Kelechi Iheanacho got a lot of attention following City’s FA Cup tie against Norwich. He got more positive attention for a game which nobody could watch that Wilfried Bony has earned himself in his entire City career to date.
Bony is on the way back from injury and will likely return to the squad within the next two games but that shouldn’t mask an essential truth: Bony is fighting for his career at City.
Bony has had a bit of a strange time at City so far. He signed in January 2015 and was immediately absent due to the African Cup of Nations. He never really got going last season and could never really get a run in the team as Sergio Aguero finished the season in style.
That was all fine, of course.
It was always going to take Bony some time to get in the groove at the Etihad. A full summer break followed by a fresh start would do the big man good, it was assumed. A lot of faith was placed in the Ivorian as Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic were allowed to leave the club, presumably on the premise that Bony would be able to fill the gap. That was a lot to ask of him before even taking Aguero’s injury record into account. Following a bout of malaria over the summer it is clear at this point that Bony is not the man to lead the line for a City team which is chasing 4 trophies.
His goal record is not terrible, but it is not inspiring. His finishing can be either great or laughable, often in the same passage of play. His positioning is generally ok but he seems to run at a different speed to the rest of the team, both physically and mentally. In short, Bony has never given the impression that in a time of crisis he could grab the team by the scruff of the neck and drag them over the finishing line. We will never see Bony do what Aguero did against QPR, or Bayern Munich.
But what competition does Bony have? Well, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Kelechi Iheanacho is coming after him.
Iheanacho is not what I’d describe as a true academy product but he’s the closest City have had in years. He’s done something extremely rare and slotted seamlessly into a team at the high end of European football. It should not be forgotten among all the hype that such an achievement is truly remarkable.
Aside from that little thing about being on the verge of breaking through one of the toughest ceilings of them all, he seems to have the knack for scoring goals whenever he’s on the pitch. Handy for a striker, that is.
But that is not all he is. Iheanacho looks to be a lot more tactically flexible than Bony is, a lot more suited for the current Pellegrini system which emphasises fast attacking play where the players rotate with each other to overwhelm the opposition defence. It is a highly technical attacking ‘philosophy’ which requires quick minds and quick feet. This is why Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne have fitted in so nicely. It is why Bony has not.
This aspect of City’s play will not only be maintained if Pep Guardiola arrives, it will be expanded. Bony is good at what he does, but I sincerely doubt that he has the extra tricks required to thrive at Guardiola’s City. The Spaniard does not have a lot of time for ‘big man up top’ types.
Even were Pellegrini to somehow carry on at City after the summer I cannot see Bony ending 2016 as the second choice striker. Iheanacho is too good, shows too much promise, to be restrained for much longer. Pellegrini has already praised his improvement and promised more minutes this season.
Iheanacho is very much a player on the up, something special, and barring something miraculous Bony’s time as a major player at City is likely to be coming to a close.
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Written by Alex Timperley