Few managers would even consider sidelining a goalscorer of Aguero’s quality let alone risk the relationship for a 19-year old unproven player. But for Guardiola, his philosophy is everything and in it, the striker isn’t someone who should be allowed to conserve energy for darts towards the opponent's goal but a player who is devoid of the striker’s customary selfish genes, who is ready to work as hard as his colleagues, and who can start the crucial team press from higher up the pitch.
Sergio Aguero averages a goal once every 109 mins for Man City; a better return than any other player in Premier League history (10+ goals). pic.twitter.com/meUo6uEm5o
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 5, 2017
The Spaniard’s unwavering belief in this footballing principle has resulted in an uneasy alliance with a number of elite strikers in the past – Eto'o and Zlatan to name a few. They either adapted to the philosophy or left the club with a tarnished relationship with the manager. For much of this year, it seemed like Aguero was moving towards the latter which looked even more likely with the arrival of Gabriel Jesus who was doing all the things Guardiola asks of his front man.
But with Jesus currently out of the picture, Aguero is finally looking like he’s got the message. It’s not perfect yet, but the Argentine is trying to adapt to his manager’s demands as evident from his work rate last night. According to the Premier League tracking data, Aguero hit his highest totals for both sprints (81) and distance covered (10.5km) in a single Premier League game all season.
Sergio Aguero made 81 sprints today, more than any other Manchester City player. pic.twitter.com/VloLy5Fxtc
— City Watch (@City_Watch) March 5, 2017
Also evolving is his playing style in the final third. In years gone by, it was a familiar sight to see Aguero putting his head down and setting off on a stuttering solo run that either ended in an amazing goal or just a trip to the corner flag to lose possession. It was acceptable for Pellegrini or Mancini for whom Aguero was the focal point of the attack.
But not good enough for Guardiola whose system has other capable goal scorers making runs on either side. He wants Aguero to look for his teammates when with the ball, to make others better around him, and for the first time, Aguero seems to be understanding that role.
Aguero probably can never be the all-action, aggressive foremost prong of a high-pressing strategy that Guardiola envisions but the future definitely looks brighter than it did a few weeks before.