With 14 goals in 13 Premier League starts, alongside five goals in as many Champions League appearances, it is clear that Manchester City have an impossible job in directly replacing Sergio Aguero in the period that the Argentine striker recovers from a knee injury.
Chief playmaker David Silva also hasn’t kicked a ball since October, meaning that many eyes will be looking at Yaya Toure to lead the Citizens through the tricky waters of the next month, even if he is suspended for the crunch Champions League trip to Roma.
Three goals in his last four Premier League appearances has shown Toure in a positive light and this improved goal input has come from the same central position he has occupied for the whole of the campaign so far.
However, the concern for Toure is that he is only one yellow card away from a Premier League suspension and is almost certain to disappear off to the African Cup of Nations in January.
Meanwhile, Samir Nasri has done his best to fill the creative void left by Silva. In the last five weeks, the Frenchman has supplied 18 passes for goalscoring chances, which is more than everyone else in the Premier League aside from Cesc Fabregas.
Given Nasri’s average goalscoring record, neither of this pair seem logical candidates to score enough to keep City in pursuit of Chelsea.
Arguably the best Aguero replacement is Stevan Jovetic, as he is more rounded in terms of dropping off to link play, getting on the shoulder of the last defender and taking chances.
It is worth remembering that Jovetic scooped the man of the match award in City’s 3-1 victory over Liverpool earlier this season, in which he scored twice when Aguero was a substitute after returning from another injury.
The difference that day was that the Montenegrin was part of a strike pairing with Edin Dzeko. He is not so guaranteed to be as useful if leading the line on his own.
Jovetic is far from injury-proof either, having not started more than four City fixtures in a row since arriving from Fiorentina.
Dzeko is only just back from injury too, but is a proven Premier League goalscorer.
The problem with Dzeko is that he is fairly one dimensional and the reason that both Aguero and Jovetic like playing with him is because he drops deep and sucks defenders with him.
This enables others to run in behind and at this moment the Citizens don’t really have these players.
Nasri and Silva tend to play behind the ball and regularly look to drop off to receive a pass into feet, rather than make a break into space. Alternatively, Toure’s starting position is too deep to do this consistently and Jovetic is not 100 per cent fit.
Therefore, the most critical player to City at his point could be Jesus Navas.
The likes of Theo Walcott, Pedro and Andre Schurrle are among the best wide players at running in behind, often scampering into the gap between full-back and centre-back to receive a through ball that Man City have the players to provide.
Navas has many of the attributes needed to do this given he has lightning acceleration and a willingness to run forward, but yet seems to spend too much time glued to the touchline, in the manner of an old-fashioned winger.
How Navas compares with Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling is especially interesting in the following areas:
The fact that Navas has fired in less than half the number of shots on target and sent in virtually double the number of crosses as Sterling is testament that he is spending too much time in the wide areas.
The Spaniard is slightly hindered as he doesn’t have the same roaming capacity as the Liverpool attacker, with Silva, Nasri and James Milner tending to be given more of this creative licence to influence games.
But considering Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Sterling are the only two midfielders to have touched the ball more in opposing penalty boxes than Navas this season, City would be right to expect more of an end product.
Navas’ no goals has been shown in the above graphic and he has only contributed the same number of assists as Milner, who has played fewer Premier League minutes and tends to start in a deeper position.
Walcott only played 909 minutes in the top flight for Arsenal last season, but contributed five goals and four assists. Navas has already played more in the present campaign.
Navas averages a goal in exactly every seven City appearances since signing from Sevilla and there is something surprising in that of his seven strikes, three have arrived in the League Cup from only seven games.
Based on his general average, Navas owes City at least one goal in the remainder of 2014 and bwin are offering 20/1 that he is their top scorer in the Premier League between December 9th and December 31st.
Alternatively, it is 3/1 that Navas bags in the 90 minutes in City’s Champions League trip to Roma.