Monday 13 January 2020 9:46 am

Sergio Aguero tops Premier League list and Watford continue rise as Aston Villa and Bournemouth go into freefall

Debate over where Sergio Aguero ranks in the pantheon of English football’s imports or whether he gets the credit that he deserves may continue to rage, but some things are plain fact.

With 177 goals, he is now the leading non-British scorer in the Premier League history, following his hat-trick in Manchester City’s 6-1 evisceration of a sorry Aston Villa side yesterday.

His 12th treble in the top-flight – more than any other player, native or overseas – took him past Thierry Henry’s 176 and behind only three men: Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney and Andy Cole.

Read more: Who can stop the Liverpool winning machine?

Aguero’s display against Villa was a showcase of what has made him so effective since joining City in 2011 and has kept him central to the club’s plans nine years on.

Before notching himself, the Argentina striker’s harrying of Ahmed Elmohamady as the Villa defender tried to shepherd the ball behind carved an opening for Riyad Mahrez to score his and City’s second.

And when openings came his way, he was unerring. His first was a shot that proved too powerful for Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland to hold and he capped his hat-trick with a firm, clinical short-range finish.

For some commentators, the 31-year-old’s all-round game does not make him the equal of Henry or Cristiano Ronaldo. The unassuming Aguero, you suspect, will shrug and carry on scoring.

Crumbling Villa

Aguero’s milestone should not mask the very real problems gripping Villa, who slipped into the relegation zone following Watford’s earlier win at fellow strugglers Bournemouth.

Lengthy injuries to keeper Tom Heaton, midfielder John McGinn and striker Wesley have depleted the Midlanders, who have lost six of their last eight league games, in key areas.

Jack Grealish
Too much is being asked of Jack Grealish while Villa struggle to cope without key players

Those absences seem to be hampering Dean Smith’s attempts to achieve the right balance in team selections and against City their five-man defence was far too deep.

Too much, meanwhile, is being asked of Jack Grealish who, while gifted and adapting well to the top division, currently has no team-mates of remotely comparable quality to play off in attack.

Hornets abuzz

Fortunes can turn swiftly in a relegation battle and Watford’s resurgence under new boss Nigel Pearson has given them renewed hope of staying up.

Their 3-0 win at Bournemouth was their fourth in seven league games under the former Leicester manager and lifted them out of the bottom three for the first time this season.

Organised, purposeful and growing in confidence, Watford were thoroughly deserving victors at the Vitality Stadium.

Ismaila Sarr
Ismaila Sarr set up two goals as Watford recorded a fourth win in seven league games under Nigel Pearson

A no-nonsense back four and a brawny midfield trio of Etienne Capoue, Nathaniel Chalobah and Abdoulaye Doucoure provided a platform for Ismaila Sarr, Gerard Deulofeu and Troy Deeney to flourish.

Sarr, a menace on the right wing, weighed in with assists for Doucoure and battering ram Deeney before substitute Roberto Pereyra completed the scoring with a spectacular volley.

Tougher tests than powderpuff Bournemouth await, but on this form Watford can finish the campaign on a high.

Sour times for Cherries

If, as seems likely, bottom club Norwich are as a good as down, then there are two trap doors left and Bournemouth currently look all the world like taking one.

Conviction has deserted their attacking play, where Ryan Fraser looks a shadow of his mischievous best and Dominic Solanke wears the demeanour of a man resigned to drawing another blank.

Eddie Howe
Manager Eddie Howe has his work cut out to keep Bournemouth in the top flight

At the back, meanwhile, they are making problems for themselves. Hesitancy is killing their attempts to play out and, as in Doucoure’s opener yesterday, handing goals to opponents.

Eddie Howe banked huge credit for getting the Cherries into the Premier League and keeping them up. One place off the bottom and with nine defeats in 11 games, keeping them up might be just as big a task.