Manchester City’s Carabao Cup Final triumph over Chelsea on Sunday kept them on target for an unprecedented quadruple, but the game might just have brought their season to a halt.
Fernandinho is arguably the most important cog in the Pep Guardiola machine, and he picked up a groin injury before extra time which forced him to leave the field. City could now face a number of weeks without their first-choice central midfielder and everyone remembers what happened last time.
At Christmas, City were beaten at home by Crystal Palace and then by Leicester away and in both games, they appeared susceptible to counter-attacks, and stopping them is one of Fernandinho’s main roles. City play so high up the pitch, so they defend is large spaces and also need someone to sweep up any passes that break their press.
Without this, they leak goals.
His importance is no secret and this will give opponents confidence to go out and attack City, something which most sides are too afraid to do, particularly at the Etihad Stadium. Some teams arrive at the stadium mentally beaten and that certainly does them no favours, but the Brazilian’s absence will provide sides with confidence that they can take points off the champions.
With West Ham at home on Wednesday and then Bournemouth away at the weekend, they may have trouble on the counter, with both sides able to retain the ball relatively well under pressure giving them opportunity to break City’s press.
If Guardiola’s men drop points against anyone other than the two big-six teams they’ve got left to play, Man United and Spurs, it’s hard to see them winning the title, so they must ensure maximum points are collected in these should-win games.
Who do you think should play the Fernandinho role at City in his absence?