Hughes' Striking Dilemma
When Mark Hughes clocked on for his first shift at the CoMS, he must have read the squad list and thought, 'What on earth am I going to do with all these strikers?'
At the time, there were 13 out-and-out forwards fighting over two places - no wonder Sparks diplomatically described the squad as 'imbalanced!'
However, in a manner that can only be described as City-esque, we have gone from 13 down to five, two of which appear to have numbered days at Eastlands.
Hughes wisely began to cull the squad of forward players, almost from day one, with City legend Paul Dickov, and Emile Mpenza being released. Stuart Pearce's car-crash signings Bernardo Corradi and Georgios Samaras were next to leave, heading for Reggiana and Celtic, respectively.
That left us with nine, which still seemed to be top heavy, but that was when the striker's curse struck!
Bojinov (out until 2009), Vassell (Oct) and Benjani (Oct) were all stuck down prior to the openly game at Villa Park. Jo, as we were unfortunately aware, had Olympic commitments, and will not be available for another week.
The Apparently Unwanted
Rolando Bianchi and Nery Castillo, both played precious little football in pre-season, and their absence at Villa Park may have signalled their forthcoming departure from Eastlands.
The Remaining Options
Ched Evans and Daniel Sturridge are both talented young strikers, and fully committed to the City cause. Both have big futures in the game, but may not yet be ready to lead City's line for lengthy spells of this campaign.
Felipe Caceido, for the best will in the world, looks painfully short at this level, but is only 19, so deserves support as much as anyone else.
All of this gives Hughes an unwanted headache. Priorities also remain in strengthening other areas of the squad, but he must also decide on how best to act without an experienced strike-force for the months ahead.
Undoubtedly, Hughes would be happy with fully fit and available Jo, Benjani, Bojinov and Vassell (plus cover from Evans and Sturridge), but that wont happen this year.
As stated, Jo is available in a week's time but, ignoring the price tag, he is also a very talented young man but without Premiership experience, and too much shouldn't be expected too soon.
So what does Hughes do? A lot will depend on funds available. None of us really knows the full extent of our financial plight (talks again this morning in the gutter press of £30m loans), so it would be pointless speculating on us splashing out £15-20m on a player, as it might not be a viable option.
A loan signing may be the sensible solution. Players with Premiership / European experience are out there, and may be available and willing for a season - Eidur Gudjohnson is the one name that immediately springs to mind, but there are others.
Whatever, Hughes decides to do, I trust (hope) there wont be any 'panic' buys, which we have been so guilty of in the past.
Personally speaking, I would rather see our fantastic young players fly the Sky blue flag until we regain a fully fit front line.