Manchester City have hit some bad form at the worst possible time in the season. They haven’t won since beating Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup third round a month ago and are four matches without victory.
Performances against Arsenal, Middlesbrough and, to some extent Chelsea, demonstrated how much City miss key men Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri. The last time the club won a Premier League match these two were both in the side, which comes as no coincidence as the team have played with a lot less creativity since.
Samir Nasri was a key player in last season’s title winning campaign. The 27-year-old Frenchman scored seven times with nine assists from 34 Premier League appearances, with his creativity and vision a component to his successes. This season he has had numerous injury problems and has just resumed full training after around a month out. He hasn’t managed a goal in his 16 Premier League appearances so far this season, but has assisted four times and the team look a lot more threatening going forward with Nasri in the team.
Since he has been missing, City haven’t looked convincing in attack. The build up play has taken far too long with little chances created from the amount of possession they have had. Nasri has the ability to make teasing runs or deliver excellent crosses into the box, something his replacement hasn’t been able to do.
Jesus Navas has found himself in the team more than expected due to City’s injury problems throughout this season. With a full complement of players, Nasri would be the one to take Navas’ place as Navas hasn’t been able to have much influence in the Premier League. He hasn’t scored a league goal for over a year and has a poor cross conversion, demonstrated by the fact he delivered 18 failed crosses against Arsenal last month. Against Chelsea, Man City had a great chance to put the ball in the box in the final few minutes but on a couple of occasions Navas couldn’t deliver.
The Spaniard has less creative instincts than Nasri and doesn’t add to the team going forward as the Frenchman does. It is obvious to see from the last few matches how much of an influence Nasri is to the team and City could do with him back as soon as possible.
An even more influential player in Yaya Toure has certainly been missed in his absence. The Ivorian has been away on African Nations duty since early January and isn’t expected back for around another week. Last season Toure was magnificent, scoring 20 Premier League goals and was one of the best players in the Premier League. Although he hasn’t been at his best this time around, he is still a key player scoring seven times in the league and nine overall.
It’s not just his goalscoring but his influence in the middle of the park. Much of City’s attacking play goes through him, which is evident in his absence. He can play a holding role in midfield at times although he is better suited higher up the pitch.
Without Toure, City have gone with Fernando and Fernandinho in central midfield. Both players perform a very similar role which is primarily to sit in front of the back four with Fernandinho being the more attacking of the two. Fernandinho was excellent last season complimenting Toure fantastically. He often sat deeper whilst Toure was allowed to get forward but the partnership of the two similarly sounding Brazilians isn’t working.
City haven’t been able to be creative going forward as these two fail to create too many chance for the front men to pounce on. When you play these two, scoring goals from the middle of the pitch becomes rare as well. The pair have three goals between them and whilst goalscoring isn’t necessarily in their job description, you need more goals and assists from a midfield duo.
Man City will be desperate for both Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure to return sooner rather than later. With the team looking a lot less threatening going forward and key points dropped in their absence, Man City may come to rue the loss of these two influential players.