Sergio Agüero needs one more goal to equal Eric Brook’s 78-year-old Manchester City scoring record and there are not many people at the club who imagine the Argentinian is going to hang around for long on his present tally of 176.
No one is a bigger fan of the striker than Kyle Walker, who says it a joy to be playing behind Agüero after years of struggling to contain him.
“Facing him used to be a nightmare,” the former Tottenham right-back said. “I don’t know how many seasons I spent coming up against him but he always seemed to score against us. It was frustrating, he was so good, and having him on the same team for a change is a real bonus.
“He’s a really good influence in the dressing room, always ready with a word of advice for the younger lads, and on the pitch he’s the type of player who can come up with a bit of magic to change a game if things aren’t going so well.”
Walker has not been surprised by what he has seen in games from Agüero this season – City are off to a flying start in the Premier League and Champions League and the striker has scored seven goals in the two competitions already – although he admits he did not know what to expect from the forward in private.
“Off the field he is a bit quieter than I thought but he has a positive presence,” Walker explained. “Like a few other players at this club he has a winning mentality. He only wants the best. Anything below par and he will be the first one to say come on, this isn’t right.”
Agüero is likely to be rejoined by Gabriel Jesus for Tuesday’s Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk, the Brazilian having enjoyed the luxury of a day off while City were thrashing Crystal Palace 5-0 on Saturday. “Gabriel can help us a lot,” Pep Guardiola said. “There is no doubt about his capacity, the impact he had when he arrived. He can help Sergio to score goals, he gives us an extra option that means the striker at the top is not quite as isolated as he was at times last season and he contributes with his pressing and his dynamism. We know he has the quality to score goals but the most important thing is his age.
“He is so young, just 21 [he is 20], and already the No9 for Brazil but he is keen to learn and improve. He fights every day in training, working hard and showing great desire to become one of the best players in world football. With Gabriel back I now have five strikers I trust a lot.”
The manager is not getting too carried away by City’s succession of convincing wins this season. As he is fond of pointing out, they started last season equally as well, and also found themselves struggling to make progress at West Bromwich Albion in the second half of the Carabao Cup tie last week. also knows that this is the stage of the season when a bright start began to unravel last year after City were unexpectedly held to a draw by Celtic.
That was away from home, while City face Shakhtar at the Etihad, although there is little chance of Guardiola underestimating the team from Ukraine.
“I have come up against them seven times in my managerial career and before every game I have the same feeling,” the City manager said. “My scouts come back from watching them saying, ‘Wow’. Fernandinho was playing for them in those days and they had Douglas Costa and a lot of Brazilians, and my team were really impressed. We generally had good results against them with Barcelona but it was always tough.
“If you look at Shakhtar Donetsk at the moment they still deserve a great deal of credit because they have just beaten Napoli. In my opinion Napoli are one of the best teams in the Italian league, so the group is tricky. I will be trying to make sure my players take them seriously because Shakhtar can be very dangerous in the group stages. They tend to go out when the knockout rounds are reached but that is usually because their season has stopped by then, the players are on holiday. At this time of year they are one of the best footballing teams around.”
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