Pep Guardiola still has a way to add more depth to Man City defence following John Stones’ injury
City are now left with one established central defender in the form of Nicolas Otamendi. As a result, Guardiola may be required to fabricate alternative options from the players at his disposal.
Although the clubs decision not to add any reinforcements in defence now seems a mistake, the City boss is renowned for being tactically innovative, with several successful experiments undertaken previously using different players in different positions.
Given the clubs investment in midfield, most notably bringing in Rodri from Atletico Madrid, City veteran Fernandinho looks set to face a prolonged period on the bench this season. However, City’s defensive crisis may bestow him the ideal opportunity to continue playing a crucial role in their on the pitch success.
Despite being 34, the Brazilian proved again why he was so important to his side last season. He was heavily involved in almost all of Manchester City’s plays, whether it be attacking or notably, defending.
We know from his time as a deep lying central midfielder that the Brazilian is aggressive, forceful and mobile, all key characteristics of a good centre-back. Last season, 51 central midfielders amassed over 2,000 minutes in the Premier League, and only 16 of those posted a greater defensive duel success average than Fernandinho.
Another key component in order to succeed as a Guardiola centre-back is possessing the composure and ability to play out from the back. Again this is something we know Fernandinho holds within his skill set and was highlighted in his impressive pass success rate from last season of just below 90 per cent.
His conversion from midfield to defence would resemble something similar to the one undertaken by Javier Mascherano under Guardiola at Barcelona. The Argentine was a midfielder by trade, but the Catalan boss refashioned the former Liverpool man into a solid defender within his system.
Not just focused on Fernandinho, Guardolia has also pinpointed one other potential candidate to provide support in that weakened central-defence position. He said shortly after Laporte’s injury “We wait, but it doesn’t look good (for Laporte). If one day I need to put Kyle Walker as a central defender, he is going to play there. We are going to find solutions.”
Whilst Walker is renowned for his offensive threat, he proved a very capable defender last season. In fact, of the 27 Premier League right-backs who played 1,500 or more league minutes, Walker ranked third in terms of boasting the highest success rate in defensive duels with an average of 66 per cent.
There is no doubt that both players would need a period of adjustment if tested in a new central-defence role, but given City’s relative dominance in most fixtures, the quality ahead of them means they would rarely face a bombardment on their defensive line.
Additionally, City’s prowess in attack means any occasional error leading to a goal would unlikely prove to be detrimental to the overall result – the Blues are currently averaging over three goals per game.
The above evidence suggests that City could possess more depth in those central defensive areas than perhaps it may seem and therefore they should be able to cope without Laporte and Stones, for the time being at least.