During Manchester City’s second drubbing of Tottenham Hotspur this season, at White Hart Lane this time, their standard unremitting attacking performance was marred by a hamstring injury to the jewel in their crown, Sergio Aguero. The disruption was even more jarring because Aguero had been terrorising the Spurs defence, hitting the post, making countless untrackable runs in behind, winding dribbles, every one strengthening the pulsating, predatory aura he conveys in the final third. It was suddenly extinguished just before half time, an injury likely to keep Aguero out for a month. For most teams it would be a significant blow to have your top scorer and attacking talisman crocked for a handful of games, including a massive fixture against Barcelona in the Champions League fourth round. Look at the troubles Manchester United had when Van Persie was out injured for a comparable period.
Why it isn’t as significant a blow as one might think, the point I hope to illustrate, was actually illustrated for me quite nicely in the 78th minute of that same match against Tottenham. In that minute, after an even stronger second-half attacking performance, Steven Jovetic, the Montenegrin international and £22 million signing in the summer, scored City’s fourth goal of the game. Apart from the goal being quite good, albeit taking a tricky deflection to bamboozle Lloris, it showed that the quality of depth for the world’s richest club (entirely expected by the way, but still astounding) is such that Aguero’s injury barely slowed them down. At almost every position there is a world class player, with a world class understudy waiting in the wings for a chance. They have the strongest squad in the league, arguably the strongest squad ever assembled. After spending close to a billion dollars since Sheik Mansour bought the club, a glance down the playing roster shows how well that money has been spread over each position.
Joe Hart is easily the best English keeper, firm first choice for the national team and, after a shaky period earlier in the season where he was benched for seven games, has resolidified his place in the City team. The mental lapses that justified that spell of inaction are the main aspect of his game that raises concerns (a tendency to rush out unnecessarily sticks out), but, at only 26, the experience that should eradicate the tendency for such lapses is all still in front of him.