With three strikers in excellent goalscoring form this season, there has been some speculation as to whether Manchester City can accommodate all of them in their starting line up.
Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo have been the first-choice pairing at the Etihad for much of the season, but Edin Dzeko has weighed in with 17 goals. The Bosnian's form improved dramatically at the turn of the year, as he stepped in admirably when Aguero spent a month out with a calf injury.
Aguero, of course, is now injured once more, this time with a hamstring injury which is expected to keep him out for up to four weeks, but when he returns, is it possible for City to play with all three?
The short answer is no.
With three strikers all capable of scoring goals, some may think it's logical to play them all, but Manuel Pellegrini’s 4-2-2-2 formation has been so effective in the first seven months of his tenure that altering it to fit an extra striker in would be madness.
There’s no doubting that each player brings quality. Aguero is clearly the most important and will always start when fit. He has blistering pace, an unswerving ability to finish and is a hard-working and selfless player. He seems to have very few problems partnering any of the other forwards at the club, and is arguably City’s most vital component.
His understanding with Negredo has continued to mature throughout the campaign. They dovetail beautifully, with the brute strength and forcefulness of the Spaniard the perfect foil for Aguero’s quick, nimble game.
Dzeko struggled for much of the first half of the season, often failing to contribute much beyond goals. All that changed at the turn of the year, though, as his form picked up dramatically. He began imposing himself outside the 18-yard box, bringing a physical presence and linking up City’s play.
His touch still very often deserts him, and when he has an off day, like he did at White Hart Lane earlier this week, he can frustrate with his profligacy in possession and in front of goal, but 17 goals from a stop-start season speaks volumes.
However unfortunate it is, when all three are fit, one of them must miss out. It’s the 4-2-2-2 formation and the players’ ability to embrace that has seen them play breathtaking football for most of the season; changing now is not an option.
Sacrificing a midfielder and going 4-3-3 would see City lose their width—a major strength of theirs, particularly on the right-hand side where Jesus Navas continues to shine.
Pellegrini was appointed because of his commitment to an attractive style of play, and with his favoured formation working so well, there's no reason to change.
The only formation switch that would suit City is putting an extra in midfield for difficult European matches and away games against the top Premier League sides. That alteration would improve their chances to win the midfield battle—which is where they lost in their one home defeat this season to Bayern Munich.
However exciting fielding three strikers sounds, it's not what Manchester City need.
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.
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