Don’t ask me how I found a Manchester City fan in London.
Suffice to say I did, and earlier this week we had some banter going back and forth at work. Even an October where our boss (deservedly) won the monthly managerial award provided him with quite some fodder in the shape of the Sheffield Wednesday and Bayern Munich results, and of course I dared to invoke the injury crisis excuse. [Editor’s note: The loss to Bayern was in November!]
After all, I would have happily taken three points from six against Bayern and the draw with Spurs in light of starting our 57th choice right winger.
It’s fair to say that didn’t wash very well. “Same old, same old. Injuries schminjuries.”
Of course, the instant riposte is that we should have signed more cover in the summer, but a brief investigation of City’s woes in 2014-15 demonstrates it’s not quite that simple.
During their poor period last season, Kompany, Agüero, Silva and Toure all played significant volumes of games. Injuries schminjuries were not the issue. Form was.
Yaya’s missing birthday cake took all the headlines but, in much the same way Chelsea are struggling this year, their overall malaise was clear. Moreover, it demonstrated a couple of things:
Injuries are not the only issue
Neither City last season nor Chelsea went through a bad patch because their players lay on the treatment table. This was true for both the case where a mix of first team starters were out or where there was a deep and focused injury issue in a specific position.
In both these instances the issue was actually in the form of players across their first team squad.
And in both instances, they couldn’t cope.
Arsenal’s October was nothing shy of impressive really when you consider we won every single league game in the face of players missing in pretty much every position, as well as a more specific issue at right wing.
No English squad can cope
It also showed that, even backed by sugar daddies, the top teams in the country still cannot handle the loss of a few key players, whether to injury or form.
Take the forward lines: if Agüero is below par, Wilfried Bony is hardly an intimidating replacement. If Costa is out (presumably for a retrospective ban) then Remy doesn’t inspire horror in his opposition. I’m not quite sure van Gaal even knows who his first choice striker is before trying to identify a back up!
And the famed defensive midfield position? City only really have Fernando as a true defensive midfielder, Jon Obi Mikel has never been good enough for Chelsea let alone able to hold a candle to Matic, and again, van Gaal doesn’t exactly have a clear quality DM in the first place.
The truth is that there are too many good (but not great) clubs in England, and a limited number of players who want to come here. It is simply not possible to build the type of against-all-comers squads our Spanish and German rivals in particular can attract.
Not bad in context
So when we look back on the impact injuries often have on our seasons, there’s no shame in having to make do and mend when even the richest clubs in the land can’t defend their squads against poor form, let alone injuries.
My Man City colleague has conveniently ignored that even with our record of poor health, we continue to match them point for point. What’s their excuse?
They may be injuries schminjuries, but I’m proud* of the boys for keeping results at an acceptable level during a period where we have been decimated by bad luck.
*As long as we beat Tony Pulis’ West Brom of course…
It’s a spell which in seasons gone by would have broken us. Not this year.