Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has largely shifted the team’s formation so that it now features an out-and-out strike partnership. With four players at his disposal it is clear that the Chilean has a wealth of options to chose from ahead of Sunday’s crucial Premier League tie with Chelsea. Are Aguero and Negredo the best pairing for this tie?
Aguero and Negredo
Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero are probably the most likely duo to start against Chelsea, having combined well on a number of occasions this season for Manchester City. The pair have been in good form with Negredo scoring three goals and Aguero the second top scorer in the league with six in seven games.
The dynamic of the two is interesting. Negredo is the taller player, good in the air and strong on the ball, but he actually plays more of a ‘support’ role running the channels, with Aguero being the furthest forward, using his pace to get in behind defences and get shots in on goal. For example if we compare their action area graphics from the 3-1 victory over Everton, a game in which both men scored, we can see following:
Negredo below here is taking up relatively deeper positions at times. In fact he spends just 8.93% of the game in the opposition’s penalty box and spends 21.43% of the time in and around the central part of the pitch, looking to drop deeper and link play.
This compliments Aguero’s movement quite nicely. The Aregentine spends 21.57% of the game in Everton’s box, in stark contrast to Negredo. Aguero also only spends 11.76% of the game in the central area of the park, highlighting a deliberate tactical plan that Pellegrini is seeking to implement.
What this points to is the fact that Negredo is playing off Aguero slightly. With Aguero the primary goal threat and Negredo playing in support. This is a view further backed by the fact that Negredo completed 24 passes in this tie (of an attempted 31). Aguero on the other hand was less involved in the build-up with him completing just 17 passes of an attempted 19.
What City did was at times go long to Negredo, with Aguero then running in behind for any flick-ons that may come his way. Negredo, despite being a ‘support’ player of sorts, was still the target of the team’s aerial balls forward. As we can see below, he contested seven aerial duels, all of which were outside of Everton’s box:
As you might expect with Aguero being the smaller player and being a lot higher up the pitch, he only contested one aerial duel which he lost. With Aguero spending more time in the box he took four shots, all of which came inside the penalty area, compared to just two efforts taken by Negredo.
The dynamic between Negredo and Aguero appears to be working quite well. The two players are linking up effectively with Negredo looking to win headers and link up play, while Aguero is more keen to get in behind and surge into the box. With eleven goals between them, this is arguably City’s best strike-force.
Aguero and Negredo are actually City’s first and third top scorers respectively, with Negredo the second top scoring City striker (Yaya Toure with four is their second top scorer). The pairing can certainly cause Chelsea plenty of problems on Sunday if they can get going. John Terry and whoever partners him at the heart of the back four will definitely have to be on their game as Pellegrini seems to have stumbled upon a potentially devastating strike partnership that carries with it the look of title-winning efficiency.