After watching his side concede five goals at home against Leicester on Sunday, it was inevitable that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola would dip into the transfer market to seek more defensive reinforcements.
Going into the new season City had already completed the transfer of Dutch defender Nathan Ake in a £41m deal from Bournemouth.
It was hoped that the 25-year-old, who signed a five-year contract, would help shore up a frail City defence which has been overly reliant on Aymeric Laporte in recent years, says FourFourTwo.
However, the defensive display against Leicester showed that the cracks are still there.
With Laporte’s pre-season disrupted after testing positive for Covid-19, the Frenchman was only fit enough to take his place on the bench at the weekend.
Ake lined up alongside Spanish 19-year-old Eric Garcia in the centre of City’s defence, but they were torn to shreds by Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, who scored a hat-trick in what The Guardian described as a “scintillating exhibition”.
City seal deal for Dias
Sunday’s heavy loss against Leicester was the first time in 438 home games that City have shipped five goals. It was also “unchartered territory” for boss Guardiola, says the BBC, as it was the first time in his 686-game managerial career that one of his sides had conceded five goals.
Just two days after the humbling defeat by Leicester, City have gone out and made a major defensive signing. It was confirmed last night that Portuguese international Ruben Dias had completed a £65m move from Benfica, with Nicolas Otamendi moving the other way.
The 23-year-old centre-back, who has signed a six-year contract, has been capped 19 times by Portugal. Dias said moving to City was an opportunity that he “couldn’t turn down”.
Speaking to mancity.com, he added: “I believe I can improve here, at a club whose ambitions match my own and I will give everything to be successful and win titles.”
A new leader to replace Kompany?
Since Vincent Kompany’s departure in May 2019, there’s been a “significant void” in City’s defence, says the BBC. Kompany was not just City’s defensive lynchpin but also the dressing room leader as club captain.
There’s no doubt that Laporte is a world-class player, but injuries have restricted him to just 15 appearances since August 2019.
With John Stones and Otamendi struggling for form, Guardiola has been forced to use midfielder Fernandinho as a central defender on a number of occasions.
However, with Ake’s summer arrival and now the signing of Dias, have City fixed their defensive problems? And have they also finally found a replacement for club legend Kompany?
Portuguese coach Carlos Carvalhal, who managed Swansea in the Premier League, believes his compatriot will be a “great” signing for City.
Describing Dias as a “leader”, Carvalhal told BBC World Service: “I think he will be great at Manchester City. Comparing the qualities and age of the boy, I think he is one of the best centre-backs at the moment.”
‘All the attributes’
Leadership was also a key theme for Man City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain when talking about the club’s £65m signing.
“Ruben is a player we have admired for some time and we have been impressed with how he has progressed at Benfica,” Begiristain said. “He has developed into a real leader and as a defender, he has all the attributes we are looking for.
“He is strong in the air, good in one vs. one situations and technically, he is very good, so we are confident he can thrive in our system.
“He is young, but has experience playing for a top European club in Benfica and we’re really pleased we’ve been able to sign him. He is another talented addition to the squad and someone who is only going to get better working under Pep.”
Hit the ground running
Last season Liverpool won the Premier League finishing 18 points clear of second-placed City. The champions have started the new league campaign with three wins out of three, while in their two games City have lost one and won one.
It’s still early days though and City head coach Guardiola will hope that Dias can bring some defensive steel to the team as they look to wrestle back the title and compete for the Uefa Champions League.
Pundit Chris Sutton says Dias has to “come and prove himself and hit the ground running”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Sutton added: “It’s going to be difficult for him because the scrutiny on him will be unbelievable.
“For his sake – and Manchester City’s sake – you have to really hope that they’ve really done their due diligence on him and he’s going to play well from the start – because you can imagine, if he misplaces a pass or someone dribbles past him, someone will say he’s a waste of money.
“City have put themselves under pressure with the manner of their defeat against Leicester. There will be scrutiny and people will be looking and comparing and asking how City are going to touch Liverpool this season. If City want to win the league they must keep clean sheets, defend strongly and do it quickly.”
Main image: Man City/Twitter