Iheanacho needs to prove worth before Jesus' arrival
With Aguero suspended, Iheanacho has four games to elevate City, and himself
|LEICESTER CITY||MAN CITY|
As the Star Wars franchise prepares the release of its latest cinematic juggernaut, a rogue one at Manchester City faces an equally important month.
Kelechi Iheanacho isn't so much a new hope as he is a familiar force awakening.
His attributes are widely recognised, but opportunities were limited until fate intervened in the form of a thuggish boot.
Sergio Aguero lost his head last weekend. Now it's up to Iheanacho to keep his against Leicester City tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
The clock is already ticking. He has four games.
Just four fixtures against the Foxes, Watford, Arsenal and Hull could conceivably make or break the striker's season and not for the most obvious reason either.
Aguero remains suspended until Dec 31, but another threat to Iheanacho was recently posted to a million Instagram followers.
Manchester, here I come.
Before we played Celtic, Aguero said that it’s up to me now to fill that gap... Sergio’s not around, so I need to do extra to carry the team along and to get the points we need.Man City striker Kelechi Iheanacho
Those four words represent as much of a challenge to the 20-year-old Nigerian as the next four games.
They came from the eager fingers of Gabriel Jesus. Having just lifted the Brazilian championship with Palmeiras, he enjoys a cult following at home.
He's already knocked in four goals in six games for Brazil. He's still only 19.
The kid cost £27 million (S$48.4m) for a reason.
JESUS IS COMING
He's eligible for City selection from Jan 2 and Pep Guardiola has no intention of leaving the latest son of samba to cast shadows from the bench.
So Iheanacho's window of opportunity is now. There may not be another.
In many respects, his uncertain future mirrors that of his club. His talent isn't in dispute and yet his campaign could still be over by the new year.
The same could be said of City.
Guardiola's mercurial men are staggering towards the intense festive season with the consistency and unity of The Walking Dead cast.
Three wins from eight English Premier League games left them four points behind Chelsea. Aguero's lapse of judgment further undermined the club's wayward transfer policy.
Despite the hundreds of millions lavished on the dressing room, Guardiola finds himself with only one conventional centre forward.
Fortunately for City, Iheanacho brings some remarkable fun facts to the Christmas party.
His neat finish against Celtic in midweek was his first since Oct 23, but that drought reveals more about City's over-reliance on Aguero.
When Iheanacho starts, he usually scores - 13 times from 18 starts to be precise.
He boasts an impressive record of providing a goal or an assist every 71 minutes this season.
The youngster's speed neatly complements his graceful movement off the ball. His goal against Celtic in midweek typified his striking strengths - accurate, efficient and entirely unflappable. He's primed for the wheezing Foxes.
No one wants to airbrush away the greatest fairy tale in a generation, but the unavoidable reality is Claudio Ranieri is flirting with the kind of woeful form that gets most managers sacked.
The Italian manager has earned his immunity of course, but his midweek selections against Porto were bafflingly misguided.
He rested key forwards in the Champions League dead rubber, but picked Wes Morgan, who endured the definitive defensive nightmare.
Iheanacho must be eyeing the tired centre back, who turns 33 next month, with the contempt of a lion cub circling a dying buffalo.
Leicester's regressing back four are there for the taking.
And Iheanacho knows he cannot fail. His fortunes are inextricably bound together with those of his club.
City have managed just two clean sheets all season. Goals are their get-out clause. Iheanacho has four games to cover the shortfall before the South American cavalry arrives.
In the new year, Aguero and Gabriel Jesus will be limbering up, arms raised in expectation, ready to take the baton.
Whether they're still in the title race or not will very much depend on Iheanacho.