Manchester City’s over-reliance on Vincent Kompany is becoming a concern. When Kompany is unavailable, like he has been for the last three league matches, City look decidedly shaky at the back. His return for this weekend’s derby match with Manchester United is key to any potential City success.
You only have to look at the recent matches against Cardiff and Hull to see the impact of Kompany’s absence. Two promoted teams caused City all sorts of problems defensively; problems that simply do not arise when the Belgian is in the side.
City have looked susceptible in the air and when balls are whipped across the edge of the six yard box, with a feeling of panic gripping the back four.
Kompany is City’s best and most consistent defender by some considerable distance. He is one of those rarities in world football: A complete centre-back who is strong, quick, brave, good in the air and excellent on the ball.
And it’s not just Kompany’s physical attributes that make City a more solid side—his leadership skills are important, too. Joleon Lescott is the classic case in point. He always looks far better alongside Kompany. City’s captain organises the back four and talks them through matches, meaning they work better collectively.
Likewise Matija Nastasic, who, alongside Kompany last season, performed brilliantly. At Stoke, where he partnered the shaky Javi Garcia, he was forced into emergency tackles and blocks far more than he usually is, and as such looked far less secure.
Kompany returned on Tuesday and played 90 minutes of City’s Champions League match against Plzen. He came through unscathed—a huge boost for the Blues—and City looked more comfortable because of it. His presence seems to imbue a feeling of confidence in the side.
The evidence is clear. Last season, City lost 25 percent of matches that Kompany was absent for, whereas with him they only lost 11.5 percent. The period between late January and mid-March, where Kompany missed six straight games, is arguably the reason City fell so short of United in the title race.
Of course, that’s no excuse, and City must start coping better in his absence. In recent seasons, United have faced far worse injury problems at the heart of their defence and coped admirably.
Kompany’s return is the best news possible for City ahead of the match. Their captain leads by example and makes them a better side. City must address their dependency on him in the future, but for now they’ll just be pleased to see him in the starting line up for such a big game.
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.