The swag was back with Manchester City on their first trip down to Villa Park in three years.
Pep Guardiola’s side went one better than that 4-0 FA Cup fourth-round fixture, by registering a five-goal swing in a 6-1 league demolition of Aston Villa that demonstrated that, despite Liverpool being ahead of the rest currently in the English top tier, nobody swashbuckles quite like City on their day.
Inevitably it meant that their spearhead, the sublime Sergio Agüero, took his tally past the great Thierry Henry to become the leading goal scoring non-Englishman in Premier League history, with a hattrick.
For Man City, Agüero has now contributed 177 goals in 255 games (0.69 per game). Henry with Arsenal registered 175 in 258 (0.68pg)
This league campaign, Agüero has provided a goal every 77 minutes of play. The Argentine is joint third in the goalscoring charts this season with 13. Incredibly, however, this needs to take into account that he has only been on the pitch for 998 minutes (the end of November into December saw him out for four league matches with a muscle injury, plus he has been subject to gaffer Guardiola’s rotation policy).
In comparison, this is almost half of what the man one place above him, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, has had in game time.
“He is a legend and the legend rised (sic),” stated Guardiola to Sky Sports post-game.
“I think Titi Henry is one of the most incredible players I have seen in this league and I think Titi will be proud that Sergio is the guy to break his record.
“To get this amount of goals you have to be consistent for many many years.
“The most important thing is that [he is] an incredible person. I think you cannot achieve this amount of goals where you are not [a] guy who loves to be with his mates.”
"I think he is one of the most incredible players I've seen in this league."
This weekend Sergio Agüero didn’t just break the goal record for a non-English player. He certifiably smashed it, and in doing so, went on to equal Chelsea legend Frank Lampard’s tally (Lampard, a midfielder, did so as the third-highest appearance maker in Premier League history, in 609 games - 0.29pg).
He noticeably, however, doesn’t seem to possess the same allure as a Lampard, or Henry, or the division’s all-time leading goalscorer, the man who still reigns supreme when it comes to the numbers, Alan Shearer.
Whether this has only restricted the ability to discuss him in the same breath as those illustrious names is debatable.
Ian Cheeseman, who co-authored a book with former City skipper Vincent Kompany on Manchester City’s 18/19 Treble-winning season, can be one of the few people to have seen every single one of those goals that has contributed to Agüero’s record-breaking tally, in the flesh. A life-long City fan, Cheeseman has now watched a running total of 2181 games.
Speaking to The Sportsman, he said: “I marvelled at Brazil 1970, with Jairzinho and Pelé thinking this is football. And with Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona thinking this is the ultimate in perfect football. But during the last ten years, I’ve seen that and probably better. In the flesh. Week in, week out. Every single game. What a dream.”
Aguero has now been at City for close to nine years and the 31-year-old is far and away the club’s all-time top goalscorer. He has featured for three different managers with the Cityzens, something that should be emphasised (in contrast to Henry, who achieved the feat under just one, Arsene Wenger).
But which one, from Guardiola, Manuel Pellegrini, and the man who initially brought him to Eastlands Roberto Mancini, has Aguero thrived under the most, regardless of the overall silverware?
“Against Aston Villa, there was one goal, which he didn’t actually score. He chased down on the left-hand side of the penalty area and never let the ball run out of play and never gave it up. Through his determination the ball ended up back in the middle and was swept home, “ added Cheeseman.
“That wouldn’t have happened with the Sergio Agüero under Mancini or in the Pellegrini era. It’s great credit to Pep but it's also great credit to Agüero because he has been willing at a relatively mature age to change his style of play and take on that challenge.
“I think that puts him on an even higher plateau than he would have been before Pep came (to City, in 2016). He has most certainly become a better player under Pep Guardiola.
“I’m not saying the others are flashy, but Agüero just doesn’t show any flashiness. He’s softly-spoken.
I remember meeting James Milner for my son’s birthday and he took me aback by saying that Aguero could speak English, and I was surprised again when I saw him conduct an interview, in English.”
Does the language barrier hold him back from complete reverence? Thierry’s eloquence and Alan Shearer’s Englishman instinctively made them endearing. Agüero however features rarely in interviews. Little is known about his private life (aside from the fact that he was Diego Maradona’s son-in-law, and Lionel Messi is his son’s godfather) and his social media profile is solidly sterile.
His compatriot and one-time teammate Carlos Tevez was slated for not picking up the language, despite spending seven years at three different clubs in England. The 2018 documentary centred on his club revealed that Agüero’s best friend in England is the Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea, who he played alongside at Atlético Madrid, with the pair both moving to Manchester in 2011.
His talking, however, to take an often-used phrase, is done on the pitch, a player who has finished the club’s top goalscorer in each of his seasons, only once failing to hit less than 28 in a single campaign.
“I don’t like the media’s obsession of naming one player above all,” suggests Cheeseman, “Like they have at Old Trafford with the Trinity statue, we could have Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Yaya Toure, and Agüero, and several others in a similar vein.
“But as one of the club’s all-time best forward, Aguero is there.”
And what of Agüero’s heir, whether that be the 22-year-old Gabriel Jesus waiting in the wings already at the club, or another?
“One thing’s for sure, whoever follows Agüero has a bit of a thankless task really,” says Cheeseman.
“Who will follow City’s greatest ever striker? Who knows, in 15 years, we could be having this conversation again and Jesus is even better than Agüero!
“One thing’s for sure, he’s certainly got a tough act to follow."