How does £47.5m Stones fit into Manchester City’s defence?

John Stones completed his £47.5 million move from Everton to Manchester City on Tuesday morning, making him the most expensive defender in Premier League history.

The 22-year-old centre-back has penned a six-year deal and will be looking to develop into one of the game’s best defenders under Pep Guardiola’s guidance at The Etihad.

Stones became the second most expensive defensive signing in world football, behind £50 million PSG star David Luiz, but just where will he fit into Guardiola’s City defence this season?

Embed from Getty Images

Although he is capable of playing at right-back, Stones is a natural ball-playing central defender and will be expecting to play in the heart of the Citizens back four, as opposed to on the right flank.

That gives Guardiola an instant selection headache, with Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany the current first-choice pairing when fit. Eliaquim Mangala and Jason Denayer are also fighting for a place in Guardiola’s defence, so Stones is by no means guaranteed a starting berth with his new side.

Table: John Stones' 2015/16 Premier League statistics compared to Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi (stats via Squawka).

Table: John Stones’ 2015/16 Premier League statistics compared to Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi (stats via Squawka).

Looking at Stones’ statistics from last season, compared to Otamendi and Kompany’s, it is clear he is a different type of defender to his new teammates.

Stones boasted a pass completion rate of 89% over the course of the last campaign – only three centre-backs had a better record in the top flight last term – while the young England star also won more tackles and interceptions than Kompany per 90 minutes.

Embed from Getty Images

The issue is that Stones is weaker in the air than Otamendi and Kompany, with the bigger concern the fact that he made three errors leading to opposition goals last year.

The Barnsley academy product likes to bring the ball out of defence and look for a teammate, as opposed to clearing his lines when receiving the ball. But that does lead to mistakes and he will need to have his decision-making improved by Guardiola.

Embed from Getty Images

If fit, Vincent Kompany will start for City. He is their captain, their leader, and one of the game’s finest defenders. But simply dropping Otamendi to accommodate Stones seems like a bold decision, given the fact that the Argentine made more tackles, blocks, clearances and interceptions than any other City defender last season.

Stones will be available to start City’s Premier League opener at home to Sunderland on Saturday evening and it will now be intriguing to see whether he finds himself in the starting lineup from the word ‘go’.

Should John Stones be a first-choice centre-back for Manchester City? Is he better than Nicolas Otamendi?

Advertisements

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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?

Are Manchester United failing in this summer’s transfer window?

It is no secret that Manchester United have missed out on a number of their transfer targets this summer, but are they failing by not adding players they so desperately need in this window?

United have added some world class players to their squad, there is no doubting that, but they have also missed out on some high caliber names, which could arguably be the difference in mounting a strong title challenge and waiting another season.


Players signed (as of August 24, 2015):

– Sergio Romero – Free
– Matteo Darmian – £12.7m
– Morgan Schneiderlin £25m
– Bastian Schweinsteiger £14.4m
– Memphis Depay £31m


Embed from Getty Images

Louis Van Gaal’s side have started the new Premier League season with two 1-0 wins and a 0-0 draw, but the Dutch manager is still rumoured to be looking to strengthen his squad before next Monday’s deadline.

Strengthening the defence as well as the attack appear to be absolute necessities if United are to challenge for the title this year, but with just a week to go in the summer transfer window, the club have missed out on almost as many key targets as those who have signed.

United were heavily linked with moves for FC Barcelona’s Pedro, who has ended up signing for Chelsea, Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, who has signed a new five-year contract with Los Blancos and Nicolas Otamendi, who has signed for fierce rivals Manchester City.

Despite talk of needing a world class centre-back, Van Gaal’s side haven’t conceded a league goal in their opening three games. But there are many who believe the Red Devils need a new striker as Wayne Rooney has now gone 858 minutes without scoring a Premier League goal and is struggling in the lone striking role this term.

Van Gaal has insisted he does not need a striker and is happy with his options, as reported by ESPN.

“I have a lot of options. I have chosen Chicharito [Hernandez], because he is another type from Rooney, and we have also Fellaini, who is another type, then I have Wilson and Januzaj, so I don’t think we need a striker.”

Embed from Getty Images

Speculation will continue to mount regarding whether or not United need another attacking option the longer their goal scoring troubles go on in league play. With seven days remaining in the transfer window there is still plenty of time for potential deals to go ahead, but United may be ruing missed chances at this stage as panic buys could be on the way.

Arsenal look to bolster defence with double raid on Spain – report

Arsenal are set to bolster their defence before the end of the transfer window and are reportedly lining up moves for Liga BBVA stars Gabriel Paulista and Nicolas Otamendi.

Villarreal defender Paulista has confirmed he is in contact with Arsenal about joining the club this month.

The 24-year-old Brazilian has been a mainstay in the Villarreal defence this season and he has helped the club go unbeaten since they were defeated by Valencia at the start of November.

Embed from Getty Images

“Whether I go to Arsenal or stay at Villarreal, I won’t lose my head,” Paulista said this weekend. “I’m very calm. My head is at Villarreal and I’m very focused.

“My agent is working on making sure I continue being calm. Playing in the Premier League is one of my dreams.”

Villarreal are demanding the release clause in his contract, which stands at €20 million, before a move will be sanctioned by the club.

But Arsenal are reportedly willing to loan Joel Campbell to the Yellow Submarines as part of any deal, with the Costa Rican international growing frustrated at being a bit-part player following a very impressive World Cup in Brazil.

Another defensive target Arsenal are looking at is Nicolas Otamendi – an Argentine plying his trade at Valencia who can play at centre-back as well as at right-back.

Embed from Getty Images

Otamendi joined up with the Liga BBVA side in July 2014 and has has impressed at The Mestalla for Nuno Santo’s side as they push for the final UEFA Champions League place available in the league.

Otamendi, who made a name for himself in Portugal with FC Porto, has also been interesting Manchester United and so Valencia would demand a much bigger fee than the €12 million they paid Porto for his signature last summer.

It would seem the Gunners are firmly following up with their interest in defensive targets as they are in desperate need of cover at the back with Mathieu Debuchy ruled out for 3 months, and only have three firm options at centre-back in Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Callum Chambers.

Should Arsenal look to sign both Gabriel Paulista and Nicolas Otamendi, or do they only need one?