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Using too many strikers is the key to Manchester City's success

Most clubs would be happy to go into the season with two decent strikers, but Manchester City's plans for retaining the Premier League are built around four of them. Together, they make up English football's most potent collection of forwards.

Hannah Foslien

Here at SB Nation Soccer, we believe in fun. So let's play ourselves a little game of spot the odd one out:

A) Daniel Sturridge, Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert, possibly Fabio Borini if they can't flog him

B) Olivier Giroud, Yaya Sanogo, Joel Campbell, Another panic buy, occasionally Alexis Sánchez, possibly Theo Walcott if things get really desperate

C) Diego Costa, the sad ghost of Fernando Torres, the Didier Drogba Reunion Tour, an out-of-position André Schürrle

D) Sergio Agüero, Edin Džeko, Stevan Jovetic, Álvaro Negredo

Now, if you said A, B or C then you're wrong. You could be technically right — this isn't an interactive medium and you may have your reasons — but, for the purposes of this piece, you're wrong. The answer is D, and the reason the answer is D is because that collection of striking options is the only one that is completely and totally ridiculous.

Having as many good footballers as a club can support is simple common sense. But this isn't just a consequence of stockpiling, this is the plan. Manchester City have spent the summer knocking back offers for Negredo and one of Manuel Pellegrini's first steps upon taking the job was to ensure that an unhappy Džeko was retained. Speaking after Monday night's win over Liverpool, the City manager was clear: "we need four strikers."

In part this is down to their style of play. Two striker formations are undergoing something of a renaissance, and while City don't play anything resembling a Mike Bassett 4-4-2, they do like their pairings. On Monday night against Liverpool, we saw Jovetic coming from deep behind Džeko, to score the first two goals, then we saw Agüero (who is still not quite fit) pushing up against the defensive line ahead of the Montenegrin and strolling into space for the third. At the beginning of last season, Negredo was Agüero's preferred partner, while Džeko stepped up for the run-in.

With Jovetic able to play wide and deep, Negredo able to deputise as the poacher-in-chief, Džeko perfectly capable as a big man or running the channels, and Agüero arguably the best Romario-style space-sniffer in the modern game, nearly every combination of the four offers something different. This also allows Yaya Touré to play deeper, alongside either Fernando or Fernandinho, which in turn ensures he's able to make those rumbling breaks from midfield. Up against the very, very best, City might play the Ivorian behind a striker, but they certainly (and refreshingly) showed no such intention against Liverpool at home.

But perhaps the even greater benefit is squad resilience. The best way of assessing a first XI is to pick the best players in their best shape and see what they look like, but the best way of assessing a squad is to knock those first XI players out — metaphorically — and then see what's left. The panic currently spreading through Arsenal's support tells you everything you need to know about the prospect of a life without Olivier Giroud, particularly since nobody's entirely sold on the prospect of a life with him. Chelsea, too, have most of their eggs in one craggy-faced Spanilian basket, though at least there's no real doubt that he's good enough.

Liverpool, with Daniel Sturridge and the definite quality-but-unknown-quantity that is Mario Balotelli, are at least in a better place to absorb one serious injury or lack of form. Two, though, and it's a title challenge being led by Rickie Lambert, which might stretch even the narrative powers of homegrown beetroot. City, however, can cope with not one, not two, but three injuries, and still turn to a top-class forward. Which is, as noted above, completely and totally ridiculous.

This was the key to last season's title. With Jovetic barely available, with Negredo having forgotten how to score, and with Agüero's hamstrings started to twang, there was Džeko. Heading into this campaign, depth affords Pellegrini all manner of luxuries. Agüero, for example, can be gently reintroduced to the season after his disappointing, injury-hit World Cup; two goals in about twenty minutes suggest that it's a decent approach. Negredo can be kept aside until gets fit and starts scoring again, while Jovetic need not be rushed into anything he isn't fit for. And come the Champions League, and the regular cycle of two games a week, Pellegrini's options for rotation far surpass those of the other teams involved.

The only problem, naturally, will be keeping them all happy. Four strikers good enough to start for most teams around the world means at least two strikers not starting every game at City. There's diplomacy in Pellegrini's future, and perhaps this is what the holistic approach is supposed to entail. A group of footballers who are happy being just part of something because they know that they're a significant part, even if they're not always a major one. That's how Alex Ferguson managed to keep Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer happy, back when Manchester United could boast four top-class forwards. That, and the persistent and consistent winning.

Each of the title contenders have a different advantage over the other, and City's striker battery is theirs. It enables them to retain their threatening edge under almost any circumstance, and it represents a clear policy on the part of Pellegrini and the club hierarchy: whatever the situation, this side is going to be able to score. The other favourites, Chelsea, will stodge their way through games if they absolutely have to, while Arsenal will rely on their midfield class and Liverpool will hope once again to build a giddy momentum. City, quite simply, plan to use classy striker upon classy striker to score goal after goal after goal.