Manchester City: Why Vincent Kompany's Return from Injury Is Vital for Sky Blues

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Manchester City: Why Vincent Kompany's Return from Injury Is Vital for Sky Blues
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City need Kompany back on his feet and back on the pitch as soon as he can get there.

Vincent Kompany's absence from Manchester City's recent loss to Cardiff City is as good an excuse as any for me to break the fourth wall.

You see, this piece was assigned to me about 48 hours before the Cardiff City match. Even without Kompany, Manchester City were heavy favorites against the newly promoted Bluebirds (who now wear red, but whatever).

Even if Manchester City had dispatched Cardiff City with ease, the topic would have remained relevant. Kompany is the keystone of City's defense.

But after Manchester City lost the match, blowing a late lead in the process, Kompany's absence and the exigent need for his return to the side were underscored.

Particularly when two of Cardiff City's second-half tallies came from corner kicks that saw Manchester City defenders stumbling around the box like they were on roller skates. On one of those corners, stand-in centre-back Javi Garcia did a fairly convincing impression of a falling bowling pin.

Maybe Garcia was fouled on the play, maybe not, but it is hard to envision Kompany ever getting punked in the box like that on a corner against a lesser opponent on the road.

Matija Nastasic has been missing from the Manchester City back line for a few weeks now. The Daily Star's Jeremy Cross reported in advance of the match with Cardiff City that Nastasic "is making a swift recovery and has returned to light training."

After Manchester City's slapdash defending against Cardiff City, Nastasic cannot return fast enough.

Still, it is Kompany whom Manchester City miss most. On available evidence, Kompany is probably Manchester City's least replaceable player.

That title used to have multiple candidates at Manchester City. Changes to the squad have eliminated all of Kompany's challengers for that nominal honor.

Before this season, Yaya Toure might have been Manchester City's most difficult player to fill in for. Toure is still a huge miss when he cannot go, but the signing of Fernandinho and City's incredible depth at midfielder make the thought of Toure missing a match here or there tolerable.

Similarly, Sergio Aguero used to be a player the Citizens had few options to adequately replace. At present, though, Edin Dzeko appears more than capable of carrying the scoring load with help from Alvaro Negredo and (when he finally gets a run) Stevan Jovetic.

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Kompany's return can do nothing but help the suddenly questionable play of Hart.

Joe Hart looked irreplaceable for a long time. Today, speculation abounds that his recent and prolonged dip in form means he needs a break.

Hart's skittish performance against Cardiff City was almost certainly due in part to missing Kompany's steady presence in front of him, particularly on the corners that doomed the Citizens on that day.

To hear David Platt tell it, Manchester City should have replaced Hart with Asmir Begovic this summer anyway.

Per Joe Strange of the Daily Mail, "The former City assistant manager reportedly told Al Jazeera: 'If Mancini and I were still at Man City this year Joe Hart wouldn't be there. We made a decision to sign Asmir Begovic.'"

Delightful. Manchester City needs a keeper controversy right now like Miley Cyrus needs more bad publicity.

So by a rational process of elimination, Kompany is the Sky Blue the side has the hardest time accounting for when he is down.

From an irrationally emotional standpoint, however, Kompany is invaluable. Much of Kompany's value to the Sky Blues rests in his status as their captain. No side chooses a captain who projects to yo-yo in and out of the XI.

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Manchester City's defensive performances without Kompany in recent times have ranged from competent to nervy to downright unacceptable.

Perhaps the best measure of Kompany's irreplaceable presence is the lengths to which Manchester City have gone to protect him.

Manchester City fans recall how nagging injuries caused Kompany to struggle through much of the 2012-2013 season.

Per Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail, "The Belgian International missed a large chunk of the second half of the Barclays Premier League campaign after pulling a calf muscle back in January."

Ladyman's report goes on to detail that Kompany was held out of the last two matches of Manchester City's Premier League season in an attempt to expedite his healing process.

Think about that for a minute. Manchester City held Kompany out of Premier League matches at the end of the season to help him recuperate. Because, apparently, the offseason is not long enough.

And, probably, Manchester City's management team knew then what everyone sees now: They don't defend very well without him.

The effect of Kompany's absence is magnified by the ongoing injury problems of Nastasic and Micah Richards, no doubt.

Even if those two were healthy, though, they would be singing backup to Kompany's lead.

The defeat to Cardiff City exposed Manchester City's soft underbelly. If Cardiff City can gash the Sky Blues three times in half an hour, the mind reels at what the league's best sides might do.

Manchester City need Vincent Kompany back quickly because before they know it, Manchester United will be at the Etihad, and then there will be Champions League matches and FA Cup ties to deal with.

None of Manchester City's grand plans is likely to come true without a healthy Kompany at the back.

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