The joy of Sergio Aguero’s sensational goals tsunami against a hapless Toon Army was swept away as Manchester City’s number one marksman cut a stricken figure on a South American stretcher.
Just five days after racing to the quickest five-goal haul in Premier League history, the Argentine superstar’s torn hamstring plunged City fans into pools of despair, while media pundits salivated at the prospect of the Sky Blues’ Premier and Champion’s League hopes being washed away.
Within 24-hours the storm clouds gathering over City’s twin title aspirations showed no sign of a Silva lining, as the master creator, El Mago, suffered ankle ligament damage playing for Spain.
The curse of the infernal international breaks had struck once again, leaving City without their two best players for weeks to come.
For those fans who put club before country – and they are an overwhelming majority at the Etihad – it was the worst possible news with the derby against the Swamp dwellers and a double-header against Sevilla on the radar.
Jaundiced journalists and poisonous pundits could barely disguise their joy at City’s misfortune – their malignant, twisted little minds revelling in the damage inflicted on both players.
Incontinence pants were the must-have not-so-fashionable accessory when Vincent Kompany stepped out to skipper Belgium. City’s Captain Fantastic had missed the last five club matches with a debilitating calf injury, but the lure of guiding his country to the FIFA No 1 World Ranking was too much to resist.
Kompany’s decision to play had City fans worried that patriotism over pragmatism could prove painful for the club, but thankfully the 60-minutes played proved more of a help than a hindrance.
His Belgian countryman, Kevin de Bruyne, carried on where he’d left off after a wonder-strike in the 6-1 demolition of Newcastle, with two goals in the last two qualifiers for the 2016 Euro Finals.
Undeniably, the loss of Aguero and Silva is a huge double blow at a vital part of the season, but the haters who claim City are a one-man, or at best two-man, team, could and should be shown up as the uninformed imbeciles that they undoubtedly are.
Of course Sergio is the talismanic striker, 84 goals in 128 PL games or 115 scored in 175 league and cup appearances speaks for itself. But do City grind to a halt in his absence…no they don’t.
In an eight game spell last December and early January, City won seven and drew one, during Sergio’s injury lay-off, a fact conveniently overlooked by the detractors.
It included a glorious do-or-die Champions League win in Rome and encompassed the hectic festive schedule when James Milner was a makeshift centre forward.
Those who don’t watch City on a regular basis could be forgiven for proclaiming Aguero as the best player in the PL, especially when they see him score five goals in 20 minutes.
Arguably that mantle goes to City’s Spanish Magician Snr Silva. How the hell neither Sergio or David have ever won either Players or Football Writer’s Player of the Year Awards is beyond the wit of man.
In the past four years the accolades have gone to Van Persie, Bale, Suarez and Hazard. Admittedly biased, but City fans wouldn’t swap Aguero or Silva for any of the four winners.
Injury setbacks for some spell opportunities for others, and nobody stands to ‘benefit’ more than Wilfried Bony. The big Ivorian’s City career has stuttered and spluttered since his £25m switch from Swansea.
Another set of bloody internationals – the African Cup of Nations – delayed his debut, and then injuries, tactics, formations and Sergio’s brilliance have limited his appearances and, consequently, his effectiveness.
Already a prolific and proven PL scorer, a run of games and more exposure in the critical Champions League encounters with Sevilla, could be the making of him.
Nigerian ‘Eagle’ Kelechi Iheanacho should also add to his first team appearances in his fledgling season with the senior squad.
On the plus side, KdB has been nothing short of a sensation in a City shirt with four goals and two assists in five starts and two substitute appearances. The flame-haired attacking midfielder has also been on fire for Belgium, with three goals in four Euro qualifiers since September.
His first touch, vision and overall contribution has been obvious to all and, even at £50m+ he looks like value for money in a crazy transfer market.
The same cannot be said for the £44m man Raheem Sterling at this early stage in his time at the Etihad.
The 20-year old England man has scored two goals in 10 games but, after an encouraging start – linking up well with Kolarov and Silva down the left flank – Sterling is in danger of being City’s Invisible Man.
With bags of potential and pace to burn (he scored for England against Estonia on Monday night) there’s plenty of time for him to prove his worth, but being replaced by Jesus Navas at half time, having done next to nothing and City being held 1-1 by Newcastle, tells its own story.
It’s time for him to step up and reproduce the dynamic displays witnessed in the red of Liverpool, when playing against City in recent seasons.
It’s also time for a reality check, lest we forget City are actually top of the league, two points clear of Arsenal and the Trafford Troglodytes and a gaping 10 points above the Madness of Mourinho at the Burning Bridge.
Aguero and Silva are ruled out but the bulk of the squad are fit or rapidly returning to first team contention, namely, Samir Nasri, Eliaquim Mangala, Yaya Toure and, of course Captain Kompany.
Aleksander Kolarov and Gael Clichy are both missing at left back so Bacary Sagna or Pablo Zabaleta may switch flanks. Fabian Delph is still not ready to return after injury on previous international duty.
Zaba is back to rotate with Sagna, albeit both may play on Saturday, but the Argentine favourite is one of the few who have benefitted from international duty, having looked a little ring rusty against Newcastle.
And whereas City have done a good impersonation of ‘Casualty’ so far since August, Premier League new boys, Bournemouth have had it even worse.
Skipper Tommy Elphick is missing for three months with an ankle injury, whereas the trio of top scorer Callum Wilson and new summer signings Max Gradel and Tyrone Mings are all out for six months with knee damage.
Under the guidance of Eddie Howe, Bournemouth have been a real ‘rags to riches’ fairytale,with most neutrals having a soft spot for the Dorset outfit.
Ironically the Cherries Chairman, Jeff Mostyn, is a lifelong City fan, but for once will want to see the team he supports beaten.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side must show the men from the south coast that Premier League life is far from being a beach – more like a pit of Quicksand – and hopefully one soft spot too many, as City strive to stay in the top slot.
By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu