Wilfried Bony – the top Premier League goalscorer of 2014.
Wilfried Bony – fewer Premier League goals than Fernandinho and Leroy Fer in 2015.
There are mitigating circumstances, of course. Bony was bought as a £28million back-up to Sergio Aguero in January 2015, and has remained exactly that. He has started just five matches in all competitions since arriving at Manchester City and managed a measly total of 642 minutes. This is a more expensive reserve than selling the Elgin marbles on Ebay.
“At the end of last season I said that if I moved it would be to a team in the Champions League because it’s a great tournament that I really want to play in,” Bony at his unveiling. He has so far experienced 40 minutes over the two legs of last-16 defeat to Barcelona, and a start in the home defeat to Juventus last month.
In May, Manuel Pellegrini made plenty of excuses for his striker, blaming (1) “he started by going to the Africa Cup of Nations”, (2) “he had a lot of games in his body”, (3) “he had an important injury in his ankle and his knee in the same leg” and (4) “we won five games in a row and I didn’t want to make changes during this moment”.
After that Juventus loss, the first signs of Pellegrini losing patience began to show. “I expect that when we have chances we must score,” he said after Bony had missed two presentable opportunities. “The differences are very slight, especially against a strong team like Juventus. Maybe Juventus didn’t create so many chances but they had a strong finish.”
Now there can be no more excuses. Aguero’s physical unreliability played a large part of Bony’s decision to leave Swansea for Manchester, and it has proved thus. The Argentinean has missed 39 matches through injury since joining City, his latest hamstring tear causing tears from the player and a migraine to his club manager. Thirty-nine matches is likely to become 45. Enter Bony, stage left.
At a crucial point of City’s season, they must rely on the form of a striker who is yet to justify such faith. The Ivorian has scored twice in the Premier League from 24 shots since his move, his conversion of 8.33% marginally worse than Rickie Lambert and Radamel Falcao over the same time period.
Bony’s mood will not have been helped by the form of his replacement at Swansea. Having sold one striker for £28m and recruited Bafetimbi Gomis on a free transfer, Garry Monk has enjoyed the smoothest of transitions after a four-month overlap. Gomis has scored ten league goals, and Swansea supporters have a new hero. Wilfried who?
On the other hand, it’s difficult to imagine a less smooth transition than from Aguero to Bony. One is a schemer and scamperer extraordinaire, the best pure striker in world football. The other is the epitome of the modern lone striker, whose special trick his using his strength to hold defenders off the ball. “Sometimes I do it just for fun,” Bony told the Guardian last November. “Maybe we need to keep the ball, so I just make the defender angry and show him that he can’t do nothing when I’m there.”
Pellegrini has already placed great faith in Bony, allowing Edin Dzeko to leave and giving up on Stevan Jovetic. Early on his time at City, Dzeko gained a ‘super-sub’ reputation for his goals off the bench. Having failed to match those feats, Bony will hope that a run in the team as a starting fixture ignites a marked improvement.
City’s ability to cope without Aguero was the inevitable question asked when, rather than if, he sustained a muscle injury. For the next month at least, their Premier League and Champions League fortunes will be entwined with their only fit striker’s form. Time for Bony to prove his worth.