Did losing Vincent Kompany dismantle Manchester City’s title bid?

Manchester City haven’t enjoyed the best of season’s despite an impressive Champions League run to the semifinals. They are clinging onto fourth spot in the Premier League with one game to go as Dan McClue looks at one reason why it may have gone wrong for them this year.

Manchester City were many people’s pick to win the Premier League this season, and if not they were expected to push for the title all the way.

Currently, they sit fourth with one game to go and their Champions League spot is under serious threat from the rivals in red, Manchester United.

Should they fall out of the top four it would be a disastrous way to end what is has been an underrated reign from Manuel Pellegrini and would also give new boss Pep Guardiola a troubled start to his City career.

But where has it gone wrong this season? For me, the consistent injuries to club captain Vincent Kompany have cost them more than anything else.

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The Belgian international joined the Sky Blues in 2008 from Hamburg and has since become their captain and played in 298 matches, scoring 14 goals from defence.

This season Kompany has started 22 games overall (14 in the Premier League) and has been forced off before the 10th minute in four of those matches due to injuries. In a 38-game league season, City needed their best defender and leader to start more than 25 games to be in with a shout of challenging for the title.

The Citizens are blessed with formidable attacking talent as Sergio Aguero is the best striker in the league and Kevin De Bruyne is on the way to becoming one of the world’s top playmakers despite also struggling with injuries this season.

However, without Kompany their defence has looked untrustworthy and vulnerable. Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala when paired together have arguably only had one top quality match – the second-leg Champions League tie against PSG. Martin Demichelis has never looked like a stable option for the club but all three centre-backs look twice as good when paired with Kompany.

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A good example of the captain’s importance is when we look at the club’s two title-winning seasons. In 2011/12 he played 42 games overall, 31 being in the league. In 2013/14 when they won their second Premier League title he played in 37 games overall (scoring five goals) with 28 league appearances. They finished second in the season between their triumphs – the same position as last year but won’t be in the top two come the end of this campaign.

In the 2012/13 season Kompany played in 26 league games and last season he played 25 games in the top flight. This shows that while there may not be much of a difference on paper between playing 25 games and playing 28 games, if the league is won by 3-6 points those games that Kompany missed would certainly have made City more competitive had they had their captain.

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It is of obvious importance for a title challenging team to have a solid defence with a leader on the pitch. Manchester United had Nemanja Vidic in the 2010/11 and 2012/13 seasons and he was also helped by Rio Ferdinand. City had Kompany in the 2011/12 and 2013/14 seasons and Chelsea had John Terry in 2014/15. All those centre-backs were not only formidable defenders but their respective club captains.

The championship winning teams would certainly have shaped up differently had they been without these players for 10+ games. These players organise the defence on the field and have the authority to command respect from the rest of their team, which is why without Kompany players like Otamendi and Mangala look lost without their leader.

The question for City now is where do they go from here? Both with Kompany and the rest of the team. The captain is 30 years old. For most top defenders they should be able to play until about 33 before struggling to maintain at the top level. That would give Kompany at least three more seasons, but his injury record makes it difficult to predict his future.

According to transfermarkt.co.uk, Kompany is currently valued at £22.5 million. City could look to cash in on their top defender if they feel the injuries he keeps picking up will sustain and they would be able to get more than that valuation from a team desperate for a top quality centre back in Europe. He now looks set to miss the next four months and will subsequently miss the start of Guardiola’s reign.

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The club would definitely receive a backlash from the fans if they sold him, as despite the injury problems he is their club captain for a reason. Over the past two seasons they have spent over £50 million combined on Otamendi and Mangala to give cover for Kompany and to have a competent player alongside him at centre back. Despite City’s apparent endless riches it is not sensible for them to be splashing out on defenders every year trying to find a strong enough centre back pairing to consistently win them the league.

While I couldn’t see City selling Kompany in the next two or three years it should be something they consider, as cashing in on the aging star with recurring injury problems might help them to move on as far as their defensive worries are concerned.

One thing for sure is that Pep Guardiola will certainly have some important decisions to make when he arrives in the summer.

Should Manchester City keep hold of Vincent Kompany despite his injury troubles?

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Stats: Southampton duo the most effective Premier League centre-backs

Southampton currently have the best defence in the Premier League this season having conceded fewer goals than any other team.

The Saints have let in just 21 goals from their 30 games, four less than the team with the next best back line, which is Chelsea who have conceded 25.

Captain Jose Fonte has missed just one game for Ronald Koeman‘s side in the 2014/15 campaign and he is currently leading the way as the centre-back with the most clean sheets – a total of 14.

Here is the numbers breakdown for the best six Premier League centre-backs based on those with a minimum of 15 appearances and the amount of goals their respective teams have conceded per-game when they play.

Best PL Centre Backs

Best Premier League centre-backs in 2014/15 (stats via Squawka)

Jose Fonte’s teammate Toby Alderweireld is statistically the most effective central defender in the division with the fewest goals conceded-per-game. The Belgian is on-loan from Spanish side Atletico Madrid and also boasts the best record for games-per-clean sheet.

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Arsenal‘s Laurent Koscielny is the next most impressive when it comes to the amount of goals conceded-per-game, although Chelsea defensive partners John Terry and Gary Cahill have shown why the Blues are top of the league as they have the next best games-per-clean-sheet ratio after Alderweireld and Fonte.

Perhaps unexpectedly, Manchester City‘s Eliaquim Mangala statistically has the sixth best record out of the Premier League’s centre-backs and is the most consistent successful passer of the ball, alongside John Terry with a pass completion ratio of 89%.

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Mangala also wins more tackles than the other five, while Alderweireld makes the most blocks and Koscielny the most interceptions.

The most surprising absentee from the top six centre-backs is probably Vincent Kompany. The Man City skipper concedes an average of one goal-per-game and has managed seven clean sheets at an average of three games-per-clean sheet.

Who is the best centre-back in the Premier League?