Is Manchester City’s defence really a huge problem and what will Pep Guardiola’s new signing Ruben Dias provide to help improve it?

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Is Manchester City's defence really a huge problem and what will Pep Guardiola's new signing Ruben Dias provide to help improve it?

Manchester City’s defence, whether they’re winning titles or in a slump, continues to mystify.

Coached by one of the greatest tacticians the world has ever seen, they just don’t seem to be able to get it right at the back – or so we think.

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Sunday was a horrible day at the office for Man City

As Leicester City blew away the four-time Premier League champions 5-2 on Sunday afternoon, scoring three penalties and none controversially, it became time to look at this conundrum again.

It’s not the first time pundits and fans have had gripes about Guardiola’s goal guardians but is there really any need for concern ahead of a clash with Leeds United?

Nathan Ake has arrived from Bournemouth to finally give the Spaniard a senior player to replace Vincent Kompany.

Youngster Eric Garcia doesn’t quite cut it yet but has shown flashes of potential as former side Barcelona consider moving to sign him.

Kompany wasn’t replaced last season, and you could tell…

Getty Images – Getty

Kompany wasn’t replaced last season, and you could tell…

Kyle Walker is a mainstay at right-back and isn’t going anywhere soon, while the left-back role is a little trickier with Benjamin Mendy the current occupant, despite never living up to the reputation he built at Monaco.

Conceding six goals in two games has been a wake up call and already another centre-back has joined with Benfica ace Ruben Dias announced as a new arrival with Nicolas Otamendi leaving for Portugal in return.

The Argentine has been Guardiola’s most used defender since the start of his tenure and while he’s often cited as error-prone, he’s managed to keep 38 clean sheets in 106 games, conceding a goal every 105 minutes.

Otamendi celebrates scoring against Manchester United last season

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Otamendi celebrates scoring against Manchester United last season

It’s hardly the worst, is it?

In fact the only City defender with more than 25 Premier League appearances to, on average, concede a goal per game, is John Stones.

The Englishman concedes every 87 minutes, and has just 22 clean sheets in 86 games.

Aymeric Laporte’s talents, and the majesty of Kompany are outlined, though, as they conceded once every 160 and 138 minutes, respectively.

If Ake can combine with Laporte and get City back to a similar level then the latest hitch will just be a small blot in the copy book.

Let’s not forget, last season, for all Liverpool’s excellence, they only conceded two fewer goals than City’s 2019/20 tally of 35.

In fact, City’s defence has, overall, only been outside the top three in the division once in Guardiola’s tenure – his first season.

Indeed, in 2018/19 they only conceded 23 goals in total across the campaign – Arsenal’s Invincibles let in 26.

Chelsea’s rock solid defence in 2004/05 somehow only allowed their opponents to score on 15 occasions across a whole season, but this was an exception.

Guardiola’s defence isn’t perhaps as bad as we all think

Getty – Pool

Guardiola’s defence isn’t perhaps as bad as we all think

And City’s downfall is greatly exaggerated too, especially given they only conceded four goals in their final 10 matches last season.

Dias’ signing will certainly go some way to improving the City backline.

Otamendi has been in noticeable decline and now the club will have four quality centre-backs to rotate with.

Their Portuguese arrival might not offer as much attacking output as the Argentine he’s replacing but he more than matches him elsewhere, and exceeds him in other places.

Thanks to the statistics, rated 1-100 at a Premier League standard, from smarterscout, we can see Dias is a better tackler and also better at winning the ball in the area from set-pieces, a perceived strength of Otamendi’s.

smarterscout

Man City’s defence does occasionally look all at sea, but usually in glut rather than consistently over a long spell.

Guardiola clearly has worries, you don’t spend big on Ake and Dias if you’re confident in your backline, and it feels like he’s picked wisely.

It’s unlikely you’ll see City concede five again this season and if you do, then it will really be time to panic.

Until then, Dias and Ake should provide a solid base alongside Laporte and help Man City challenge for the Premier League title.

Jamie O’Hara says Man City boss Pep Guardiola is lucky to still have a job for spending almost £400m on ‘a back-four in disarray’


You can hear Leeds United v Manchester City live on talkSPORT – Saturday, October 3, at 5:30pm




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