Manchester City have had a mixed start to the new Premier League season, with a galling defeat at Cardiff bookended by home wins over Newcastle and Hull, and Sergio Aguero has started all three fixtures so far.
The Argentine has looked free of a knee injury that put his participation at the start of the season in doubt, and a goal against Newcastle showed that the 25-year-old was in fine fettle.
And yet, as good as Aguero has been since his arrival from Atletico Madrid in 2011, there is a feeling that he must improve even further if City are to hit the targets set by both their demanding owners and supporters.
First of all, some context is required. Aguero's first two years in English football have been a success. He bagged 23 goals in his debut campaign, culminating in the goal that won the Premier League for City and saw the striker enter the club's folklore forever.
In addition to the goals were an all-round game that saw him make 11 assists per My Football Facts, proving that the demands of English football were well within his capabilities.
Last season saw a slight dip, with 12 league goals (and only two assists) in 30 appearances. But, in mitigation, Aguero picked up a knee injury early on and had to sit out for around another month in February and March, so his goals return is none too shabby for all that.
Compare and contrast with Robinho, who scored the majority of his 14 league goals in the early part of his first season at City. The Brazilian often looked a man apart from his teammates despite the goals, and the following term he managed just one, in an FA Cup tie at Scunthorpe that was his last appearance for City before a loan move to Santos in Brazil—a very long way from Scunthorpe, believe me.
The difference for Aguero this season is that, with City striving to regain the Premier League title and make waves in Europe, the goal posts for everyone at the club have moved.
With Carlos Tevez gone, it is time for Aguero to shoulder the responsibility as pack leader and talisman up front. For all his goals, the suspicion remains that Edin Dzeko goes missing when the heat is on, while Aguero is more likely to step up to the plate when required.
Dzeko's legions of fanatical supporters will, rightly, point to his header that set up that astonishing title-winning climax against QPR. But the Bosnian's shoulders have been seen to slump this season despite a fine goal against Cardiff, and tellingly he was replaced at half-time against Hull by Alvaro Negredo.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini has promised to rotate his team as the season progresses, and Negredo's fellow new signing Stevan Jovetic has yet to appear following an injury, so how Aguero reacts to being left out—should that happen—will be interesting.
The signs are good so far, and Aguero's combination with Jesus Navas and Pablo Zabaleta led to Negredo's headed goal against Hull.
With all the strikers at City's disposal, will any one of them have the chance to forge ahead and try to be a 20-goals-a-season player? Aguero did that in his first season, but he is the kind of team player that will also pitch in for others.
Maybe that's the problem, not that it's a big one. Should he be more selfish? City fans were irritated by Mario Balotelli's selfishness at times, despite the enigmatic Italian's undoubted talent, but the odds are that will not be the case with Aguero.
Nevertheless, given his record in English football so far, taking his game to the next level is not only within Aguero's grasp, it is essential if City are to hit the heights again.
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