A few seasons ago, Aymeric Laporte was THE centre-back choice in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The highly-rated defender was bought by The Citizens for a hefty price tag in January 2018. A necessary addition to Guardiola’s less than convincing defence.
Laporte added the stability they needed and his performances were certainly enthralling. His defensive partner, John Stones, wasn’t the most trusted companion and so City knew they needed to bring in another centre-back.
Ruben Dias, a Portuguese wall of sorts was brought in to strengthen City’s backline. What followed was almost magic. The Citizens stopped conceding goals altogether. Manchester City conceded just 32 goals in the Premier League last season, the lowest in the league last campaign. And Ruben Dias was at the heart of that achievement. But, although many were surprised by Dias’s instant impact, it was John Stones that shocked everyone.
A player that was once considered to be a rocky boat was now a steady ship besides the Portuguese international. Their partnership was phenomenal and it was a reason for City’s resurgence to the top of the Premier League.
But this also stirred an unwarranted problem. Laporte was no longer their first-choice centre-back. The Stones-Dias partnership had sidelined City’s ideal centre-back. And so, Laporte, due to lack of game time has expressed his desire to leave the club.
JOHN STONES REVIVAL
Just a day older than Laporte, Stones was not considered to be the rock-solid defender in City’s lineup. Often judged for his lack of awareness and careless errors on the ball, the English defender was losing favour at the Etihad Stadium. The arrival of a much more solid defender in Laporte did not help his cause either. So, it was imminent that Pep Guardiola would bring in one more central defender to ramp up his squad.
Ruben Dias was a sensation. The Premier League’s best player last season was a pivotal reason for City’s impressive defensive record. The team was more confident in venturing forward and did not need to hold back as they knew Dias’s presence had them covered. Opening up new possibilities, City thrived.
But, not all the credit goes to the Portuguese. John Stones, the out of favour City defender was his partner in the defensive half. A perfect compliment to Dias’s ability, Stones was the ideal partnership.
Stones was excellent pushing forward. Adept with the ball at his feet, the English defender can often be found pushing into space in the midfield areas. Stones had a better pass completion percentage than any other player in Pep Guardiola’s side last season. He was also a goal threat, scoring four in his twenty-two appearances last season. He also had the most successful pressing percentage of anyone in sky blue. By comparison, there is hardly any statistic Laporte betters Stones in the Premier League.
LAPORTE’S IMMINENT DEPARTURE
The length of Laporte’s contract means that Manchester City is under no obligation to let him go this summer. However, City are a club that does not force players to stay against their will and so if a suitable offer formulates, they might be willing to let go. But having said that, if Laporte does leave, the Manchester club will once again face a defensive crisis.
With not enough quality backing available, the side could suffer once again if either of their first-choice centre-backs picks up an injury.
— Aymeric Laporte (@Laporte) July 2, 2021
The notorious nature of the centre-back crisis is one City will need to learn from Liverpool’s poor campaign. Therefore, reliable backup is one City will need to maintain. None better than one of the best left-footed centre backs in the Premier League. Manchester City is a squad filled with world-class backups and so convincing Laporte to stay should not be a humongous task.
STONES, LAPORTE – FIGHTING FOR ONE SPOT
But, for a player who switched allegiances from France to Spain to feature in international football, this might not be an ideal situation. Laporte understands that he will need to fight for his place. His frustration last season in the opportunities he got once he recovered from injury was obvious.
Laporte had an error that led to a shot on goal last season, something that Stones and Dias never made (source: fbref.com). He was also less than convincing in the few opportunities he got. Sometimes trying too hard to prove himself.
— City Xtra (@City_Xtra) June 23, 2021
“He’s the best left-sided defender [we have], he has special quality with the ball. He has to be focused to come back in the best condition possible and he will get his minutes. After, it depends on his performance as it depends on the form of everyone.” – Pep Guardiola on Laporte
Pep Guardiola is ready to give him the chance, but his performances will be the deciding factor. If Laporte can regain his best form or maybe even improve it, Stones might well be forced to the bench once again. For it isn’t Stones’ ability as a footballer, but more his partnership with Dias that has caught attention. And, the defensive partnership is one of the most crucial aspects of a team playing attacking football.