Pep Guardiola’s decision to not get a centre-back to replace the outgoing Vincent Kompany last summer has backfired pretty quick. After two defeats in eight Premier League fixtures, Manchester City are now eight points adrift leaders Liverpool already.
Their frailty in dealing with high-speed counters was on display against Wolves when Adama Traore made full use of his flashy pace to exploit makeshift centre-back Fernandinho in the final minutes of the game. The Spaniard’s cause is further razed by the injuries to John Stones and Aymeric Laporte, leaving Nicolas Otamendi as his only specialist centre-back.
City did approach Harry Maguire in the summer, but the England international decided to join their neighbourhood rival Manchester United instead, leaving Guardiola shorthanded. And now, the consequences have been pretty evident, with the defending champions in dire need of a specialist defender if they are to replicate their previous season’s achievements.
Having said that, here are three defenders that might steady City’s ship in the second half of the season.
1. Nathan Ake:
Rumours are rife that City are chasing the Bournemouth centre-back, but a staggering £80 million price tag from the Cherries have forced City to reconsider.
A consistent presence in the heart of Eddie Howe’s defence, the 24-year-old is known for his versatility in being able to acquire all four defensive positions. A trait like that would certainly come in handy for Guardiola given the fact that Benjamin Mendy has struggled with injuries since joining, while there is no stern option available on the other flank if Kyle Walker gets injured.
2. Kalidou Koulibaly:
The Napoli centre-half has attracted heavy interest from the Premier League teams, mainly Manchester United, and it is said that City are in the fray as well. Koulibaly, known for his rock-solid defending, has averaged 2.8 tackles, 2.4 clearances and 1.2 interceptions per game in the Serie A and can be a trusted player in the air too, having won 2.8 aerial balls per game.
His physical side of the game further makes him an all-round defender for the Premier League. But then again, dealing with Napoli chief Aurelio De Laurentiis would be something that City might look to avoid.
3. Milan Skriniar:
Given Inter Milan’s success under Antonio Conte this season, getting Skriniar might seem like a long shot for now, but it’s a deal that would benefit Guardiola and City big time.
A centre-half known for his clever sense of passing and an ability to play from the back is exactly what the manager craves for. The 24-year-old carries a composed head on his shoulders and that, coupled with his excellent ability to read one-on-one situations, might help Guardiola cool things down at the club.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Oli Scarff