Burton Albion
Manchester City
11:45 AM UTC
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 9
Game Details
 By Simon Curtis

A novel idea to solve Manchester City's striker crisis: Play without a striker

Sergio Aguero's injury has left Manchester City with a problem in attack ahead of the busy Christmas period.

As Manchester City head into a hectic run of fixtures over Christmas with no strikers available, conjecture mounts as to what they will do about it. With precious little on offer until the transfer window opens, City have little time to prepare their strategy before the games come thick and fast.

While my colleague David Mooney has put forward the unlikely credentials of Scott Sinclair, it's fair to say Manuel Pellegrini is unlikely to put his faith in the forgotten man.

In all probability, Pellegrini will be forced to look into the prospect of spending a little more of the good Sheikh's money to shore up a section of the side, which last year yielded a mountain of goals and this year has produced mainly headaches. With financial fair play at the forefront of City minds, this too will present its own challenges, as selling clubs tend to look for big dividends at this time of the year.

Sergio Aguero's startling form lit up the Premier League in October and November and despite being on the injury list for a couple of weeks now, the little Argentinean still leads the scoring charts with 19 goals in all competitions so far.

If City are to keep up the pressure on the league leaders, however, they will need someone to put the ball in the opposition net at least once against each of the eminently beatable opponents lined up between now and the New Year.

With Aguero joined on the treatment table by the equally fragile Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko, City must choose between playing youth team members -- the most advanced of which is currently Jose Angel Pozo -- and promoting midfielders.

Pozo, for all his great promise, has shown us little more than willing movement and an ability to find teammates with a crisp, accurate pass so far. The youngster looked slightly bypassed in the 1-0 win at Leicester as he gamely tried to play a role that is alien to him, having mainly been the deep lying part of a front three during his football upbringing.

While latest predictions see Aguero back in the fold by the end of January and Dzeko returning sometime in the middle of the same month, the prognosis on Jovetic is more favourable and the Montenegrin could be up and firing within a week or 10 days.

This still means that there are possibly two games to overcome without the three recognised strikers. With Nigerian youngster Kelechi Iheanacho still seeking a work permit, it boils down to a simple choice between two obvious options.

David Silva has played the False Nine role for Spain in the past and could come into Pellegrini's thinking at City.

Option one is to promote a midfielder into the front ranks. David Silva has played in the second striker role and on one or two rare occasions, has even found himself as the one pushed furthest forward. Certainly he is tough and durable, can hold on to the ball in the tightest space and has an unerring ability to find his man with that magical left foot of his. However, finding the net with it has been a different matter.

Silva scored a beautiful goal in the defeat at West Ham but often looks panicked when he is faced with the whites of the goalkeeper's eyes.

For this reason, the second option may be the best one. That is to play nobody up front at all. With Silva and Samir Nasri back in the fold after injury and James Milner enjoying a fine season, there is no reason why a revolving midfield policy cannot do the trick in the matches against Crystal Palace and Burnley.

Silva has even been part of this kind of formation in the red shirt of Spain, so will be familiar with how to rotate a midfield six to constantly have someone at the point of the diamond. Add Fernando, Fernandinho and Yaya Toure to the equation and you have an enticing and persuasive argument.

Vicente Del Bosque's Spain vintage of 4-6-0 worked wonders. Cesc Fabregas ended up at the tip as they went on to win the European Championship in 2012. Could it be that one of his little helpers in those games, Silva, might be part of a revolving cast that plays the same role for City in the next two games?

The challenges and risks of playing such a shape are well documented but given the circumstances, Pellegrini may well judge them worth accepting in the short time they will be needed.

Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.


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