Manuel Pellegrini should discover today whether his already stretched resources will be weakened further by a possible suspension for Yaya Touré, who appeared to kick out at Ricky van Wolfswinkel in the closing stages of Manchester City’s costly goalless draw at Norwich City.
Van Wolfswinkel claimed Touré kicked him in the back after an aerial battle between the two, and although Jon Moss took no action at the time, the Football Association will study the referee’s report on Monday before deciding whether to enforce retrospective punishment.
Television pictures appeared to support the Norwich’s striker’s claims, and if found guilty of violent conduct, Touré could be banned for three matches.
The timing could not have been worse for Manchester City and Pellegrini, who is already complaining that his squad are struggling to cope with the strain of battling for trophies on four fronts.
Against Norwich they were without Sergio Agüero, Fernandinho and Javi García, and the manager admitted he had to play Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko despite neither striker being fully fit.
The next month will be a real test for City’s ambitions. After Wednesday’s league game with Sunderland, they take on Gus Poyet’s men again in the Capital One Cup final, Chelsea in the FA Cup and face Barcelona twice in the Champions League.
They will struggle to progress if they repeat the performance against Norwich, which like last Monday’s defeat by Chelsea, showed a lack of creativity and firepower.
The side who were scoring freely for so long, and beat Norwich 7-0 three months ago, barely threatened John Ruddy’s goal and have now gone two games without a goal for the first time since the beginning of 2012.
“To score goals is always the most difficult thing in football,” admitted Pellegrini. “Maybe, because this team has been scoring goals so easily this season, people have been talking about the number of goals they are going to score again. But every match is different.
“I think this is absolutely related to the injury of Agüero. Negredo and Dzeko are not 100 per cent fit. But we must continue. We are right behind the leaders. We have 39 points more to fight for and this team were favourites to win the title with the way we were playing. We must try, as soon as possible, to play that way.”
But it will not be easy. “It is not normal to have five players injured for an important game, and two or three more players were not 100 per cent. We have a very difficult week because we have three competitions to play in. We will see how we can recover the players during these days.”
He admits the intensity of so many big games can bring injuries from fatigue. “Of course. There is the possibility of injuries. But, at the moment, we are doing well. We have 13 games more to fight for the title. Every team will drop points. Last week, it was Chelsea against West Ham at home. Today was Arsenal. We hope that we will continue fighting until the end.”
Chris Hughton’s main concern is at the bottom of the table, with his side dropping closer to the relegation zone despite this well-earned point. Norwich, who face fellow strugglers West Ham on Tuesday, could have gained all three with better finishing, having created the best chances, but Nathan Redmond, Russell Martin and Van Wolfswinkel lost composure in front of goal.
Hughton said: “As a unit defensively, we’ve improved. An area we need to improve on is goals. Nathan had a really good chance and we had two good opportunities in the second half. They’re the moments that have got to change games for us and probably we haven’t been able to do that enough. These are fine margins.
“We work on finishing most days in training. Certainly with the strikers we have and the wide players, it’s about the quality and doing it on a match day in pressure areas. When we get that change we might be able to push on.”