Pep Guardiola will be intent on regaining forward momentum when he welcomes his Manchester City stars back from their upcoming international duties.
The Etihad Stadium outfit enjoyed a perfect ten wins in a row under the Spaniard, before a Champions League draw in Glasgow was followed by defeat to Spurs at the weekend.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) September 28, 2016
While the Manchester club were thrilling in attack on occasion at Spurs, they failed to find the net for the first time this season and perhaps the absence of the injured Kevin De Bruyne was felt more than was first feared.
The importance of Sergio Aguero to the Etihad Stadium side was always believed to be most crucial but perhaps this term, under Guardiola, things have changed.
The Argentine striker’s recent suspension was negotiated with goals flowing freely and the 100 per cent record intact. It is only since De Bruyne sustained his current hamstring problem that their relentless pace has faltered.
Citizens fans will be counting their blessings that the Belgian is due to return at the end of the month but with the last two fixtures having shown their side is human after all, Guardiola will be giving plenty of thought about how to compensate for the loss of the player in the coming weeks.
Against Celtic, the attacker’s place effectively went to Ilkay Gundogan with David Silva pushed forward to link with the front three.
Meanwhile at White Hart Lane, respect for Spurs’ midfield was evident through a more-reserved line-up, with Fernando reinforcing the centre of the pitch and Jesus Navas coming in as a winger.
Guardiola’s most likely solution with two home games up next will be to trust his instincts and flood the front half of his team with attacking talent.
Silva, an in-the-hole choice under previous managers, will be tasked with exerting his creative influence as part of a midfield three, alongside Gundogan and the more-restrained Fernandinho.
Manchester City have lost 6 EPL games in 2016. De Bruyne was absent in all those games:
— Mr. Numbers (@Mister_Numbers) October 2, 2016
That would allow Aguero, Raheem Sterling and one other, most likely Nolito, to do the damage further forward.
The fine form of Sterling gives the manager an equally workable but even more attacking alternative.
Gundogan could be sacrificed to accommodate Sterling in a free role behind the front three, with Silva dropping deeper into the heart of the side. This would ensure maximum potential for creativity in the absence of De Bruyne, while giving City great flexibility within their front four players.
A third, perhaps even slightly crazy option, would be so left-field it might just catch Everton, the next visitors to Eastlands, unawares.
It involves removing the red-hot Aguero from his role as the main striker.
The Argentine has the engine and most of the qualities required to take on De Bruyne’s role in the team and while replacing him as striker might seem risky, there is another man on form who could step in.
Kelechi Iheanacho is bursting for his chance in the side and deputised well during Aguero’s absence. Including him now with a simultaneous positional shift for the main man, would be a bold but potentially excellent solution.