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Alvaro Negredo: In Memoriam (and, how City will play without him)

As Negredo departs for Spain, City's strikeforce now looks unnecessarily thinner. How will Pellegrini replace him and might it cost City in the end?

Alvaro Negredo, looking every bit the king he became
Alvaro Negredo, looking every bit the king he became
Alex Livesey

Note: I do in fact understand how absurd it is to use adjectives like "only," "dearth" and "depleted" to describe a strikeforce that consists of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, and Stevan Jovetic.

Admittedly, I reacted worse than most upon finding out that then-Sevilla striker now-City cult hero, Alvaro Negredo, was joining City. I, rather infamously, said he was too old, too expensive and too much like Eden Dzeko.

Fast forward to August, and the player who earned every bit his of "beast" moniker while scoring 23 goals in the first half of the season – though notably none afterwards – has been loaned to Valencia (with an obligatory buy-option at the end of the year). And in a surprising twist, he wasn’t replaced. Even more surprising perhaps, John Guidetti was subsequently loaned to Celtic leaving City with "only" three senior strikers – and whatever Scott Sinclair is.

And while it’s true that Jovetic’s season long injury problems forced City to play most of the 2013-14 season with just three strikers, that stemmed from injuries and not a player sale. It now seems unlikely that City can play Pellegrini’s preferred 4-4-2 in every match, knowing an injury to one of Aguero, Jovetic or Dzeko would see two starting strikers without a backup.

The reaction of most (myself included) was a sort of resigned recognition of the obvious: a single striker system is almost surely coming. And while it likely won’t become the norm, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in all three of City’s next three matches, as the fixture list, as if set in some sort of Quentin Tarantino-esque revenge film, spat out eight days of hell: away to Arsenal, away to Bayern and home to Chelsea.

Perhaps, in an effort to see the future of City’s tactics, a return to the past is most prudent. With a spot at the top of the group at stake, City went to the Allianz last season and left with a famous 2-3 victory, the final goal (scored by none other than our English goal-scoring star, Hamez Milner) erasing a twelfth minute two goal deficit.

City played in a 4-2-3-1 that day, with David Silva in an advanced #10 role, pressing so high he almost assumed the role of second striker. On the wings, Milner made a rare appearance on the left with Navas on the right, while Yaya and Fernandinho sat in the middle beneath them.

It’s obviously not the only way for Pellegrini to field a 4-2-3-1 – and to be honest, that attacking lineup likely won’t happen at all – but the system remains an obvious solution to City’s now depleted strikeforce. Within the confines of a single striker system, the two most obvious choices to play as a #10 are Yaya and Silva. I prefer Silva, because I happen to think his pressing ability is an underrated and underutilized feature of his game, and gives City an extra dimension that Yaya otherwise doesn’t. Playing Silva through the middle also gives City the ability to keep Nasri on the pitch and play with an actual winger (fielding one of Milner or Navas on the right).

But if Pellegrini’s tactical preference to close out the Newcastle and Liverpool games are anything to go by, he might well prefer Yaya as the #10, with Fernandinho and Fernando playing in the middle. It’s hardly an option for paupers, as my tone might suggest, as it leaves the defense well shielded while pushing a midfielder who scored more than 20 goals last season further up the pitch. If I were to guess (which I will, only to be proven wrong in a week), I would guess that Pellegrini plays a 4-4-2 against Arsenal and some sort of 4-2-3-1 midweek against Bayern and again the following weekend to Chelsea.

After all, what better way to follow up a historical victory, then by doing it all again?