Pep Guardiola believes Sergio Aguero has improved significantly since regaining his place in the Manchester City side from the injured Gabriel Jesus.
The prolific Aguero was dropped following the arrival of the impressive Jesus in January, sparking renewed speculation over his future.
Despite his superb goalscoring record, the Argentina striker’s long-term prospects at City had been the subject of conjecture after Guardiola took over as manager last summer.
Guardiola called on the 28-year-old to contribute more in terms of build-up.
But Aguero repeatedly stated his desire to stay at the Etihad Stadium and it now seems he has underlined that determination by returning from his brief spell on the bench as a rejuvenated figure.
Jesus shone by scoring three goals in five appearances but broke a bone in his foot in February, paving the way for Aguero’s return. Since then Aguero has scored 10 goals in his last 10 appearances, taking his season’s total to 28 and his overall City tally to 164.
Guardiola described his performance in last week’s victory over Hull as “unbelieveable” and the Spaniard has now explained why he has been so impressed.
He said: “My feeling before that was he was just waiting to score a goal. Now he’s involved in the game. Not just the defensive part – he’s helped us a lot – but he is doing all he can do in our process to create chances.
“There are no complaints about what he has done after the injury for Gabriel Jesus.
“It (his attitude) was always good from the beginning but maybe now he understands better what we’re looking for. He’s trying and that is what I want.”
One player who continues to suffer criticism, however, is goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. The Chilean was recalled against Hull after eight Premier League games on the bench but conceded a tame late goal from the Tigers’ only shot on target.
But Guardiola refuses to complain about the controversial keeper’s shortcomings and has highlighted general weaknesses across the defence.
He said: “The problem when we concede goals is not the goalkeeper – it’s not Claudio, it’s not Willy (Caballero), it’s all the team. The problem with the goal in the last game was six players didn’t want to defend.
“Of course we will make changes for next season, like all the teams around the world, but it’s not about that (goalkeeping).”
The Champions League quarter-finals began this week without City’s involvement. City were knocked out in the last 16 by Monaco on away goals after a 6-6 aggregate draw.
Guardiola believes his team fell because of their game management.
He said: “We are far away – not in terms of the quality, in terms of how we play situations. You need experience. Hopefully we got that experience there and it’ll help us next season.”
Guardiola is not used to early elimination having always reached at least the semi-finals with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
But he said: “The exception is not to be out once with City in the last 16, quarter-finals or semi-finals. That can happen. The exception is seven times in a row at the semi-final or final.”