MANCHESTER City have been dealt a blow with the news that Michael Johnson may have to undergo surgery on a groin injury.
The midfielder, who has been called up by England's under 21 squad for the European Championships qualifier against Montenegro, could be sidelined for a "few weeks" if it is decided that he needs an operation.
City manager Sven Goran Eriksson confirmed that Johnson will have to have the injury assessed, but has still been cleared to report for England duty on Tuesday. -MEN
It has since been announced of course that Johnson has been withdrawn from the under-21 squad, and Sven-Goran Eriksson confirmed at the weekend that Johnson has been carrying the injury formost of the season - limiting his ability to participate fully in training.
It does appear more of a case of when, rather than if Johnson may have to undergo surgery on the problem, and his loss would certainly be felt by the midfield which has functioned superbly this season but in all honesty lacks depth outside of the obvious starters.
Johnson - aided by a resurgent Didi Hamman, has been a revelation this season, progressing on from his brief spell in the team last season and more than replacing the loss of Joey Barton. He is a vital link between Hamman and the more attacking due of Petrov and Elano. The difficulty is of course is that the loss of Johnson would not be easily dealt with.
Options are limited, a possibility is moving Stephen Ireland into the centre, with either Vassell or Sun Jihai potentially filling in on the right. Alternatively, Ousmane Dabo would have to be recalled or even play Elano in a more withdrawn role with an additional forward being deployed.
All of which are not ideal of course, and do highlight the lack of quality depth we have beyond the starting XI and it is clear this is an area Eriksson will have to target in January.
If Johnson does require an operation then a positive of sorts is the current timing, given that we are on a international break and then face Birmingham at home - a game which on paper at least is emminently winnable.
If the 'few weeks' recovery is more accurate than stretching into months then it may well be the most sensible course of action to have Johnson operated on as soon as possible to ensure he misses as minimum amount of time possible.