Manchester City’s injury crisis is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Aleks Kolarov have all become the latest in a long list of names to find themselves on the side-lines, all picking up their respective injuries whilst on international duty. It has been an international break that has been particularly cruel to a club which has already nursed a plethora of crocked stars so far this campaign. With so many lofty ambitions set out at the start of the season those aspirations could be seriously dashed if this situation continues in a similar vein. One thing is for sure: Manuel Pellegrini’s ability to guide the club through this sticky spell will be well and truly tested.City’s oversubscribed treatment room has slipped under the radar somewhat so far this season. Media coverage has focused on other issues in the club, rightly or wrongly, but now it is getting to the point where the injuries are so frequent and widespread throughout the squad it is becoming impossible to ignore. It has become a major issue and is bordering on farcical.
The list of names that have suffered some kind of injury throughout the season is so extensive it is easier to mention those who have managed to stay fit. To name but a few, literally: Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Bacary Sagna, Kevin De Bruyne and Nicholas Otamendi are the only first team regulars to stay fit as yet. To put that into context, players that are considered the spine of the team (i.e. Aguero, Silva, Toure, Kompany, Hart) have all been unavailable at some point and for varying amounts of time, sometimes on more than one occasion. Ultimately, it has created a situation which is eventually going to take its toll.
Sympathy will be all but non-existent from those with no connection with the club and, in many respects, that is understandable. City have invested huge sums of money into building a great squad with frightening strength in depth. In theory, the odd injury shouldn’t pose a problem to a squad of City’s calibre. That said, the frequency and volume of the number of injuries thus far is bound to have a debilitating effect, regardless of the calibre of the players that make up the squad. Week in, week out, the list of absentees means that the starting 11 is almost always changing, whether it is drastically or just ever so slightly. That can’t be conductive for a winning formula.
Whilst the more established players may feel less of an effect with an ever changing line up, the new players, who are trying to settle into a new team with a different style of play and a new setting, may begin to struggle. Raheem Sterling, for example, seems to have been affected by the current situation. At the beginning of the season the team was settled and his form was excellent, if not spectacular: he was a breath of fresh air that the squad badly needed, but since the injuries have taken a hold he has begun to struggle.
Nicholas Otamendi, although showing moments of huge promise, has also been found wanting at times and I can’t help but feel the merry go round of players around him can’t have helped. Whether it is purely down to the injuries is debatable but there is no doubt that when you are trying to build an understanding with your team mates being forced to play with different players each week is likely to slow down such progress. Kevin De Bruyne’s blistering start in a blue shirt represents something of an anomaly in this argument. That said, it is clear for all to see that he is a special player who, although it is early days, could genuinely fill the gaping hole left by David Silva when the Spaniard is not fit. In many respects, the Belgian has been something of a rock in an otherwise unstable situation.
In the past, the international break has been a break, in the true sense of the word, for City’s less illustrious teams of the last 20 years or so but, in the present day, it is very much the opposite. Of course, a symptom of having a top team is to have international footballers. We are not different to other top teams in that sense. That said, the events of the last few months have seen an unprecedented number of injuries and, if they continue to happen for much longer, it could seriously derail the season. With a crucial set of fixtures on the horizon and no apparent signs of the injury crisis abating Manuel Pellegrini’s tactical ability will be truly tested. He has shown in the past that he has thrived in adversity. When City had no fit strikers for a period of weeks last season, Pellegrini masterminded a string of find wins whereby James Milner lead the line with Silva playing just behind to score the goals. In retrospect, it was a stroke of genius. Only time will tell how well Pellegrini deals with the aforementioned setbacks but it is about time that lady luck cast their smile upon the Etihad Stadium to give him a help in hand.
Written by Robert Toole