While at the beginning of the season many people suggested Manchester City's squad is full of strength and depth, others, after close inspection, can see that it lacks quality when placed under the stresses and strains of a full season involved in multiple competitions. When injuries in key positions take hold, City aren't that well-equipped to deal with them.
Central midfield is a case in point. In terms of their first-choice options, City are blessed with two outstanding midfielders, who together, form the best partnership in the Premier League. But go beyond Fernandinho and Yaya Toure, and the picture is less impressive.
However, one player whose importance has been relied upon too heavily is David Silva. No one expects City to have a ready-made replacement for such a unique talent, but when he is absent—as he was in the 2-2 draw with bottom-placed Sunderland earlier this week which left City's title hopes hanging by a thread—they lack anything like the rhythm or fluency they show when he's pulling the strings.
That level of over-reliance is detrimental to a side with ambitions as grand a City's. They want to dominate their domestic league and compete in the latter stages of the Champions League, and for that to happen, they must be able to cope better with the absence of such a crucial player.
They can sometimes look bereft of creativity and ideas when the Spaniard is unavailable. He's become even more important in recent weeks since his move into the No. 10 role, and without him, City miss the cohesion and ingenuity he brings.
So many of City's other players look for Silva when in possession of the ball. James Milner, for example, dovetailed brilliantly with him at Anfield last weekend, yet the England midfielder looked somewhat lost against Sunderland without Silva to play little one-twos with. Silva's true influence on this side, like all great players, is often best highlighted when he isn't there.
Manuel Pellegrini will be keen to rectify this in the summer to avoid finding himself in a situation where his side's season collapses like it has this season. To his credit, Pellegrini was desperate to sign Isco in the summer, the Real Madrid playmaker who worked under the Chilean at Malaga. Perhaps his arrival would have given City the cover they need for Silva.
City seem almost certain to end the season with just the League Cup to show for their efforts—not enough given the quality of their squad and their outlay in the summer. Their brutal dominance of December and January looks set to count for nothing, and another summer of re-evaluation now appears necessary.
Making sure he has better cover for his most important players will be uppermost in Pellegrini's mind.
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: @RobPollard_.
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