Sergio Aguero lost and lacking confidence as Man City future comes into question
Sergio Aguero is no longer sure how badly he is needed by Manchester City and it is starting to show. For the first time, he has a point to prove but does not look entirely convinced he will be able to prove it.
Aguero has never had to justify his place at City before and it has had a debilitating effect. Where once there was calm under pressure, there is now fear of missing, where there used to be certainty, there is doubt.
Few strikers have been as clinical, so ruthless converting chances, as Aguero. Rarely, though, has he looked so harassed, so rushed, so flustered in front of goal as he was this weekend. Something is missing.
It is probably just confidence that has disappeared, in which case it should only be a temporary loss of form. But it could be more than that. If Aguero is no longer happy at City, the damage is far more serious.
Pep Guardiola insists he wants Aguero to stay, but also points out that the player must want to stay too. It is nothing more than a hint the former Atletico Madrid forward is unsettled in Manchester, but it helps fuel rumours the 28-year-old will look to leave.
Guardiola wants to redesign the City team, and he will bring in new players to suit his style of play, rather than adapt a style to suit the players he already has.
Aguero has been untouchable, undroppable, under all his previous City managers, but Guardiola appears less enamoured. It looks like an uneasy relationship and will only have become even more complicated after City failed to beat Huddersfield Town.
The draw, which the Championship side fully deserved, means there will be a replay neither club wanted. Huddersfield are chasing promotion, City have a Champions League and Premier League challenge to maintain, but had Aguero been more clinical, the tie would have been settled at the first time of asking.
He missed two excellent chances in the first half and nothing he did quite came off. He looked as though he was trying too hard to impress, but in turn second guessing the things that normally come naturally.
Even his teammates recognised this was not the Aguero of old. “He's a great player for us with a lot of quality,” said Fernando. “He helps the team a lot. Unfortunately, he didn't score today, but we hope on Tuesday he's going to be ready to play a great game."
Guardiola has a challenge on his hands. He must revive Aguero, even if his long-term future is in doubt. With Gabriel Jesus, the man who dislodged him from the starting XI, injured and unlikely to play again this season, City need Aguero back to his best, they need their leading goalscorer to return.
Although City will feel they had enough chances to win the game and were only denied by a brilliant goalkeeping display from Joel Coleman, Huddersfield also failed to convert their chances and were also frustrated by a fine display from City’s heavily criticised goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
The more impressive thing about David Wagner’s team was they were brave enough to play their own game. They attacked City and it very nearly brought them a famous scalp.
The Yorkshire club are the in-form side in the Championship and have moved to within five points of second-placed Newcastle, who are yet to travel to the John Smith Stadium.
"You see the way we play football, we like to move the ball quickly,” said Isaish Brown, on loan from Chelsea. “Against Man City it's difficult to play that way because they press so well and keep it well. It will be difficult [to win the replay], but I'm sure the manager will have a plan going there.
“I think we have shown we could play in the Premier League, we've drawn 0-0 against one of the best. It shows we are ready to fight against the best opposition and that we're well equipped to deal with the best players.