After narrowly beating Liverpool to the Premier League title and winning the Capital One Cup, Manuel Pellegrini will be eager to emulate this success next season, and improve his side with some new additions to the squad. One area that has been identified as a weak point in the Man City team, is the centre-back position. Manchester City conceded 37 goals last season and got the second best defensive record in the league, which was only beaten by Chelsea who conceded 27. This statistic is especially impressive considering how attack minded City’s full-backs are, which tends to leave their defence very exposed. Most people will agree that Vincent Kompany is a definite starter at City, and that he is probably the best centre-back in the Premier League and one of the best in the world, so in this article I will compare the options that Pellegrini has available to partner Kompany in the centre of defence.
When comparing the other three main options at centre-back that Pellegrini had available to him last season, Demichelis comes out on top a convincing winner. Last season Demichelis had a very successful campaign (contrary to public belief) alongside Kompany and played the most minutes of all 4 centre-back options. At the start of the season, he struggled to adapt to the power and pace of the Premier League, but once he did, he showed his skills as a leader by organizing the defence and winning a lot of tackles and aerial duels. His ability to play the ball out from the back is ignored a lot with an impressive 90% pass completion. Pellegrini seen this passing ability and actually moved him to a defensive midfield position against Barcelona in their last 16 game of the Champions League. However, one weakness in his game is his severe lack of pace and mobility, which can easily be seen when playing in Pellegrini’s high defensive line.
This weakness of Demichelis is shared by both his other teammates Javi Garcia and Matija Nastasic. Javi Garcia, who was originally bought as a defensive midfielder from Benfica in 2012, lost his place to Fernandinho at the start of last season, which meant he spent most of his time on the bench. This meant when he did play, he was moved into the centre-back position. Garcia has the worst defensive statistics of all four players, perhaps because he is still adapting to his new position, but overall he just isn’t up to the standard that a Premier League winning centre-back should be. Matija Nastasic is a peculiar case. The 21 year old Serbia international was signed by City from Fiorentina in 2012 and has developed a reputation for himself as being one of the best emerging defenders in Europe.However, he just can’t seem to adapt to playing in a high line system and is very injury prone.These factors have all lead to Arsenal reportedly being very interested in him, especially with Vermaelen potentially leaving.
Vincent Kompany played the majority of the last campaign as a right sided centre-back and judging by the stats, City conceded less goals on that side of the pitch. This leads us to think that Pellegrini should be looking to sign a left sided centre-back. It has been widely reported by various media outlets that Eliaquim Mangala is close to singing after a £38 million offer was tabled for the 23 year old French international. A video was leaked onto the Manchester City website showing Mangala give a statement to the fans, so it can be fair to assume that the deal is done.
He is a young, quick, strong, left-sided centre-back, who is very comfortable with the ball at his feet and would fit perfectly into Pellegrini’s first team alongside Kompany. Mangala is a proven footballer having played in Europe for a couple of seasons with Porto, as well as making the French squad for the World Cup. He is also extremely good in the air having scored an impressive 3 goals in 6 appearance in the Europa League last season. Overall Manchester City have solid centre-back options in Demichelis and Nastasic at present, but I feel that if they were to sign Eliaquim Mangala from Porto, we could see City continue their dominance in England and go one step further in the Champions League.