The new kids on the block at Manchester City have been very, very good this season, but what about the veterans who have now won their third title with the Citizens?
Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero have reinvented themselves and have undoubtedly improved under Pep Guardiola‘s guidance as question marks around their future at the club hung in the air following the third-place finish in 2016/17.
Yet with Pablo Zabaleta, Joe Hart, Aleksandar Kolarov and Yaya Toure deemed surplus to requirements since Guardiola arrived in the summer of 2016, the Spanish coach believed in Silva, Kompany and Aguero but has had to help all three adjust to new roles and ways of playing to elongate their City careers.
How exactly have they changed their games and adapted to Pep’s methods?
The most dramatic change has been in Sergio Aguero’s game, as the Argentine striker who previously would start shivering and look around in a daze if he went anywhere near the halfway line has now become a mobile part of City’s attack and is popping up out wide and in deeper roles as well as being the Johnny on the Spot the team needs to finish off chances. City missed Aguero badly for the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal defeats to Liverpool with Gabriel Jesus a fine understudy but not yet possessing Aguero’s predatory instincts.
Aguero is now 29 years old but he has now scored at least 20 PL goals in each of his past four seasons and in three of his last four campaigns he has scored at least 30 in all competitions. At City and this season he has added more dynamism and link-up play to his performances as he broke Eric Brook’s record and is now City’s all-time leading goalscorer and is already prepping himself to return to Independiente when his City contract ends in the summer of 2020. He now has 199 goals in 292 games for City in all competitions and his status as not only a City legend but a PL legend is secure.
Speaking of club legends, Kompany also falls into that category as the Belgian center back has now captained City to three league titles in the past seven years. Although the first PL trophy, in 2011/12, will have been the sweetest to end City’s 44-year wait for a league title, this will be a close second, especially for Kompany.
The towering center back has been ravaged by injuries over the past few seasons and his career was in considerable doubt at the end of last season as Guardiola tried to nurse him back to full fitness as carefully as possible, something which seemed to frustrate Kompany. Yet Guardiola’s patience has paid off and Kompany, 32, has delivered plenty of commanding displays this season — the League Cup final win against Arsenal stands out particularly as he had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in his back pocket — as his calf problems have dissipated and been managed expertly with plenty of games off to rest.
He seems to have admitted that his once blistering pace is long gone (due to the injuries) and Kompany now spends more time pushing forward and being tight to the striker he is marking. That suits City’s high-pressing style under Guardiola well and although Kompany has made just 19 appearances this season, you can make a real argument that whenever he is in the team they look more organized and confident defensively. Kompany has reinvented himself in accepting his limitations and, crucially, by working with Guardiola’s medical staff to regain his fitness.
Focusing on David Silva, the 32-year-old Spanish midfielder has had his best-ever PL season and his pulled the strings alongside Kevin De Bruyne in a slightly deeper role in midfield. They’ve been eerily similar to Xavi and Iniesta in Pep’s Barcelona teams and the runs of Silva and KDB into gaps opened up by Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling staying wide have seen Silva grab 11 assists and nine goals, while KDB has 20 assists and 11 goals.
Silva’s reinvention as a deeper central midfielder comes from being in the right place at the right time. Guardiola realized his countryman had the ability to dictate the tempo of the game and everything ticks when Silva is on song. His clever passes round the corners, perfectly weighted cutbacks and surging runs have become a trademark of one of the greatest teams the Premier League has ever seen. Silva is now in his eighth season at City and the $35 million they paid Valencia for him in 2010 is a bargain. Silva will pull the strings for Spain at the World Cup this summer and he is in the conversation for City’s best-ever PL player alongside Kompany and Aguero in terms of his incredible consistency as he’s played in 344 games over the past eight seasons, the lowest games tally being 36 in 2015/16 and that was down to an injury.
Silva’s off-field problems must also be taken into account when assessing his brilliance this season. His newborn son Mateo was born prematurely and he has missed games to travel back to Spain to be with him, yet his play on the pitch hasn’t dropped at all as he dedicated his third title at City to his son who continues to battle.