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Media Watch

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Media Watch: Neville - 'City now title favourites'

Monday's media watch features universal praise for Manchester City after a quite majestic performance saw Chelsea swept aside 6-0 at the Etihad on Sunday.

Not surprisingly, hat-trick hero Sergio Aguero is the subject of wonder and awe after his second treble in seven days.

And for many pundits, after a week that saw us beat Arsenal, Everton and now Chelsea, the win capped a pivotal seven days in the battle to be crowned champions.

We begin with Sky Sports’ pundit Gary Neville who believes City’s stunning demolition of Chelsea has helped tip the title balance in favour of Pep Guardiola's side.

In his weekly title race blog, Neville writes: "Manchester City have set themselves a standard in the last week. If they are going to win the league they need to maintain that standard every week because they can't afford to make mistakes.

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"Liverpool are a very good side and they will realise they are in for a major battle. Liverpool were seven points ahead a few weeks ago, but now City are definitely favourites for the title from what I am seeing.

"Sergio Aguero has lifted City in the last month. He has grabbed games by the scruff of the neck and has been a champion player. He is standing up. If City are going to win back-to-back titles, I think they can look towards the last month and think about his influence, he has been outstanding.

"This City team has know-how and so does Pep Guardiola. Jurgen Klopp has won a league before but not in this country. What City have done this week does apply psychological pressure.”

Not surprisingly after his second crucial hat-trick in seven days, there is also universal praise for Aguero.

Sunday’s treble was his 11th in the Premier League and drew him level at the top of the all-time list of league hat-tricks along with Alan Shearer and the Daily Mail’s Chris Wheeler was among those hailing his special qualities.

RAMPANT: Aguero slots his side's third goal of the game past Kepa in the Chelsea goal.

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City 6-0 Chelsea: Extended highlights

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Wheeler writes: “Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri witnessed Aguero reaching a special  landmark in City’s Champions League win over Napoli last year when he scored his 178th goal to surpass Eric Brook’s long-standing record. 

“Here at the Etihad, he overtook Brook and Tommy Johnson to become City’s all-time top league goalscorer with his second hat-trick in a week.

“The great thing about Aguero though is his ability to deliver against the big teams. First Arsenal last week and now Chelsea. No-one could accuse him of being a flat track bully. He didn’t even play when City beat Rotherham and Burton Albion 7-0 and 9-0 in the cup last month, otherwise his season’s total of 23 goals would surely be even more impressive.

“He has now plundered 43 goals in 64 league games against the other Big Six teams – Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal – since joining City from Atletico Madrid for £38million in the summer of 2011. Even at the age of 30, what would he be worth at today’s prices?

“Another hat-trick, another record and another standing ovation. Just another day in a remarkable career at City.”

There was also admiration and wonderment for City’s all-round dominant display from the Daily Telegraph’s chief football writer Jason Burt who believed he witnessed something ‘special’.

Burt scribed: “This was not so much a victory as an evisceration. This was not so much a defeat as a demolition. This was not so much three points as one very big point being made by the champions. If Liverpool, or Tottenham Hotspur, are to finish ahead of Manchester City it will be an exceptional achievement.

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“City returned to the top of the Premier League, with another Sergio Agüero hat-trick, which draws him level on 11 with Alan Shearer’s all-time record, and did so by destroying Chelsea. They humiliated them and their head coach, Maurizio Sarri - and that is dangerous territory for a club with Chelsea’s ambition and expectations.

“It has been three games, nine points and 11 goals in a week for City. They brushed aside Arsenal and Everton but this was next level. This was something special; the best, Pep Guardiola said, since he has been at the club which is some statement given the heights they have scaled. He said it would be a final. He finished Chelsea.

“Agüero now has 11 league goals in 2019 – which is more than half the teams in the Premier League have registered. And he could have had more – missing a ‘sitter’ and also striking the goal-frame. It was his second successive hat-trick in home games and, once again, he departed to a standing ovation. “He’s a life legend ... an absolute goal machine,” said team-mate Oleksandr Zinchenko. 

“The bigger picture in terms of the title race is City emphatically stating their case and, importantly, enhancing their goal difference by doing so. Liverpool have a game in hand – that game being away next Sunday against Manchester United, whose caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was here – and can go three points clear again but City now have a 10-goal advantage.”

In a feature piece for the Guardian, Barney Ronay described how he believed the performance offered further compelling evidence that Aguero now stands comparison as the ultimate all-round striker.

Sergio Aguero salutes the Etihad faithful.

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Sergio Aguero: One of the best performances

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Ronay described: “Something strange happened 12 minutes into the first half of what was, all things considered, a pretty strange kind of game. First there was a hush around the Etihad, then a gurgling sound, followed by an oddly sensual purr in the stands as the big screens showed the first replays of Sergio Agüero’s first goal in this 6-0 shellacking of Chelsea

“Agüero had just put Manchester City 2-0 up and in effect killed the game. The moment stood on its own, though. Football crowds don’t often gasp. But then, they don’t often get to see goals like this. Taking the ball in a deep inside-left position, Agüero turned, jinked and shrugged away the attentions of Jorginho, a deep midfielder with all the gnarled defensive presence of a tea-sodden digestive biscuit.

“The shot came without breaking stride, a right-foot spank that flew with a vicious certainty into the far top corner, and which seemed to defy physics as it did so, its trajectory totally flat, unhindered by gravity or drag. Had the net and the stand not been in its way Agüero’s shot would presumably still be flying at the same height and speed even now, arrowing over the hook of Cornwall, past the Bay of Biscay and off towards the south Atlantic

“It was the enduring image of the day

“The fact is Agüero has also expanded his palette, evolving from that comfortable status as a pure cutting edge and pre-existing hometown superstar, to a more rounded player now, perhaps even an all round attacker to match anyone in Europe.”

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Finally, the BBC were amongst those to report on a similarly crucial encounter between City’s Women and Chelsea Ladies which ended in 2-2 draw after a late fightback from the Londoners.

The Beeb’s website reported: “Nick Cushing's City are two points clear of the Gunners, who did not have a WSL game on Sunday, while third-placed Chelsea's slim title hopes remain intact as they are still six points behind the leaders.

“Tessa Wullaert had capitalised on Millie Bright's error to put the hosts in front and Georgia Stanway doubled the lead, finishing off a neat move with an accurate low finish from 20 yards.

“But City missed two one-on-ones in the second half to kill the game off and Chelsea took full advantage.

City head coach Nick Cushing said: "We should have won the game. We were put under pressure but we had two great chances on the counter that we should have scored.

"We're disappointed but as the coach, I get it. There are reasons why it happens and we just need to make sure we learn from it and move forward.

"We have just got to make sure it doesn't affect us in the short-term."


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