Sergio Aguero blow is a 'big problem' for Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini
Man City 1-0 Everton
Manuel Pellegrini said people seemed to have forgotten that Manchester City won the Premier League title without Sergio Aguero playing for much of the time and James Milner seemed irritated by the suggestion that there is a dependency culture around the Argentinian.
"People can say whatever they want, if they think we're a one-man team…" said Saturday's man of the match as City contemplated the knee ligament damage, sustained two minutes into the 1-0 win over Everton, which will deprive them of Aguero against Roma on Wednesday.
Numerically they are right. If evidence were really needed of City's ability to operate without Aguero, consider the 10-game run without him after he suffered a calf injury in the electrifying 6-3 win over Arsenal a year ago this week. City won nine of them, failing only to beat Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup third round. City's win rate in the 22 games Aguero played last season was 73 per cent; in the 18 he missed it was 67 per cent.
It is, however, in the big games that they miss him: the four defeats without him came against Chelsea, Barcelona and Liverpool, as well as at Villa Park. Wednesday night in Stadio Olimpico is as big as they get: victory will probably be mandatory and probably need a world-class intervention.
Aguero sensed immediately that something was wrong and we can assume that the tears as he left the field were born of frustration.
"He told us he felt something strange happen inside the knee," Pellegrini explained.
The 26-year-old had finally begun to string a long sequence of consecutive games together. You have to go back to last winter for a run of more than six.
"Big problem," was how Pellegrini described Aguero's injury, and it certainly compounds a formidable list of doubts for the trip to the Italian capital. David Silva and Vincent Kompany are "maybe not 100 per cent" and it is hard to imagine Pellegrini risking the fragility of either. Yaya Touré is suspended.
Stevan Jovetic seems more likely to appear after a slight hamstring problem kept him out on Saturday.
It certainly feels like a more robust, determined City than the one that was sleepwalking towards a dethronement six weeks ago. If they had to be without Aguero domestically at any time, now is not a bad one. Leicester City, Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion, Burnley and Sunderland in consecutive games feels like a gift-wrapped fixture list before they travel to Goodison Park next month.
Everton will by then justifiably still be feeling the prick of injustice about the manner of Saturday's defeat.
The penalty Phil Jagielka conceded to Milner was soft, even though Milner insisted yesterday that, "he has tried to slow himself down, couldn't stop in time and has run into me: there is contact."