Manchester City's Squad Review: Who stays or goes in defence
Manchester City had the best defence in the Premier League this season. In 38 matches, they conceded only 28 times. Praise was attributed largely to the rapid pressing once they lost the ball. However, the Citizens' back four did a commendable job restricting opponents' opportunities.
In the first of four instalments, we inspected the Sky Blue goaltending ranks. Now it's time to look at the men who provided them protection.
The Belgian remains a leader in the dressing room but needs to make more appearances on the field.
Kompany has been a terrific leader. Like every living being on the planet, he is not getting any younger. As well, his injury concerns are a constant disruption. In 21 appearances in 2017/18, the 32-year-old was stalwart and even had a goal and an assist to his name.
Guardiola values his captain. He has cover, too, after buying John Stones and Aymeric Laporte. For the time being, the skipper will remain at the club. There is not talk of an imminent departure.
The Argentinian is among the most passionate players in the City squad. And reliable. He made 46 appearances this season. Otamendi was a driving force in the City rearguard. His ability to be on the ball and contribution on set pieces made him a valuable player. His five goals seemed almost unfair to opponents trying to deal with Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and the rest of the cerulean wave.
His partnership with Vincent Kompany should continue while the boss looks to strengthen elsewhere.
Stones has yet to cement his place in the starting lineup. Bought for £45 million from Everton, the young Englishman endured a rough debut season at City in 2016. His participation was limited in 2017/18. He missed quite a few matches due to injury but scored three goals in 23 appearances and consistently maintained a 95% pass accuracy.
His tackling has improved while he has attempted fewer dribbles than in the past. The 24-year-old remains a top prospect at the back. in the game. The coming season might be coming out campaign.
The Spaniard has yet to find his ground in the Premier League. Of course, he arrived late. City went hard after Shakhtar's Fred in the January transfer window. In fact, it was expected that it was a done deal. But then Guardiola’s defence was in crisis and he desperately needed a ball playing centre back.
Enter the Bilbao standout. His reputation for buccaneering has yet to be borne out. In England, he's been cautious to not overcommit on tackles, making only 0.9 per 90. Surprisingly, he was more adventurous in Europe. In the Champions League, he made five clearance every 90 minutes. That figure dropped to 2.9 in the Premier League. Has someone been telling him horror stories? Thankfully, he’ll have time to adjust to the speed and physicality of the league and should improve next season.
The youngster needs time to develop in his role. The question is whether Guardiola will offer him the opportunities. The 20-year-old made six competitive appearances for City. He is a formidable young talent with much to learn before he makes an impact in the starting lineup. He is more than likely to be at City next season unless a loan to a La Liga or Bundesliga club can be arranged.
The Spaniard has proved his worth to Guardiola after his transfer from Real Madrid in an unspectacular but versatile style. Pep brought the veteran in from Real Madrid during his fullback shopping spree last summer. The former Madridista made 38 competitive appearances all across the back. His three goals and two assists further added to City's goal threat. Furthermore, the Brazilian made 2.9 tackles per 90 and an average of 2.2 clearances. His contribution and usefulness cannot be underestimated.
City raided direct competitors Tottenham to sign the rampaging right back. Walker is the best in England at his position. Seven assists in 47 appearances says as much. The length and width he provides to City's attack is invaluable. Defensively, Walker did well to see off incoming threats with 1.4 tackles and 2.3 clearances per 90. The England international is 28 years old and destined to spend several years at City before he needs replacement.
Benjamin Mendy remains in the news due to his Twitter posts but must focus on his rehabilitation to make an impact on the pitch. The France international was came over from Monaco but was unavailable for all but eight appearances. Nevertheless, his zeal for the club expressed on social media was encouraging. It remains to be seen if he can reprise his form from Monaco in the upcoming season. Guardiola will give him the opportunity.
Not a Star Wars character despite his name, Fabian Delph has come into the light at the Etihad, earning a World Cup berth in the England squad with his play. Delph has spent five years with the club. This season, he made 27 appearances. In that time, his performances proved why he is an essential cog for the Champions, making 2.4 tackles per 90 with 1.9 clearances.
He hasn't forgotten how to play in midfield, either, providing cover when needed. The England international will remain at the club for years to come.
Given the depth of options in defence for City, there are few arguments that City needs reinforcements at the back. City’s transfer activity is likely to be limited to adding depth to the midfield and forward line. In the next chapter, we’ll take a look at why Guardiola should sign a new holding midfielder.