Given that Bacary Sagna signed at the beginning of the tournament and before France’s first match, 11 Manchester City players started at this World Cup. It hasn’t really gone to plan for many of them.
Five are already out, whilst Martin Demichelis hasn’t featured at all for Argentina, Fernandinho only made his first appearance in Brazil’s last match against Cameroon—and promptly scored—whilst Sagna himself played for France against Ecuador but is his country’s second-choice right-back behind Newcastle’s Mathieu Debuchy.
That leaves three left to track, and whilst Pablo Zabaleta has been his usual reliable self for Argentina, Vincent Kompany will be hoping that the niggling injury which kept him out of Belgium’s win over South Korea doesn’t strike later in the tournament. For Sergio Aguero though, things are worse than that.
After the City forward limped off just 38 minutes into the 3-2 win over Nigeria, Argentina have ruled him out of the second-round clash with Switzerland in Sao Paulo on Tuesday—at least according to the Daily Mail.
It’s a familiar tale for Aguero, who has picked up another muscular injury to add to the long list of them which have afflicted him ever since City’s 6-3 win over Arsenal in December, when he was forced off the pitch and saw his formidable goalscoring run at the beginning of the season halted.
He would still score goals over the campaign, but they came in fits and starts and he was never really able to reproduce the form that we saw in those early months—although ending the later ones with a winners’ medal around his neck meant that he probably wasn’t too bothered.
At a World Cup, where all of the action is condensed into a month and the schedule is unforgiving, everything becomes magnified, and so Argentina suddenly find themselves with an Aguero-shaped problem.
If they were to rush him back into the team—a little like City did for the Champions League clash at Barcelona in the season just gone—then they could run the risk of another injury. Aguero was dreadfully anonymous for that first half at the Nou Camp, and didn’t return for the second.
It’s not as if the South Americans don’t have the replacements lined up, either. Unlike City, they won’t be relying on an out-of-form Alvaro Negredo, an injury-hit Stevan Jovetic or a hit-and-miss Edin Dzeko.
They’ve got Paris Saint-Germain’s Ezequiel Lavezzi, who came on for Aguero to good effect against Nigeria, whilst they also have the Inter Milan pairing of Ricky Alvarez and Rodrigo Palacio, the goals of Gonzalo Higuain and the almost criminally underrated talents of Angel di Maria.
In case you hadn’t noticed, they’ve got Lionel Messi as well, and whilst an Aguero-type injury to him would spark a meltdown and provoke serious questions of a team who many believe will win the World Cup, as long as he’s fit and healthy they’ll have a chance.
Indeed, both Argentina and Aguero were less than impressive in their first two group matches, as the attacking setup didn’t quite go to plan and they were saved by Messi’s brilliance.
The City forward might not like hearing this, and the club’s fans would wonder why you’d leave out a player of such quality, but Aguero might now find it tough to get into the starting lineup as the tournament goes on and the opponents become tougher.
Lavezzi could come in to play with Messi and Higuain in the front three, or Di Maria could be moved up there as the midfield is reinforced with Alvarez, Lucas Biglia or Maxi Rodriguez.
City made errors in rushing Aguero back too quickly from injuries last season, but they were understandable errors given the prizes on offer and the forward’s importance to his team. In fact, you could argue that he was their Messi.
But Messi is Argentina’s Messi, and as such you have to feel that the best chance of success will come with them giving him as much chance as possible to succeed, and that doesn’t include playing with his half-fit roommate.
It’ll be tough on Aguero if he is shunted to the sidelines, but he can still have an impact over the remainder of the tournament if he’s coming off the bench and fully recovered.
It’s about time that one City player did, anyway, so it might as well be their best one.