Manchester City’s new £4.2 million capture from Atletico Madrid, Martin Demichelis, has suffered an injury setback just days after signing for the club. The 32-year-old defender will be out for six weeks after sustaining a knee ligament injury in training.
It’s a huge blow to City who had signed the Argentinian international to ease their defensive concerns.
With Vincent Kompany's recovery taking longer than first expected, City again have just two fit central defenders available: Matija Nastasic and Joleon Lescott. The crisis Demichelis was supposed to alleviate remains just as crippling.
City will be desperately hoping Nastasic and Lescott remain fit and well.
Although their partnership looked slightly suspect against Hull, it was far less of a concern that the Lescott-Javi Garcia pairing that looked so vulnerable away to Cardiff. No City fan is eager to see Garcia play there again.
Nastasic, of course, was just returning from an injury picked up during preseason and will surely improve. He was one of City’s best players last season, and there are high hopes at the Etihad that he will go on to be a City stalwart for years to come. His form will be vital during the coming weeks.
The impending return of Richards means City at least have the option of using him at centre-back if the crisis worsens. He is far from a natural central defender, though, and despite a decent run in that position alongside Richard Dunne under Sven Goran Eriksson, he’s never looked comfortable there.
However, it’s Vincent Kompany’s absence that hurts City the most. He’s their leader and best defender, whose mere presence spreads confidence to the other players. Last January, Kompany sustained an injury which kept him out for six matches, only two of which City won.
As this tweet from Squawka earlier today proves, City are far more likely to lose without their captain in the side. It shows City's record during the 2012-13 season with and without him.
@TypicalCity Without W: 58.4% D: 16.6% L 25% With: W: 61.5% D: 27% L: 11.5%— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 6, 2013
It’s an infuriating situation for Manuel Pellegrini, who thought he’d solved City’s defensive issues with the signing of the experienced Demichelis.
Having first worked together at River Plate, they were reunited for two seasons at Malaga before their third stint began last week at City. He was set to play a role straight away given the current difficulties.
The problem for City is that games are coming thick and fast over the period they are struggling for defenders.
Next Saturday’s visit to Stoke is the first of five matches in two weeks, including a trip to the Czech Republic for their Champions League opener against FC Viktoria Plzen and the Manchester derby at home to United.
Lescott and Nastasic should be wrapped in cotton wool until some of their teammates are fit enough to return.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.