When asked if Sergio Aguero would be starting against Barcelona in the Champions League tie on Tuesday night, Pep Guardiola leant towards the nearest microphone and said quietly “I think so,” before adding after a pause, “but I’m not going to tell you what position.”
He was in a grateful mood towards the man who was the exceptional figure in this game, the scorer of two fine goals and the creator of one of the two that were plundered by Ilkay Gundogan as finally the worst streak in Guardiola’s management career was over. Six games without a victory ended with four goals unanswered and a place back at the top of the Premier League after Arsenal briefly moved ahead.
Guardiola has made no secret of the toll that the winless run has taken on him and he looked delighted as he threw an arm round Aguero’s shoulders and talked at length to the Argentine as the players left the pitch. On Tuesday he will unleash Aguero on Barcelona, the great football machine that he, Guardiola, helped to create, and the striker could scarcely be in better form.
“He’s a special player,” Guardiola said of Aguero.” I would like to convince him how special he is for us. We need him. We need him a lot. When he [shows] that behaviour and when he is hungry Sergio is definitive. He is part of the history of this club and we want to try to help him to be bigger and bigger and part of this fantastic club.”
Watch Sergio Aguero’s goal against Westbrom
Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League in emphatic style as victory at West Brom ended Pep Guardiola’s worst run in management.
The Baggies were flat and Aguero struck again, punishing hesitant defending with a powerful, top-corner finish.
The win means City leapfrog Arsenal, who won 4-1 at Sunderland earlier in the day, into first place in the table with 10 matches played.
Tony Pulis’ side struck the post through Gareth McAuley late on and should have got one back at 2-0 through Salomon Rondon, but they slip to 15th and are now without a win in their past five games.
The Argentina striker’s first was rifled in brilliantly after his clever run was matched by Gundogan’s quality pass into the space between West Brom’s two centre-backs.
His second was spectacular, but equally simple. McAuley and Jonas Olsson both should have cleared a loose ball on the edge of the box but hesitated, allowing the 28-year-old to set himself up and smash home.
That was his seventh league goal of the season – the joint best return with Chelsea’s Diego Costa – and ends a spell of six matches without a goal.
West Brom’s players were obviously deflated by Aguero’s two goals in nine minutes, so Pulis deserves credit for managing to galvanise his side into producing a spirited second-half display.
They might have got themselves back in it when Rondon miscued his finish when meeting James McClean’s excellent cross, and Claudio Bravo almost gifted the Venezuela striker a goal when he rashly came to clear and left his goal exposed, but Rondon’s header bounced just wide.
But City managed to ride out the pressure and always looked dangerous on the break, with Aguero hugely influential in driving forward on the counter-attack.
He was in search of the hat-trick, but it was Gundogan who expertly slid the ball past Ben Foster to end the Baggies’ revival – meeting Aguero’s fantastic dinked pass through the back line.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola:”When we lose there are always doubts. Also in the second half I had doubts when we didn’t play too well.
“I had doubts and saw what we had to improve. It’s the first time I have not won in six games. Always you have doubts. Not over the principles.
“We need Sergio. We know how important he is for us when he can convince us how good he is and how important he is for this club.
“I am going to help him to be much, much better. That is my target.
“I’m so, so happy for him because with all of that he is one of the nicest people I have met.
“He is part of the history for this club. He is one of the best.”
West Brom manager Tony Pulis: “In the first half we sat back waiting for it to happen. In the second half we gave it a go but needed to score. As the game opens up they have real quality on the break.
“I’m disappointed with all the goals. We should do better. You look at the money they have spent and their quality and depth is absolutely frightening.”
West Brom have lost their past 10 Premier League games against Manchester City, conceding 28 goals in the process.
Sergio Aguero has scored seven times in nine league games against West Brom. Aguero has also scored six goals in his past four Premier League away games.
City have kept a clean sheet in eight of their past 13 league meetings with West Brom, and conceded just one goal in the past four meetings. The Baggies have had just two shots on target in their past 180 minutes of action in the Premier League.
Manchester City’s next game is at home to Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday (19:45 GMT kick-off).
They next play in the league at home to Middlesbrough in a 3:00 kick-off on Saturday.
West Brom’s next match is away to Leicester in a 4:30pm kick-off in the Premier League on 6 November