Michael Brown on Aguero’s all-time rank, the issues at Spurs, Bamford for England and his player of the season
It’s fair to say former midfield stalwart Michael Brown knows the Premier League.
Brown played in the top flight for Manchester City, Tottenham, Fulham, Wigan and Portsmouth and also had notable spells at Leeds and Sheffield United.
Ahead of his Leeds United v Sheffield United 5-A-Side team selection, Brown tells us where he ranks Aguero among the all-time best Prem strikers, what he thinks the problems is at Spurs and who he thinks has been the player of the season.
Aguero’s all-time Premier League rank and replacement
I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that the Sergio Aguero news has come out now. You’ve got to look at it from Pep Guardiola’s perspective and it’s a question he’s asked in almost every press conference. ‘Will Aguero play this weekend, will he be here next season?’
The team have been doing well and he’s been in and around things but it just means now they can focus on the rest of the season without that question being asked.
Both parties have made their statements so now we can move forward and finish the season. If he can play any part in City’s chase for all four trophies, getting a few goals, it would be great.
If you’re asking me where he ranks among the best strikers of all-time in the Premier League, he’s easily in the top five. For me, it’s Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Wayne Rooney, Thierry Henry and then Aguero.
What you’ve got to look at is what that moment in 2012 did for Manchester City as a football club. It really was their turning point. They just got better and better and Aguero has always been a part of that success.
The big questions now are who do Man City bring in, and where does Aguero go?
If he doesn’t go to a Premier League then that’s great for City because there’d be no conflict of interest there, but for a neutral obviously we still want to see a bit more of him playing in England. So if there is a Premier League club interested then that would be just as great because we still get to see him week-in, week-out.
There’s certainly going to be a forward player that’s on the club’s radar now Aguero is moving on. But we’ve seen on so many occasions this season City don’t necessarily need a striker to win and dominate games.
We’ve seen them play with a false nine where Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne have all stepped in, as has Ilkay Gundogan. They’ve found a way of playing without a striker so there are ways around it. But City are always evolving, so you wouldn’t be surprised to see them bring in a new striker.
Is it going to be Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland or Harry Kane? Kane has apparently said this week that he’ll assess his future after the Euros, and that’s something we’ve not seen or heard before from him. Financially, Haaland looks the most likely, whereas Mbappe looks like it might be too big a deal to land.
But I wouldn’t rule out Pep finding someone else, where he doesn’t have to go and spend around £100m on a player.
Celebrating against a former team
I couldn’t see Aguero celebrating if he scored against Man City, though, just because of everything he’s done for the club and all the club have done for him.
It’s an interesting one because funnily enough my first game for Sheffield United after I made my move permanent was against my old club, Man City, I scored and we won 1-0.
I didn’t celebrate on that occasion; Nicky Summerbee actually told me to be careful about celebrating and I remember just running past Joe Royle who was stood devastated on the line. I didn’t celebrate though and we’ve still obviously got a great relationship.
But sometimes it can get a little bit heated against your old clubs. In my own experience those matches are always the ones you look out for when the fixtures are announced; you want to know when you’re playing against your old team.
I’ve generally had a good time of things against my old teams and I think it’s because everywhere I’ve gone fans have always known I’ve given my all for them.
Tottenham’s problems and Mourinho
I think Spurs fans will be disappointed with how things have panned out both in Europe and in the league this season, but there’s still a chance they could finish in the top four. And there’s a cup final coming up for them in the next few weeks, so we have seen flashes of brilliance from them at times this year.
There’s a really good squad there at Spurs, but things just haven’t quite worked out for them. They reached some dizzy heights at the back end of last year and we were thinking they might even be in a title race.
It looked like Jose Mourinho was back to his old self and they were on a great run of form. But then they were hit with a couple of injuries and their style of play was brought into question, and ultimately when a couple of results didn’t go their way I think it knocked their confidence.
They’ve got some good players, though, so I just think it might take a little bit longer for them to find that winning formula. Whether or not they can find that consistency under Mourinho is another question.
I never thought Mourinho was the long-term appointment, to be honest. That will be a real interesting one in the coming months, especially as frustration grows among the fans.
I think they’ve just got to look at where they’re sitting at the end of the season. Will they win a trophy? Will they qualify for the Champions League? If the answer to both of those is no, they need to look at a lot of things.
Where do they strengthen? Does the manager still want to be there? Does he feel like he can grow the club into a trophy-winning side? That’s when the board has to make a big decision.
Defensively we’ve seen too much inconsistency from Spurs this season. There are a flock of options in midfield and going forward, and for a while it looked like they’d addressed those problems at the back, but the emphasis on keeping clean sheets was in turn impacting them offensively.
It’s about finding an inner-strength at Tottenham; it seems like when they lose a couple of games it really gets to them – they don’t seem to have the personnel there at the moment to deal with it.
Predictions for Liverpool next year
We’ve seen Liverpool dominate both the Premier League and the Champions League for a few years now, so their dip in form this season isn’t a huge shock because it’s a tough ask to sustain those work rate levels.
They’ve obviously been really unlucky with injuries as well so while they maybe thought they had back-up in youth to cover Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson throughout the season, they haven’t really been able to do so as much as they’d have liked because of injuries to players in other key areas.
But as far as next season goes I’d expect them to be challenging for the title once again. They’ve got more than enough in terms of a financial backing to go and strengthen in areas they see fit.
They’ve already got a couple of top, top centre-halves so I don’t think they need to strengthen in that area; it’s more about just monitoring exactly where Virgil van Dijk is at and taking it from there.
On Leeds’ return to Premier League
It’s been nothing short of brilliant from Leeds this season in the Premier League. For a neutral they’ve been exciting to watch, I’ve covered a few of their games and they create so many opportunities over the course of 90 minutes.
We’ve seen some exceptional individual performances but they’re also such a great unit as well. Raphinha has been absolutely brilliant, Patrick Bamford has bagged a load of goals and Kalvin Phillips has been a solid performer all season and rightly deserves his England call-up.
Bamford was unlucky to have missed out on the England squad and I’d have thought he’d have got the call this time around. There’s so much competition in that area though as far as the international team is concerned so all he needs to do is keep chipping away. A couple of injuries to strikers and who knows where that could take Bamford?
There’s plenty of potential for this Leeds side to go on and achieve great things – but it doesn’t need to happen instantly. They need to just take it one season at a time and learn from the likes of Wolves and Sheffield United who have both had fantastic seasons in recent years but failed to follow them up with anything substantial.
You’d expect them to have a lot of money to spend in the summer to go out and improve the team even more, but I don’t think fans need to be too greedy when it comes to next years goals. Just continuing to improve and staying clear of that bottom end of the table – I know it sounds a little bit negative – gives you a platform to work from.
It’s important they keep hold of the likes of Raphinha and Phillips next summer, as well as bringing in a few more new faces. Raphinha has set the season alight and Phillips has been consistently brilliant, and he loves Leeds United, so it would take something pretty special to tempt him away. He’s enjoying himself at the moment and playing with a smile on his face. It’s so good to see him doing it at an international level as well because he’s such a great lad.
I watched Phillips growing up and coming through the ranks at Leeds and he was always a good character. He was around 16 or 17 when he started training with us and you could tell very early on he had something special. He had that little cheekiness, combined with the belief he could make it. He’s just a brilliant person who has shown so much maturity to go all the way to the top at such a young age.
Player of the season
I’d say Ilkay Gundogan has been my Player of the Season. The amount of goals he’s got for his side this season – big goals as well at important times.
Man City have quality in all areas of the pitch so they’re always going to create chances and score goals, but he’s been so good for them all season and in a team including Ruben Dias, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne to name but three, he’s standing out as their best player this season.
A lot of people might say Gundogan’s performances this season have almost come out of nowhere because of the array of attacking options City have at their disposal.
But it speaks volumes that the first name Pep Guardiola wanted through the door when he took over at the Etihad was Gundogan. He does so much for the team, not just with the goals he scores but the runs he makes off the ball – they open up space for his teammates and he’s just always causing defenders problems.
Elsewhere you’ve got to say Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek have had exceptional seasons together at West Ham.