In the waning minutes of Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool, as his Sergio Aguero's teammates were clinging desperately to their miniscule advantage, an NBC Sports Network camera caught the injured City striker looking on from the stands.
Aguero looked dapper. He was watching intently, but also with a distant cool that suggested a man fully in control of his surroundings.
And why not? It is hard to imagine any player being more popular at Etihad Stadium than Aguero, particularly since he scored that goal on that very pitch.
Aguero went down with a calf injury during City's dismantling of Arsenal on Dec. 14. His teammates have not missed a beat, dispatching with Leicester City in a Capital One Cup quarter-final and Fulham in a Premier League match before sliding past Liverpool and creeping up quietly to second on the league table.
It is odd to look at a situation like Aguero's injury and look for winners. In truth, though, so far so good for all concerned.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini has (necessarily, but still) embraced Aguero's down time as an opportunity to explore the exorbitant depth of his squad, per David McDonnell of the Mirror. "We are always changing for every match," said Pellegrini, according to McDonnell. "It's very important to me, the rotation of the squad."
If City are really going to contend for the Premier League crown, they will have to be facile with variations in their XI due to injury, players being in and out of form, you name it.
Aguero's absence gives Pellegrini a chance to experiment with a 4-2-3-1 (really a 4-5-1, but whatever) with Alvaro Negredo alone up top.
He would never say it, but Aguero himself might reckon that this injury, if it had to happen, came at not the worst time for him or his club. City will not play a Premier League side presently in the top half of the table until they go to St James' Park on Jan. 12. Newcastle have lost to City twice (once in the Capital One Cup) already this season.
Lying well below the surface of all this analysis is the main beneficiary of Aguero's unscheduled time off: Argentina.
The Argentine men's national team's World Cup 2014 will begin on Jun. 15 versus Bosnia. Argentina are the second choice to win the tournament behind host Brazil, per oddschecker.com. Aguero is a mortal lock to make the Argentine team, and he will be featured.
Therefore, anything that can reduce the physical toll that City's murderous schedule will take on Aguero can only help Argentina.
By the time June rolls around, Aguero will have (hopefully) played in multiple cup finals with City and in their triumphant run to the Premier League crown ending on May 11 at the Etihad against West Ham.
The intensity of the World Cup matches, to say nothing of the training the national teams compress into short time before the tournament begins, asks for outrageous outputs of energy and resolve from the players.
So Alejandro Sabella, manager of the Argentine men's national team, surely hated to hear that Aguero was injured against Arsenal.
Once he learned that the injury would cost Aguero a month, perhaps two, Sabella likely went from concerned to quite pleased.
Let him rest some now, Sabella could be forgiven for thinking.
He'll need it.
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