Sergio Aguero has been handed a four-game suspension after he was sent off for a wild challenge on David Luiz in Manchester City’s 3-1 defeat to Chelsea on Saturday.
The striker’s studs-up lunge sparked a mass scuffle in the dying minutes at the Etihad Stadium, with Fernandinho also shown a straight red card after clashing with Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas.
Aguero has received an extended ban as he has already served a three-game suspension this season for elbowing West Ham defender Winston Reid during City’s 3-1 win over the Hammers in August.
It means he will miss City’s upcoming clashes with Leicester, Watford, Arsenal and Hull, and it’s a headache for Pep Guardiola as he looks to keep in touch with Antonio Conte’s side during the frantic Christmas period.
Aguero has been City’s top scorer in each of the last five seasons and he has shown his importance to the side in the new campaign with 10 Premier League goals in 12 appearances.
His absence will have City’s upcoming opponents breathing a sigh of relief, but the stats make surprising reading. In fact, City can take comfort from their recent record without him.
Since the start of last season, they have actually averaged more points and more goals scored in the 12 Premier League games he has missed compared to the 40 Premier League games he has started.
Man City with and without Aguero since start of 2015/16 PL season
With Aguero starting Discipline Without Aguero starting
40 Games 12
21 Wins 7
9 Draws 3
10 Losses 2
76 Goals scored 25
1.9 Goals per game 2.1
1.8 Points per game 2.0
12.0 Shots per game 11.1
58.7% Possession 60.7%
It gives them a superior win percentage without Aguero, and City have also averaged more possession when he is not in the team.
Guardiola will be hoping that trend continues in the weeks ahead, but he still needs to decide how to adjust his team. City’s new £27m striker Gabriel Jesus was pictured in the stands on Saturday, but the Brazilian will not be available until January. So what are the options?
Another chance for Iheanacho?
The only natural replacement is Kelechi Iheanacho. The Nigerian has not started a Premier League game since October, but he came into the team during Aguero’s last suspension and made a match-winning impact in City’s 2-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Iheanacho rose above Eric Bailly to flick on a long ball on for Kevin de Bruyne to score the opening goal, and he netted City’s second himself after De Bruyne’s low effort had bounced back off the post.