Manchester City need Kelechi Iheanacho to be more than just a striker as he steps into Sergio Aguero's boots


Aguero's tackle, which prompted his suspension, sparked a brawl against Chelsea (Photo: Clive Brunskill)


Sergio Aguero's absence for a key run of fixtures will hurt City, but the Nigerian knows why Pep has been overlooking him and has the opportunity to prove him wrong

The enduring image of Manchester City's defeat to Chelsea, a game blessed with some of the Premier League's finest footballers and a couple of excellent goals amid the madness, seems destined to be the late-game melée, sparked by Sergio Aguero's attempt to relocate David Luiz's kneecaps to a different postcode.

The enduring effect of that challenge and the subsequent brawl is that City will be without their best centre-forward, arguably the best in the entire league, for four games over the most notoriously difficult stretch of the English season.


Pep Guardiola, you can safely assume, isn't amused.

But with Aguero's mindlessness comes an opportunity, an opportunity that falls to Kelechi Iheanacho.


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20-year-old Iheanacho burst onto the scene last season under Manuel Pellegrini but has struggled for as much gametime in the current campaign under Guardiola. But the Catalan will now have little choice.

While summer signing Gabriel Jesus, one of the world's most highly-rated young forwards, has already arrived in Manchester, the teen isn't eligible until early January.

Which means Iheanacho isn't just the next man up, he's the only man.

Sergio Aguero was suspended for violent conduct after this tackle on David Luiz (Photo: PA Wire)

Fernandinho clashed with Cesc Fabregas after the challenge (Photo: Getty Images)

Despite City's embarrassment of riches throughout the squad, there are no other players on their first-team roster that you'd describe as centre-forwards. And while Leroy Sane or Nolito could no doubt fulfil a role, it will be the Nigerian youngster who is head of the queue.

"It's a big opportunity for me now.

"Sergio's not around so I have to take responsibility and fill the gap.

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"I need to work really hard to prove myself to the team and help the team get these points we need in the Premier League."

Iheanacho impressed to the eye last season but a closer look at the numbers establish him as an elite dribbler and finisher among young forwards. They outstrip Marcus Rashford, his cross-town rival, even if he's not been afforded as many chances to follow up his success as the England teenager.

But while many of his traits are similar to Sergio Aguero, Iheanacho hinted at why Pep has been overlooking him and that goals simply aren't enough to play as a striker in a Guardiola team.

Iheanacho netted in the Champions League on Tuesday but Pep has told him that isn't enough (Photo: REUTERS)

“Pep is a great manager, everyone knows that,” he said. “In training he needs you at 100 per cent, 120 per cent, to get focused and do the right things. You need to follow the instructions and play as instructed with intensity. You need to really work hard to play in this team.

“You need to do more. You need to help the team do more. You need to press high, help your team-mates back and covering, and of course score goals."

Those goals need to come against Leicester, Watford, Arsenal and Hull, with the third of those fixtures the one that catches the eye. Arsene Wenger's men are a point ahead of City at the time of Aguero's suspension being confirmed and this may prove to be one of the pivotal games in the title race.

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Iheanacho will need to up his intensity, to lead the press and close off passing angles before he even thinks about finding the winning goals his side will need.

So while the enduring image of Chelsea's win over City was Sergio Aguero sparking a melée, Guardiola now needs Iheanacho's contribution - with and without the ball - to be the long-lasting impression that emerges from a crucial run of fixtures in the context of their title challenge.

Source: ED MALYON - Mirror Sport
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