It’s an elite group of players who have managed to score 30 goals in a Premier League season. Just seven have managed it since the league’s formation in 1992: Alan Shearer, who did it three times as a Blackburn Rovers player, Andy Cole, Kevin Phillips, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez.
Players who have scored 30 or more in a Premier League season:
Andy Cole (Newcastle United) - 34 - 1993/94
Alan Shearer (Blackburn Rovers) - 31 - 1993/94
Alan Shearer (Blackburn Rovers) - 34 - 1994/95
Alan Shearer (Blackburn Rovers) - 31 - 1995/96
Kevin Phillips (Sunderland) - 30 - 1999/2000
Thierry Henry (Arsenal) - 30 - 2003/04
Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) - 31 - 2007/08
Robin van Persie (Arsenal) - 30 - 2011/12
Luis Suarez (Liverpool) - 31 - 2013/14
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero came close last season, scoring 26 league goals in 33 games and finishing as the Golden Boot winner. He’s considered one of the finest out-and-out finishers in the history of the English game given his exceptional goals-per-game ratio (78 Premier League goals in 120 games), but until he scores 30 in a season, he is unlikely to be considered unanimously the best.
In order for him to do it, he needs an injury-free season. Last season’s 33 appearances was a significant increase from the 23 he managed the campaign before. Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager, must take huge credit for the way he managed his star striker after a series of setbacks toward the end of the 2013/14 season and a gruelling World Cup with Argentina.
Pellegrini and his medical staff showed patience, easing Aguero into action at the beginning of the season despite calls from the City supporters to use more vigorously. It worked. Aguero looked fitter and sharper as the season progressed, finishing one appearance short of his Premier League record of 34, which he managed in his debut season at the club.
However, he faces a similar slow start to the new season, having been involved in yet another international tournament, this time the Copa America held in Chile this summer. His pre-season has again been a truncated one—he wasn't part of the club's entourage travelling to Australia and Vietnam—and along with Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis and Fernandinho, he has been given extra time to rest. Pellegrini wants all of his players to have had a minimum 30-day rest period at some stage during the summer.
Aguero is therefore unlikely to play City’s opening match away at West Bromwich Albion, with Pellegrini expected to take a similar approach to last season, easing him into action over the course of the opening few games of the season.
Aguero has suffered a series of muscular injuries during his time at City. They subsided last season, with his one significant layoff due to an unfortunate knee injury suffered in the home match with Everton in December, but the fear of a recurrence hangs over the City technical and medical staff.
He’s the club’s prized asset, a remarkable finisher whose instincts in front of goal are key to the club’s hopes of success. At 27 years old, his best years are arguably ahead, and City are desperately hoping they will be spent at the Etihad.
Today will be 4 years since I joined @MCFC. Thank you for the heartfelt messages. I'll soon be back with the team. C´mon City!— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) July 27, 2015
This season, though, could be his best yet. With Raheem Sterling bringing pace and movement to the City attack, and with Pellegrini potentially bringing in a new ultra-attacking 4-3-3 formation in, he could thrive.
They need to manage him correctly, and ensure he has every chance of staying fit for as long as possible during the season. If they do that, 30 goals and a place in the pantheon of great Premier League strikers awaits.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and follows the club from a Manchester base. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter: @RobPollard.