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Aguero looks on as Sterling, Sane and Jesus get Man City firing again

21:48 GMT 01/02/2017
Leroy Sane Gabriel Jesus West Ham Manchester City
The Argentine was left on the bench as Pep Guardiola went with a forward line full of pace and attacking verve, and he may find it hard to get back in


It is tempting given the circumstances, slightly unfair though it may be, to point out that Sergio Aguero was barely missed as Manchester City dismantled West Ham.

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Almost since day one of Pep Guardiola’s reign there has been a suspicion that Aguero is not as highly regarded by the Catalan as previous City managers.

The confusion around his unannounced but very much signed contract extension, City’s admiring glances at top-class strikers last summer (and to this day), Guardiola’s constant insistence that Aguero can do better, and their public meeting, together with the Argentine’s agent, in a Manchester restaurant in January, all lend credence to the idea that the striker's future at the Etihad Stadium is far from certain.

So too does the fact that one of the reasons behind City’s pursuit and eventual capture of Gabriel Jesus was that his presence in the team would spur Aguero to new heights - or, logically, render him secondary.

There are certainly more than enough clues to suggest all is well, and that Aguero may have to find an alternative route back to Argentina to end his playing days, perhaps one which includes a stint at another top European club. That has never been on his agenda.

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But, while it is important to note all this, he was of course not the reason why City, following months of stop-start Premier League performances, suddenly sprang into life at the London Stadium.

Without attributing too much to this particular school of thought, Guardiola said after the 5-0 win here in the FA Cup less than three weeks ago that the pitch looked much bigger than at other English grounds due to the distance to the fans. This, he thought, helped his side create opportunities.

Whether the pitch is bigger than others or not, it must also be pointed out that West Ham, tonight and the last time they played City, were not very good.

But now that is out of the way, let us concentrate on the biggest difference makers: Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus.

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Just as on Saturday, the trio with an average age of just 20 showed class and composure beyond their years.

Their energy, not to mention quality, gives opposition defences plenty to think about. If they can’t run past you - and most of the time they can - they will pass it around you instead.

Jesus has two clever assists from his two starts as a City player, while Sane, who ran West Ham ragged to set up Silva for the second goal, showed in creating City’s third that he has more to his game than just speed and determination by threading a wonderful pass through to Sterling, who in turn teed up Jesus for his first goal.

Some of their link-up play was superb, and left the Hammers defence in tatters. 

That devastating effectiveness afforded Silva and Kevin De Bruyne more space in which to pull the strings from deeper positions. The creative burden has fallen on those two in recent weeks and they have not always been up to the task - in this sense, Aguero has been the victim as much as the guilty party when City have let chances go begging.

Back on the subject of Aguero, it should also be pointed out that he was not fully fit for Saturday’s game at Crystal Palace, and there may be a lingering issue which meant picking Jesus in his place at West Ham was the most reasonable option.

Guardiola, though, said very recently that he puts players on the bench only if they are ready and able to play 90 minutes.

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Whatever the truth about Aguero’s future, and of course Guardiola has said more than once that he can stay for as long as he wants, it is fair to suggest he now faces a fight to get back into this team.

At times he has responded to Guardiola’s demands and delivered exactly what is expected, but so are Jesus, Sane and Sterling.

As Guardiola pointed out on Tuesday, you would do well to find a top club around Europe fielding such a young forward line.

Aguero could well stay at the club until his contract expires, and go back to Independiente with City's best wishes and their all-time scoring record to his name. But with his three young team-mates performing so brilliantly, there is no sense in breaking them up any time soon.