles during games which could result in injury?

You see while Aguero has all the tools as a player to be a truly world class player who could be winning Ballon D’or’s, you have to think that he hasn’t had the same mindset to be great as Messi and Ronaldo have. And Aguero should be considered in the same conversation as these players, the fact he isn’t points to an issue with Aguero.

And this brings up another concern people have with Aguero, that he’s simply too nice. Is he completely dedicated and driven to be the best, or his just content with being good? You see the best and they are relentless in their pursuit of greatness and success, both individually and as a team, and you do have to wonder if Aguero is too content where he is. This brings up the argument of where he is.

Time for Aguero to move elsewhere?

Although Man City have established themselves as one of Europe’s biggest clubs, they are still a level below the real elite of world football. This doesn’t help him establish himself as one of the best players in the world. It’s evident that the world’s best are situated predominantly at three clubs; Barca, Real and Bayern. City have always had ambitions of being in that group and they have the spending power to get there. However we’ve seen in recent seasons that City are still a fair way off competing with the top sides. Even reaching the semi-final last season seemed fortunate and in the tie versus Real Madrid City looked very ordinary.

With the arrival of Guardiola they may now get the coach needed to reach that stage also. And so just as Aguero has sorted out his diet and focus, he now has a world class coach to take him and the club to the top. Unfortunately he now appears to have fallen out of favour with Guardiola and his future at City looks to be on the verge of ending.

This seems unfortunate for the player the team, yet it is seems quite clear that Guardiola is seeking to build a young team of fluid, dynamic forwards, and he evidently doesn’t see Aguero in his plans.

At the start of the season this kind of thinking seemed ludicrous, not only because of how good Aguero was a player, but how well he actually started the season. Aguero and the team were on fire, winning 10 games in a row, with the Argentinian scoring 7 goals in the process. City looked sharp, dynamic and simply mesmerising and Aguero looked happy, focused and was working hard.

But it is this issue of ‘work rate’ and the importance of ‘pressing from the front’ which is laid at players like Aguero and Daniel Sturridge, world class finishers, yet in the eyes of some coaches, they don’t work hard enough to justify their role in the team or don’t offer enough defensively to help the team succeed. Guardiola and Klopp expect their forwards to work hard from the front and press effectively and both have seemingly lost their trust in their star goalscorers to provide this key element. It seems funny to think goalscorers are expected to press and defend more than score but that is the modern game today.

There is a sense that Aguero is too rigid in his style to be an effective player for Guardiola. When Aguero comes deep he often loses possession easily, a massive frustration for a coach like Guardiola. And it may well be that for all Aguero offers his team in terms of goals,  he is simply not suited to the vision Guardiola has for this club.

To drop him against Barcelona was evidence that he was not valued highly by Guardiola, simply put he wouldn’t drop Messi at Barcelona for any game. I felt that Aguero would be like Messi in Guardiola’s eye for Man City, in the same way it seemed Gotze would be at Bayern. That simply hasn’t proven to be the case. Gotze wasn’t focused or motivated enough at Bayern and Guardiola lost faith in him very early. I wonder if he feels the same with Aguero. Perhaps he feels there’s nothing more he can get from the Argentinian and believes Sane and Gabriel Jesus provided more upside for the future.

It’s fair to say that Guardiola and centre forwards haven’t always got along, with the Catalan desiring a ‘team of midfielders’ who can do everything, or at least fluid versatile forwards who can play in multiple positions. These strikers who want to spend their time on the shoulders of defenders aren’t what he desires. This is the man who preferred to play without a striker after all.

So it may well be that Aguero’s time at City is coming to an end. But this may turn out to be the best thing for him. Six seasons is a long time in football these days and a change may do him good. It may re-motivate him and he won’t be short of suitors. There may even be a position at Barca with his friend Messi available. Or perhaps back to Madrid, this time to lead the line for Real.

Despite the issues he may with Guardiola and regardless of the injury problems which have plaugued his time in England, this is still one of the greatest forwards to grace the Premier League. He still has plenty of years left at the top. It’s just a shame we never got to see a complete season from Aguero in terms of being injury free. I’m sure if we had there would be no sense of injustice about him not being part of the team of the year or receiving a player of the season award. For me, he’s the best in the league and has been since he arrived in 2011. In my opinion City would be crazy to let him leave, and the way he is being treated by Guardiola hasn’t been fair to such a talented player. If Aguero does leave England, it will be a real shame to see such a world class player leave our shores.

By The Whitehouse Address (@The_W_Address)