On Saturday evening at Upton Park, Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero started together for just the third time in the league. They’ve looked outstanding on every occasion, with Negredo’s strength and presence seemingly the perfect foil for Aguero’s quick, instinctive game.
It’s a partnership that looks to have everything.
After Manuel Pellegrini’s initial insistence that Edin Dzeko should be the first-choice partner for Aguero, the City boss appears to have come to his senses, with Negredo’s form too good to ignore.
The Spaniard, who cost City an initial £16.4 million, has adapted to life in the Premier League superbly well, with his strength, touch and vision standing out as his most obvious qualities.
His dummy for Aguero’s first against West Ham was the clearest demonstration yet of their innate understanding. A brilliant through ball from Fernandinho, who himself is growing in stature week by week, was nonchalantly left by Negredo, who knew exactly where his strike partner was.
It was a superb piece of ingenuity that set City on their way to a comfortable 3-1 victory.
Negredo may at first appear like a traditional “Big Man”—a strong, back-to-goal forward who bullies defences. He does those things brilliantly, but he also possesses a deft touch and a fantastic footballing brain. Some of his passing and link play so far for City has been outstanding.
It’s hard to see an area of Negredo’s game where Dzeko can claim he is superior. Whereas Dzeko drifts out of games for long periods and can easily be described as lazy, Negredo is a 90-minute nuisance for defenders. And where Dzeko’s first touch can often let him down, Negredo’s control is slick.
It’s baffling that Negredo was kept caged for so long while City fans were subjected to Dzeko’s incompetence.
It is rather unusual these days to see a Premier League side play with a two-man strike force. In recent seasons, the trend has been towards a lone striker, with a midfield packed full of attacking intent. Aguero and Negredo are showing there is still room for the more traditional pairing in attack.
In the three games they’ve started together—wins over Manchester United, Everton and now West Ham—they’ve scored six goals, with Aguero grabbing five of them from inside the box. Negredo does much of the creating and hold-up play, allowing Aguero the freedom to look for goals.
It’s working beautifully.
As I argued in my recent scouting report on Aguero, he never really reached full fitness last season, with a series of niggling injuries preventing him from achieving his best form. He scored 12 in 30 league games, a marked reduction on his 30-goal debut season. Pellegrini’s new formation, which sees him partnered up front for the first time in his City career, appears to have revitalised him.
A striking example of the effect Negredo has had on Aguero can be seen in the Argentine’s chance conversion rate, up from 25 to 45.5 percent when they play together.
Considering just how early it is in their time together as a front two, Aguero and Negredo are showing incredible promise. They constantly look to find each other and are both comfortable dropping short while the other goes long. It seems almost telepathic.
If they can continue to develop their understanding, City may well have a title-winning partnership on their hands.
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