LONDON (Reuters) - Sergio Aguero’s injury lay off is far from ideal for Manchester City, but Benjamin Mendy’s absence at left back is likely to be a more taxing problem for manager Pep Guardiola ahead of Saturday’s clash with Chelsea.
The emergence of Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus last season posed an immediate threat to Aguero’s place in the starting team, and Guardiola was not afraid to leave the Argentine, who is on the verge of becoming City’s all-time top goalscorer, on the bench on occasion.
Aguero, however, has been a striker reborn this campaign, silencing the critics who felt the 29-year-old was on the wane by weighing in with six league goals to co-lead the Premier League scoring charts.
Despite his prolific form, City should still have plenty of firepower to cope with Aguero’s absence from the injuries sustained in a car accident in Amsterdam on Thursday.
Jesus has settled into life in England seamlessly, while England’s Raheem Sterling and German Leroy Sane are looking almost unstoppable on the flanks.
Where Guardiola will be short, however, is at fullback.
France international Mendy, who joined from Monaco in the close-season, has already become an integral part of City’s attacking juggernaut, that has scored 16 goals in the last three league games.
He faces seven months on the sidelines, however, after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Crystal Palace last Saturday.
Guardiola spent big on bringing vibrant fullbacks to City in the summer, with right back Kyle Walker also joining from Tottenham Hotspur, and it has had the desired effect, adding a different dimension to the City attack.
Even before the match against Palace, Mendy had already made more crosses from open play (27) in three league games than Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov – City’s left backs last season – managed in all the 2016-17 campaign.
What is more, the 23-year-old had seemingly become a key protagonist in creating a great camaraderie among the City players.
“The thing is, I have no limits to the energy I can give,” Mendy said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph last week, before suffering his injury.
“Even if it’s the 97th minute, I’m going to be there, running down the sides, getting that last cross in.”
Despite Guardiola saying City have adequate cover, his squad seems limited in a key position.
Brazil’s Danilo is perfectly adept at left back, but is right footed, while Fabian Delph has played there but is by no means a natural in the position.
While Aguero has a natural replacement, an alternative to Mendy may prove more difficult to find.
Editing by Toby Davis