‘How Deep Is Your Squad?’ – Part One

I can imagine this being a perfect little section on perhaps SoccerAm, Calvin Harris sound-tracking the graphics (How deep is your SQUAD? Oh-oh-ohhhh), the kids would love it for all its gimmicky greatness. Alas the written word doesn’t quite convey the novelty of such a sound bite and a YouTube link just doesn’t have the same seamless quality it would have on the screen. In this particular instance though, sound bite or no sound bite, the depth of two squads in particular are both making the title race much more interesting in these early stages of the season that also provide the slightly more baffling question of where as the money been spent from two of the richest clubs in England? These two clubs in question are Manchester City and Chelsea, both with potentially endless funds (in the remit of Financial Fair Play). City from unbeaten in the opening five games and with the defeat of Chelsea at the Etihad already, seem incredibly more shaky after another injury lay off for Kompany and the loss of the much improved Mangala and Chelsea from being League Champions to something of a listless ship in 5 months, questions must be asked as to why they find themselves in this position? For Part One of this two-part extravaganza it seems easier to start initially with looking at Manchester City’s predicament of injuries hampering the fluency of their early season performances.

Through looking for a little bit of info to see exactly who was missing with what I stumbled across the website www.PhysioRoom.com and it really was a fantastic source for this little article, offering a nice simple assessment of injury and return date – certainly will be returning again if need to see whose body doesn’t care anymore about football and decided that it needs to have a rest in rural Cheshire (other counties also home footballers). However back to the nitty gritty.

Manchester City currently lie second in the injury league table, carrying 9 players with some various knock or graver injury yet 6 of these players are what I would call first team regulars. Joe Hart is back the quickest and hopefully for City fans will be able to face a resurgent Monchengladbach in the Champions League in the week. Hart presents a much needed return after seeing Caballero at points struggle against Tottenham. I have always thought that Caballero was a safe pair of hands and whilst perhaps not a Manchester City no.1, ‘Willy’ proved his worth at Malaga for Pellegrini when the Andalusian side sat on their own little golden egg. It is the absence in defence of Kompany and Mangala that could pose a greater issue as seen with the performance against Tottenham at the weekend, especially in regards to the confidence for the entire back five.

Kompany’s return date is still unknown with Mangala’s perspective return date is the 17th Oct (after the international break). Whilst potentially missing two winnable games against Monchengladbach and Newcastle United, the return of Mangala could very much be irrelevant with the imperious figure of Kompany lacking by his side. Mangala himself has stated this season how much of an influence ‘Vince the Prince’ has had this year and whilst Mangala has proved that the second year in English football is perhaps the one to start judgement, Mangala would potentially come in to replace Demichelis or Otamendi without the Belgian by his side. Whilst Demichelis has Premier League experience, at 34 he isn’t getting any younger and had never been the quickest of Centre Backs in the league. For a club like City to require a long run of games from the aging and slowing Martin seems both unfair and slightly implausible, especially considering they sent the young and highly rated Jason Denayer out on loan for the season instead of blooding him into the City squad. Partly this decision could have been in response to the purchase of Nicolas Otamendi yet this is a player who has unbelievable potential to be well-suited for the English game. Last year in Nuno Espirito Santo’s Valencia he proved to be a rock of daunting proportions especially against Madrid at the Mestalla where he dominated from start to finish, stopping Ronaldo and all 19 of his abs from scoring his obligatory goal. Yet defenders seemingly don’t take to the Premier League like a duck to water, especially defenders from Spain and Portugal where the game is a little less physical. Both Mangala and Otamendi have the physical attributes to excel at this level and with Kompany remaining at the Etihad, City will have three exceptional centre back’s next season but at this moment in time City’s early defensive solidarity is on the ropes. These shortcomings really should have been avoided as Kompany’s previous form clearly suggests that his body will at some point go on strike in the season, now is its moment on the picket line.

The issue of injury continues to way over the Etihad like a dark winter cloud as you move further forward from the back line. Yaya Touré, Fabien Delph, David Silva and Wilfried Bony are all ruled out for differing periods of time (from returning as early as the 3rd October in Silva’s case to Touré’s return still unknown). You have to wonder however how light in the centre of park City actually are. Delph’s signing from Villa certainly raised my eyebrows, however his dynamism certainly would help the City midfield in transition from defence into attack, especially with Touré now missing. Yaya has been back on fine form this year, seemingly leaving the personal issues of yesteryear behind him, he has been looking back to his imperious best yet his injury coupled with Delph’s has left City’s midfield now seeing Fernando and Fernandinho both start – neither have convinced or particularly cemented a regular starting place since their respective arrivals and with both transfers adding up £42 million pound (Fernandinho costing a breath-taking £30 million in 2013), you have to wonder if City are actually a little light across the park? Two midfielders down and all of a sudden the failure to secure James Milner’s services seems like quite the oversight, especially for a player who performed so well last year in a season you would not particularly write home about.

My own personal issue with Manchester City is that whilst 9 injuries is a lot for any squad to deal with, it is the consistent naivety or failure to address just how reliant they are on certain players. If, like now, a Kompany gets injured or heaven forbid an Aguero gets injured, the preverbal hits the fan. It is neigh on impossible to replace world-class talent but certainly some teams when losing their best talent don’t hit such a performance brick wall, whilst City seem to fall off a cliff, especially when you know some of your star players are injury prone. Perhaps the only player City can afford to lose amazingly is David Silva but that is only after spending the vast sum of money to secure Kevin De Bruyne, a worldy of a player who can fit into that Silva shaped hole as City’s No.10 but is certainly something of a luxury having that calibre of replacement when a cheaper No.10 could of still done a job of maintaining the shape of the team by nestling in the hole behind Aguero.

And Aguero is one such example of this lack of foresight of City’s transfer policy. For City there is only one Aguero. Bony embodies a slightly different style of play, an undoubted goal scorer and a player who offers a plan B but he isn’t of the same ilk of Aguero. There are plenty of players who can play in a similar ilk or style to Sergio so if he does come a cropper City’s attacking shape can remain fluid and his loss is felt in terms of class of player rather than a tactical shift. Pellegrini would then continue to have the tactical flexibility of both a plan A and a plan B. The same can be said for Kompany, whilst his replacement may not be as good a defender certainly a player in the mould of Ashley Williams would be able to come in to control, shout and bellow with all his Premier League experience to lead a Mangala or settle an Otamendi down to the pace of the Premier League.

Manchester City for all their wealth and riches don’t have the squad depth to maintain the fluidity, control and leadership that a fully fit first choice starting XI has in abundance and you can’t help but question why haven’t they rectified these issues?

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