“I’m definitely not asking anyone to feel sorry for me,” said Vincent Kompany on Boxing Day after suffering his third calf injury of the season. On Tuesday night he limped off with his fourth of the campaign and – astonishingly – his 14th since joining the club in 2008. We know you wouldn’t ask, Vincent, but we do feel sorry for you; the pain and frustration etched on your face was as galling as it was familiar.
This Champions League last-16 second-leg tie was City’s 46th game of a busy season but it was only Kompany’s 18th appearance. One of those appearances helped City claim one piece of silverware in the Capital One Cup final in Manuel Pellegrini’s final season, but his absence could cost them at least one more.
It is no exaggeration to claim that Kompany’s abysmal injury record is one of the key contributing factors to a ridiculous campaign that now sees us in the midst of the unlikeliest of two-horse races. Arsene Wenger’s refusal to upgrade, Chelsea’s collapse, Louis van Gaal’s stultifying tactics and Kompany’s abysmal injury record: a perfect storm for Tottenham and Leicester City.
If you doubt the Belgian’s importance, consider that City have conceded a goal every 65 minutes in the Premier League this season without Kompany in the side, and every 194 minutes with. It’s not to say that Kompany has not been present for a handful of City’s poorest results – the 3-0 defeat to their vanquished cup final opponents the most obvious example – but he missed 4-1 schoolings by both Liverpool and Tottenham, as well as damaging defeats to West Ham, Leicester, Arsenal and Everton.
Remember back in September when City were odds-on favourites for the title after the season started with five victories and five clean sheets? Now City are staring at a league table with just two points separating them from fifth-placed West Ham and wondering if Pep Guardiola’s first game in charge will be a Europa League qualifier. That’s the difference Kompany can make.
The biggest failure of City’s recent history is that his absence is still so devastating. In the five seasons since they bought one of Europe’s finest goalscorers in Sergio Aguero, they have spent over £90m on centre-halves to stop goals at the other end of the pitch, and yet still they look so vulnerable without the man who cost them £6m almost eight years ago.
How can the richest team in England still be only two injuries away from the 35-year-old Martin Demichelis? It’s gross negligence when you consider that Kompany has not played 30 Premier League games in a season since City’s first title win of 2011/12. He may claim to feel ‘invincible’ but his injury record begs to differ. City should plan for his absence; failing to do so has already cost them the title, severely damages their slim chances in the Champions League and could conceivably cost them fourth.
We do feel sorry for you, Vincent, and we also feel sorry for the City fans who are now preparing to watch Demichelis and Eliaquim Mangala start their first match together since November. The result then? A 4-1 home defeat to Liverpool. Ouch.