Are Vincent Kompany's Injury Problems a Long-Term Worry for Manchester City?
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Manchester City's addict-esque dependence on Kompany to patrol the space in front of embattled keeper Joe Hart has had troubling consequences for both men and the team.
There can be no dispute that Hart's recent dip in form has coincided with—and resulted from—Kompany's recurrent inability to start (or finish when he does start) on Manchester City's back line.
The seedlings of this poisonous plant started sprouting in last season's derby loss at the Etihad.
Manchester City were already reeling when Kompany limped off in the 21st minute. Eight minutes later, Manchester United's Wayne Rooney had a brace and Manchester City were consigned to chase the match from behind.
It almost worked too, but then Kompany was absent from the wall when Robin van Persie's winning free kick sailed past Hart's hapless lunge.
It was only one match, but the cause/effect relationship between Kompany's absence and Hart's inability to keep his sheets clean became a repetitive theme of the 2012-13 Manchester City campaign.
Nothing that has taken place so far this season suggests that this problem has been resolved.
Kompany hobbled off in Manchester City's opener against Newcastle United. Without Kompany at Cardiff City, the Sky Blues coughed up a second-half lead largely because Javi Garcia impersonated a bowling pin whenever Cardiff City teed up a corner kick.
Kompany's absence was keenly felt.
Things were no better for Manchester City without Kompany at Stoke City, where the visiting Sky Blues narrowly avoided a dreadful loss more through the Potters' iffy finishing than anything Manchester City did to stifle them.
Kompany is on the shelf again, and as Jamie Jackson of The Guardian notes, he could miss Manchester City's crucial upcoming road fixtures against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League and against Chelsea in the Premier League.
As Jackson wrote, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini "faces an anxious wait to discover if his captain can return within a fortnight for a pivotal pair of games."
Whether Kompany makes it back in time or not, the long-term implications of Kompany's seemingly constant injury problems are already on the manager's mind.
Pellegrini's response was appropriately non-responsive:
"That's something for the medical men to answer and not me but he plays always at 100% of what he can do. Maybe his muscle will have problems. But I don't think it's the same injury he had at the beginning of the season."
That's not exactly "Vinny will be fine, I have absolutely no doubt about that," is it?
Kompany's spotty health has not only impacted Manchester City on the pitch—it has forced City to look elsewhere for short-term cover.
City would never have signed Martin Demichelis at a price of £4.2 million at the end of the summer transfer window if Kompany were fit.
That Demichelis promptly sustained his own disabling injury and has never suited up for Manchester City just salts that wound.
Maybe Manchester City can find another stud centre-back in the January transfer window, maybe not.
But Manchester City's transfer plans in the summer of 2014 had better include signing a promising young centre-back. At 27, Kompany is now a player less about his potential and his future than he is about what he is right now.
And right now, Kompany is an injury risk on a team that cannot afford to leave any detail to chance.
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