For a club at the top level, Manchester City’s reliance on Vincent Kompany is quite remarkable.
Granted, he is the club’s captain, leader and talisman, but you would expect a team like City to at least be able to cope without their skipper.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case this season.
Kompany has been plagued by calf injuries in a real stop-start season for the Belgian. All looked very promising when City went five consecutive games without conceding at the start of the campaign.
The side looked rejuvenated and more importantly was as competent in defence as they were going forward – something which has been the Achilles heel in recent years. City appeared to have found a settled and balanced side.
What was more pleasing was that Eliaquim Mangala, who struggled in his debut season at City, looked a fresher and much-improved defender.
But an injury to Kompany in a Champions League game with Juventus has culminated in a whole lot of defensive deficiencies for the Blues.
Nicolas Otamendi has come in from Valencia for around £30m and has looked good on occasions. He has been particularly solid when paired with Kompany – especially in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. Sadly, seeing him and Kompany line up together has been a rarity and the Argentine has had both Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis as his defensive partners.
Mangala is physically strong but doesn’t look comfortable on the ball and is prone to defensive lapses. In the recent Capital One Cup game against Everton though, he looked fairly solid until he was forced off at half-time with a hamstring injury – continuing this season’s trend amongst the City squad.
Martin Demichelis was the replacement and, to put it frankly, he was given the runaround and looked a shadow of his former self. His regression is incredibly alarming.
Like most defenders, the now 35-year-old initially struggled in the early parts of his first-season but did come good and was one of the club’s better performers last term. But this season he has shown signs of decline. Attackers are easily getting beyond him and has even looked shaky on the ball – something out of the ordinary for the former Bayern man. You get the impression that he won’t be around next season.
You only have to look at the stats to see how badly disjointed City’s defence is without Kompany in the side. The 0-0 draw at Leicester on 28th December was the first clean sheet City have recorded this season in their skipper’s absence.
City have conceded a staggering 32 goals in all competitions without the Belgian marshalling the backline, compared to a mere two when he has been in the side. It’s worth noting that one of those two was a rare Joe Hart error against Norwich.
But how can City deal with such defensive issues?
The obvious option would be to invest in a new defender, but that will likely not happen in January. Manuel Pellegrini has said he does not plan on doing any business and, usually, he sticks to his word.
Of course though, the Chilean himself may well not be here in the summer – with the Pep Guardiola links not going away, meaning a quick-fix move for a new centre-back in the current window looks even more out of question, but Everton’s John Stones is a great long-term option for City.
The club do already have a number of talented defenders in their ranks, though. Jason Denayer, now a full international with Belgium, signed a five-year contract with the club at the start of the season and made the bench for the club’s opening game of the season at West Brom.
That made his loan move to Galatasaray all the surprising, where he has been figuring mostly at right-back and has made 11 appearances for the Turkish Giants.
A couple of years younger, City have two local prospects in Tosin Adarabioyo and Cameron Humphreys – both have been on the bench this season.
So do City need to defend better? Absolutely, but there has been steady improvement in the last two games against Norwich and Everton with back-to-back clean sheets secured.
and is a new central defender needed? With Kompany’s injuries showing no signs of slowing down, the club do need to invest in a new central defender but that should happen in a summer which could see wholesale changes at the Etihad.