Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says Sergio Aguero is a “legend” who will “decide his own future” after seeing the Argentina striker help his side thrash Bournemouth.
Aguero scored two goals and brilliantly made another as the Premier League leaders racked up their 17th successive win in the competition.
There has been speculation that the 29-year-old – who is City’s all-time leading scorer – feels marginalised by his manager, and could leave in the summer.
He was left on the bench for City’s win over Manchester United earlier this month and showed his frustration by throwing his gloves to the floor when he was taken off against Tottenham last weekend.
“I understand players when they are substitutes and don’t play,” Guardiola said. “They are sad and they are upset.
“But sometimes I think Gabriel Jesus deserves to play too, and Bernardo Silva or Eliaquim Mangala too. If they are not happy with me, that is not a problem – the most important thing is that they respect each other.
“I respect a lot about Sergio, about all he has done, what he has done and what he will do in the future.
“He is a legend and he will decide absolutely everything about his life and his future, and I am delighted to have him here with Gabriel and all of the squad.”
City march on, Cherries keep sliding
The Cherries had frustrated City until Asmir Begovic’s poor clearance led to Fernandinho finding Aguero to nod the home side in front.
Raheem Sterling made it 2-0 at the start of the second half when Aguero deftly flicked the ball over the visitors’ defence for him to gallop in and slot home.
Aguero added a third with another header, this time from a Silva cross, for City’s 100th league goal of 2017.
Danilo completed the rout with five minutes to go when he ran on to Sterling’s pass to score his first goal for the club.
City’s victory extended their lead at the top of the table to 14 points, at least until second-placed Manchester United play Leicester later on Saturday (19:45 GMT).
Bournemouth, who are now without a win in their past seven league games, slip into the bottom three.
Eddie Howe’s side were the opposition when City began their winning run back in August – on a sunny day on the south coast, when it took a 97th-minute Sterling goal to defeat them.
Now, 119 days on and with Santa hats in the stands at Etihad Stadium, there is still no stopping Guardiola’s side.
They have reached the halfway stage of the season and have dropped only two points, while the teams below them continue to falter.
Aguero back to his best
With more speculation over his future at the club in the morning papers, this was a timely return to form by Aguero, who produced a brilliant centre-forward’s display.
If it is true the Argentina striker feels he is under-appreciated by his manager and under-used in his side’s biggest games, then this match was a reminder of his talents and also of how much he is admired by City fans.
They sang his name throughout, even before he had given his side the lead with his 100th goal at Etihad Stadium and his 183rd for the club he joined in 2011.
His best moment came with the goal he made, however, which was courtesy of a delicate dink over a static Cherries defence, that made it easy for Sterling to score.
Aguero’s second of the game was another predatory finish, and he could have had another before the end when he ran into the area.
For once, he made the wrong decision in front of goal – turning inside, and into a tackle, rather than going for his hat-trick – but otherwise he hardly put a foot wrong.
Bournemouth facing a battle against the drop
On the back of a lengthening injury list, his side’s slump in form and their slide down the table, a visit to Etihad Stadium would have been the last thing on Howe’s Christmas list.
Seeing Junior Stanislas limp off after only 10 minutes was not the start to the game Howe was looking for either, but his side did manage to keep City quiet for almost half an hour.
The Cherries showed the kind of defensive resolve they are going to need in their fight against relegation, but they were unable to offer much of a threat at the other end, managing only one shot on target.
With only 15 goals scored in their first 19 league matches, Bournemouth’s attack appears the most obvious area that needs strengthening in January – but it is not the only one.
Man of the match – Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
‘We have to learn, to improve’ – what they said
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, speaking to Match of the Day: “We have to learn, to improve, and attack this kind of defence and I think that is going to happen – our target is what we do to find a solution.”
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, speaking to Match of the Day: “It was a tough game against a very good team. It was always going to be difficult to cope with them.
“The first goal was our own doing and changes the game. We made a couple of bad decisions, put ourselves under pressure and they have the players to hurt you.
“Every game is important, but the next three take on huge importance for us. We have so many injuries and it’s not ideal at this time of year.”
Man City hit a century – the stats
- Manchester City are the first English top-flight team to score 100 goals in a calendar year since Liverpool in 1982 (106).
- Bournemouth have failed to score in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since January 2016.
- City’s winning run of 17 games is one more victory than Bournemouth have picked up in total in the Premier League since the start of last season.
- Bournemouth have shipped eight goals in their past two top-flight games, as many as in their previous nine in the competition.
- Sergio Aguero scored two headed goals in a game for the first time in Europe’s big five leagues.
- Raheem Sterling has scored in all five of his Premier League games against Bournemouth, netting seven goals in total.
- Sterling has been directly involved in 16 league goals this season (12 goals, four assists), his best return in a single Premier League campaign.
City’s festive schedule brings them trips to Newcastle (19:45 GMT) on Wednesday, 27 December and Crystal Palace (12:00) on New Year’s Eve, and concludes with a home game against Watford on 2 January (20:00).
Bournemouth have home games against West Ham (15:00) on 26 December and Everton (15:00) on Saturday, 30 December, before they begin 2018 with a 96-mile hop along the south coast to play Brighton on New Year’s Day (12:30).
- 18DelphSubstituted forDaniloat 81′minutes
- 17De BruyneSubstituted forGündoganat 74′minutes
- 19SanéSubstituted forBernardo Silvaat 67′minutes
- 20Bernardo Silva
- 42Y Touré
- 3S Cook
- 42SimpsonSubstituted forMoussetat 72′minutes
- 15A SmithBooked at 63mins
- 19StanislasSubstituted forPughat 12′minutes
- 13WilsonSubstituted forAfobeat 72′minutes
- 16L Cook
- Mike Jones
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Manchester City 4, Bournemouth 0.
Second Half ends, Manchester City 4, Bournemouth 0.
Attempt blocked. Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by David Silva.
Attempt saved. Steve Cook (Bournemouth) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ryan Fraser with a cross.
Corner, Bournemouth. Conceded by Vincent Kompany.
Attempt blocked. Dan Gosling (Bournemouth) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Marc Pugh.
Attempt blocked. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Corner, Bournemouth. Conceded by Fernandinho.
Goal! Manchester City 4, Bournemouth 0. Danilo (Manchester City) left footed shot from the left side of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Raheem Sterling.
Substitution, Manchester City. Danilo replaces Fabian Delph.
Foul by Fernandinho (Manchester City).
Lys Mousset (Bournemouth) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Goal! Manchester City 3, Bournemouth 0. Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) header from the centre of the box to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by Bernardo Silva with a cross.
Attempt missed. David Silva (Manchester City) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Fernandinho.
Offside, Bournemouth. Lys Mousset tries a through ball, but Benik Afobe is caught offside.
Substitution, Manchester City. Ilkay Gündogan replaces Kevin De Bruyne.
Substitution, Bournemouth. Lys Mousset replaces Jack Simpson.
Substitution, Bournemouth. Benik Afobe replaces Callum Wilson.
Offside, Manchester City. Kevin De Bruyne tries a through ball, but Sergio Agüero is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.
Substitution, Manchester City. Bernardo Silva replaces Leroy Sané.
Offside, Manchester City. Kevin De Bruyne tries a through ball, but Kyle Walker is caught offside.
Attempt blocked. Fernandinho (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by David Silva.
Adam Smith (Bournemouth) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Adam Smith (Bournemouth).
Foul by Leroy Sané (Manchester City).
Adam Smith (Bournemouth) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Hand ball by Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).
Kyle Walker (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Marc Pugh (Bournemouth).
Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Asmir Begovic.
Leroy Sané (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Adam Smith (Bournemouth).
Goal! Manchester City 2, Bournemouth 0. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Sergio Agüero with a through ball.
Nicolás Otamendi (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Nathan Aké (Bournemouth).
Foul by Fabian Delph (Manchester City).
Callum Wilson (Bournemouth) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by David Silva (Manchester City).