Friday 20 July 2018

Aguero injury fears dismissed by Pellegrini

Man City 3 Southampton1

Manchester City goalkeeper Willy Caballero makes a save from a attempt on goal by Southampton's Dusan Tadic during their Barclays Premier League match
Manchester City goalkeeper Willy Caballero makes a save from a attempt on goal by Southampton's Dusan Tadic during their Barclays Premier League match
Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne and Southampton's Ryan Bertrand battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match
Manchester City's David Silva in action during the match against Southampton

Jim White

For a moment the Etihad Stadium crowd held their breath. With an hour of this game gone, Sergio Aguero leapt for a header and, as he landed, seemed to twist his ankle.

As he hobbled from the pitch, their main man looked to be injured again, having just missed the last five weeks.

You could understand why Manuel Pellegrini insisted after the game that the damage was less significant than it appeared. The City manager was full of assurance that, following assessments yesterday, Aguero (right) would be unlikely to miss any games beyond the midweek League Cup tie with Hull City.

It seems a simple thing managing City. All you need do is select Aguero, Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and David Silva together and the wins pile up.

That is precisely what Pellegrini did at the start of this season: with his big five in harness, five league victories were accrued without a goal conceded.

And then came the injuries. Deprived of one or more of his gilded quintet, Pellegrini has watched his side stutter and falter since that storming opening, culminating in a hitherto winless November. The last thing he needed was another extended loss of Aguero.

Yet in this comfortable, confident, assured victory against a Southampton team previously unbeaten on the road this season, could be noted something significant. Here was evidence that others were stepping into the breach.

This was a City win not fashioned - as so many have been - by Aguero's poaching, Silva's trickery or Toure's indomitable spirit. This was one won by Raheem Sterling's persistence, by Aleksandar Kolarov's laser-guided shooting and by Kevin De Bruyne's all-round excellence.

He continued to demonstrate that those who questioned paying £47m for a Chelsea reject had woefully underestimated his prowess. He looks twice the prospect he was when languishing unloved at Stamford Bridge, developing in Wolfsburg physically as much as anything.

"He's a very technical player and I always say the way we play is good for him with his style of football," Pellegrini said. "He also scored a lot of goals in Germany so we brought him here because he is a creative player and goalscorer."

Pellegrini was right there. Seven goals is not a bad return on its own for a midfielder. But it is the six assists he has added thus far this season that are as indicative of his worth.

The sight of Silva warming up on the touchline, about to return after such a lengthy absence, was greeted with cheers, but his presence was not required.

Before he was even stripped off ready, De Bruyne had delivered the decisive swing. The thought of the big five back all in action together is one to excite the most jaded of palates. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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