Pep Guardiola backs 199-goal Sergio Aguero to get even better for Manchester City

Manager praises Argentine striker as he nears another landmark ahead of Premier League game at Arsenal

Manchester City's Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 20, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /

Pep Guardiola sounded taken aback by the number. “Wow,” he said.

If others were more familiar with the figure, it nonetheless bears repetition. Sergio Aguero has scored 199 goals for Manchester City. History suggests he will bring up the double century in Thursday's game at the Emirates Stadium.

City’s record scorer has struck in his last five games against Arsenal. Indeed, he has already found the net against them this week, breaking the deadlock in Sunday’s League Cup final victory with a deft lob.

Guardiola has never gone as far as Manuel Pellegrini did when his predecessor branded Aguero the third-finest footballer in the world, but he said the Argentine belongs among its outstanding strikers. “He’s one of the best, of course,” his manager said.

The question of Aguero’s place in the pantheon is a pertinent one. He has already reached 30 goals for the fourth season in a City career that has included the most famous goal in the club’s history.

Aguero's league-clinching goal against Queens Park Rangers in 2012

But he has never been voted into the PFA team of the season, let alone been named the Footballer of the Year. He feels overlooked amid the focus on Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah.

“I think world football recognises what he has done over many years,” Guardiola said. “The best recognition you can have is from his mates and he has it. We are so delighted with what he’s done in [the last] two years.”

Those efforts have been accelerated in the last two months. Aguero has been the most potent player in the English game in 2018, scoring 15 times in all competitions.

He has risen to the responsibility of being City’s sole specialist striker in Gabriel Jesus’s absence and, though the Brazilian made his comeback at Wembley, Aguero is certain to start on Thursday.

Guardiola has not always appeared his biggest fan, but the perfectionist explained: “I’m so demanding because I think he can do better. Not for any other reason. He has to play good to be in the team. The only way to keep going in three competitions is to be like this.”

City have won one competition. They remain in two more. “The most important title of the season by far, is the Premier League, more than the Champions League,” Guardiola said.

If it seems more attainable, he guarded against complacency. City require six wins to be mathematically certain of becoming champions. Their next six fixtures include meetings with four of their closest rivals, plus trips to Stoke City and Everton.

Arsenal were beaten 3-0 at Wembley but only the Manchester clubs have better home records, and Guardiola said: “They are a tough, tough, tough team in the Emirates.”

The City manager, meanwhile, is looking for improvement on Sunday’s display. “The first half was bad,” he elaborated. “We didn’t make good high pressing.”

Raheem Sterling is unlikely to return and Fernandinho is definitely out with the hamstring injury he sustained at Wembley.

It could afford an opening to Yaya Toure, who has played just 89 minutes of Premier League football this season and who has often not even made the bench.


Read more

Arsene Wenger 'amazed' at speculation over his future as Arsenal manager

Richard Jolly: Vincent Kompany a symbol of the old and new at Man City

Richard Jolly: Aguero's goal tally a testament of loyalty and longevity

Extra Time podcast: Who really is the Premier League's best striker?

John McAuley: Aguero has earned the 'legend' status at Man City


Soccer Football - Carabao Cup Final - Arsenal vs Manchester City - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - February 25, 2018   Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola shakes hands with Sergio Aguero as he is substituted     Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine     EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

“It depends on him,” Guardiola added enigmatically. “He is training well.”

He was supportive of another whose fortunes have faded, the increasingly beleaguered Arsene Wenger. He can empathise with the Frenchman’s emotions after defeat.

“You feel alone,” he said. “I understand what he feels. What happened can happen to me in the future. I have admiration for what he has done in Arsenal for a long time.”

He urged solidarity within the profession, subtly distinguishing himself from Jose Mourinho, who once branded Wenger a “specialist in failure”.

Guardiola concluded: “I never understand why the managers criticise [each other].”