Manchester City is in the midst of playing one of their season's busiest stretches without injured leading scorer Sergio Aguero. Sometimes starter Edin Dzeko has a chance to prove his value to the club.
If it feels like we have been here before, it is because we have.
City's 2012-13 Premier League title defense was hobbled by Aguero's recurrent injury problems. Then, as now, the thought was that Dzeko would have to replace some of Aguero's goal output if City were to thrive.
Last season, at least, Dzeko's contributions were too infrequent to meaningfully account for Aguero's absence.
Early in the 2012-13 campaign, Dzeko's heroics in the final minutes earned him the moniker "super sub," a tag Dzeko did not relish.
Dzeko was quoted then by Stuart James of The Guardian as saying that he "was never a super sub before I came to City. I used to play always from the beginning and I scored a lot of goals not as a sub." Leaving little doubt as to his self confidence, he finished with a flourish: "I will never be a super sub. I want to play."
Maybe so. But as Aguero continued to hobble around the pitch, and as Mario Balotelli was being shipped out, there was Dzeko running with occasional purpose but serving not much purpose at all.
Dzeko can cite inadequate playing time from former manager Roberto Mancini all he likes. But Dzeko's production in the second half of the 2012-2013 season was simply insufficient.
City's 20th Premier League match of the 2012-13 schedule was a turgid 0-0 draw at since-relegated Queens Park Rangers on Jan. 29.
Dzeko's next Premier League goal for City came on May 7 against West Bromwich Albion at the Etihad. That is nearly three months without scoring a goal in league play.
Such an afterthought was Dzeko by this time that, in an FA Cup final that Mancini needed to win to even think about keeping his job, Dzeko was used as a substitute in the 90th minute.
In the aftermath of Mancini's departure, Dzeko has obliquely bad-mouthed Mancini while in the same breath professing admiration for new manager Manuel Pellegrini, per Jamie Jackson's October report in The Guardian:
I think my form is a tribute to the new coach. The manager is very important to a player's form, and I have noticed a difference. I think for every player it is important he knows the manager believes in him, and it is important he has the confidence of the manager. That helps you to find the best form.
Which is, you know, great and everything when Dzeko is scoring (at the time of this quote, Dzeko had scored four times in his prior nine appearances).
But the Bosnian striker can be fickle. When you have to turn to Twitter to clear your name, as Dzeko recently did, times are surely desperate.
Dzeko has started twice since Aguero went down. His two goals against Leicester City in a Capital One Cup quarterfinal made a fine start.
In line with his City career, though, Dzeko seized that scoring momentum and rode it right into a hapless display against relegation-threatened Fulham that got him benched before the hour mark.
Aguero is out at least a few more weeks. City are set to play four matches in ten days beginning with their date with league-leading Liverpool on Dec. 26.
Dzeko is going to get more opportunities to provide City with a boost while Aguero heals.
If he cannot get it done, though, expect more carping from Dzeko about how he is used and how his lack of goals is everyone's fault but his own.
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