As Sergio Agüero slotted away his late penalty in the Stadion im Borussia-Park in western Germany, the release of pent-up tension was audible from Manchester City fans.
For the last couple of weeks they had suffered a rude awakening after their intoxicatingly rapid start to a campaign that some misguided pundits had down as all-but sewn up after five matches.
A typically City stutter came just in time to quell any spark of belief that the side might just be planning to do things the easy way for once.
After his side’s nail-bitingly, last-gasp display against their struggling German counterparts Borussia Mönchengladbach, manager Manuel Pellegrini was quick to chastise his team for a lack of acerbic finality, for a lack of raw instinct to put chances away and kill-off the opposition early as is the classically brutal wont of the more historically venerated European giants.
The lackadaisical sluggishness that has at times permeated throughout the side in the Premier League appeared washed away, replaced by a slightly nerve-wracking carefulness-be-damned attitude.
Chances at both ends were conceded on a frequent basis, but as the opportunities flowed, the Argentine Agüero was puzzlingly unable to finish with his famously trademark clinical nature.
Since his knee injury suffered at the hands of Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann, whose cynical swipe aimed at Agüero’s knee drew a rare glance of genuinely angry consternation from the striker – usually a visage of smiles, cheeky grins, and winks, Agüero has scored just twice, both from penalty spot.
And City’s form has dipped in tandem.
As many do when struggling for form, Agüero is dropping deeper in an attempt to play his way back into form, but the forward is much more efficacious when he plays off defenders, presenting them with a clean set of heels rather than with an opportunity to keep him at arm’s length.
His lack of cutting edge, coupled with the removal of the David Silva assist supply-line due to injury as well, has left City bereft of the passes, the “release balls”, through which the side score the majority of their goals.
While Agüero’s shot accuracy this season (56%) is comparable to last season (54%) and the season before (60%), it is clear that he is missing the confidence to put away the chances he is undoubtedly still getting despite his form and the slight turmoil around a squad hit by injuries.
City’s Champions League match against Mönchengladbach was a perfect example of his lack of lethal finishing, as he regularly found himself in perfect positions, but failed to beat the Swiss Yann Sommer on numerous occasions.
As a whole, City are suffering from a pervading case of lacking a modicum of effusive directness to their play, drawing Agüero deeper in order to involve him in the pass-fest held by the midfield where he is fundamentally separated from goal-scoring positions, as attested to by his decreasing average number of shots per 90 minutes, which was 5.07 in 2013/14, 5.27 in 2014/15, and currently stands at 4.69 in 2015/16.
The striker’s pass completion rate of 91% this season paradoxically reveals the tribulations Agüero is suffering on a personal level, as he leaves the team without a focal point in attack by dropping into a withdrawn role, linking a host of intricate bouts of possession, but ultimately failing to yield a concrete end product.
With an international break coming up, City have one more Premier League match – against Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium – before the squad disperses. And with expectations on City beginning to demand a return to their previously indomitable form more vociferously, the onus lies with Agüero to rediscover the innate talents that have made him one of the world’s most fearer marksmen.
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