Nigerian attacking starlet Kelechi Iheanacho may be the player to come to Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola’s rescue in coming English Premier League matches, with first choice striker Sergio Aguero out with a four-match suspension.
The Argentine’s temper got the better of him at the end of City’s 3-1 loss to rivals Chelsea on Saturday, with a dangerous lunge on Brazilian defender David Luiz resulting in a brawl between the teams and a ban for four games after receiving a red card.
The absence of Aguero, who has been an important attacking option for the Citizens, does not concern the club’s Spanish coach, as Guardiola believes that the 20-year-old Nigerian is more than capable of filling in for the next four matches in the English top-flight.
‘We are going to accept the ban and keep going. This is not the first time (we have lost Aguero to a ban). He was off for three games and Nolito too but it didn’t make any difference,’ Guardiola said in response to the ban.
‘We accept the ban and we will deal with it. There are players that we have that can play in that position and Kelechi is one of them,’ the coach added.
On Tuesday night Iheanacho repaid Guardiola’s faith in him by delivering the equaliser as his side drew 1-1 with Celtic at the Etihad Stadium in UEFA Champions League action.
His eighth-minute strike cancelled out Celtic’s opener from Patrick Roberts, and demonstrated his ability to deliver on the big stage.
The Super Eagles starlet also did well at the start of the season while Aguero was unavailable; proving himself to be a top-class prospect with a goal against bitter rivals Manchester United in a 2-1 victory over Jose Mourinho’s team.
They’ll soon be playing against Leicester City, Watford, Arsenal and Hull City. He needs to take that opportunity to prove his worth to the side in the absence of his illustrious teammate from Argentina, in order to ensure more time on the pitch when Aguero’s four-match ban is served.
Iheanacho will not be involved in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations early next year, as Nigeria have not qualified, meaning that he will not have to deal with a disruption at club level due to national team commitments, which is an issue that Guardiola does not look favourably upon.
This lead to Iheanacho’s decision to choose club over country earlier this year when the Rio Olympics saw Nigeria featuring in the men’s football tournament.