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Evaluating Manchester City’s Eric Garcia ahead of a pivotal period for the youngster


An early season injury crisis has left Manchester City in a defensive predicament.

Pep Guardiola‘s side started the season with just three recognised central defenders. However, injuries to both John Stones and Aymeric Laporte means that City are now left with one established central defender in the form of Nicolas Otamendi.

As a result, it is likely that Guardiola will call on the services of up and coming star Eric Garcia to add more depth to his matchday squad in the coming weeks.

The Spaniard has enjoyed a good rise through the ranks of the club and will be eager to make a big impression on the first team this season.

Formerly of Barcelona, Garcia was a product of the Catalan club’s academy for nine years before moving to City at the age of 16. He quickly adapted to life in the North West and established himself as one of the key players in his age group.

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He was rewarded for his impressive development last summer by being selected for Pep Guardiola’s pre-season tour of the USA. Stateside, he was bestowed four starts against stiff competition in the form of Borussia Dortmund, Lyon, Liverpool and Bayern Munich.

He proved domineering within those displays which caught the eye of Guardiola. He clearly earned the trust of the Catalan and quickly become a key player in City’s triumphant League Cup run where he played four matches and proved a commanding presence within the defensive line.

When watching him, one of the first things you will observe is that he boasts a really good positional sense.

He doesn’t make any rash decisions under pressure and reads opposition attacks well. Giving City’s dominance in matches, he will rarely sustain long periods of deep defensive work.

He is therefore required to remain alert at all times and position himself in a place where he can track the opposition striker but yet be prepared to pounce on any quick transitions from attack to defence when City lose possession in dangerous areas.

Despite there only being a small sample size, the above was shown in those first-team performances from last season in which he averaged 4.85 interceptions per 90 minutes.

His positional awareness is again illustrated in the below sequence taken from City’s 1-0 win against Burton back in January.

As City lose the ball, Burton play it forward looking to build a counter attack. Garcia reads the situation and quickly looks to close the opposition attacker down.

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Garcia quickly looks to close the opposition attacker down
Garcia quickly looks to close the opposition attacker down

However, he is aware of the run from the second opposition attacker through the middle of the defence, he therefore bends his run to drop with the forward and guard against the pass that is played in behind the defensive line.

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Garcia is aware of the threat through the middle and avoids getting sucked in leaving a gap through the defence
Garcia is aware of the threat through the middle and avoids getting sucked in leaving a gap through the defence

Thanks to his good reading of the game, he can intercept the danger and play the ball back to the City keeper who regains possession for his side.

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Thanks for his ability to read the danger, he can intercept the ball forward
Thanks for his ability to read the danger, he can intercept the ball forward

This sort of defensive intelligence is rare in a player of his age and illustrates a level maturity that may see him playing at a higher level a lot sooner than most of his peers.  

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Whilst his aerial duel success rate of 58 per cent was impressive, as was his solid defensive duel success rate of 79 per cent from the same period, it’s his ability on the ball that may prove most pivotal for City.

The Premier League winners came unstuck last weekend vs Norwich as a defensive mix up between Stones and Otamendi when playing out from the back gifted Norwich their third and decisive goal in the game. Guardiola‘s defined philosophy of building attacks through the defence means that any defender who comes into his side will need to be a calm and accurate passer of the ball. His pass success rate of 94 per cent suggests he should be a more that adequate option in this regard.

His progression and swift adaptation into the first team last season may have shown Guardiola and his staff enough to suggest he may pose as a realistic option to do the same again in the much more demanding environment of the Premier League during this difficult period for the club.

 

On his current trajectory, Garcia is set to be a regular within the first-team in the not so distant future, however if he can shine when bestowed an opportunity in the coming weeks, then he may be able to establish himself as a regular in the side sooner than many had expected.





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