Any game that Pep Guardiola starts without Kevin De Bruyne is viewed as a bit of a gamble, and despite Wigan being stuck in League One — two divisions below City — that was never more apparent than on Monday night. With their Belgian talisman sat on the bench City started hesitantly and Wigan were able to stand up to the team that has steamrollered over opponents this season. In attack the moneybags club stuttered and at times the minnows looked comfortable in dealing with the threat Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Leroy Sane — all world-class payers — posed.
It was not until 60 minutes that De Bruyne got on the pitch as as soon as he did it was clear for all to see that he was the man his teammates sought out, looking for him at every opportunity. Whereas in the first hour City looked short of ideas, for the final 30 minutes they looked sharp and the Belgian was at the heart of everything good about their play.
While the idea that they are a one-man team may be viewed as far-fetched — they have not virtually won the Premier League already based on one player — it is clear that they do rely too much on De Bruyne. And if that is apparent against a side like Wigan then it will be only too obvious against much better teams of the caliber they will face in the later stages of the Champions League.
City’s search for four trophies is already over, but unless they can work out how to win without a fit and firing De Bruyne they can already say goodbye to the idea of European glory.