Michael Regan/Getty Images
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has said that Aymeric Laporte’s return from a long-term knee injury is a boost to the Citizens but will not solve all of their problems.
Guardiola told reporters on Friday that the centre-back makes City a better team following his return to action against Sheffield United on Tuesday after being out five months:
“He played more than 70 minutes in his first game. He played well but he is not going to solve all our problems. He is one more player we can use. He’s a guy who helps with our build-up, he helps us keep the ball better and because of that we are not as vulnerable to counter-attacks.
“He’s strong in the air, fast and has a special personality. His attributes can help us be a better team. When we play good we don’t need him, and that’s happened most of the time this season.”
Laporte was forced to undergo knee surgery in September on an injury suffered in Manchester City’s 4-0 Premier League win over Brighton & Hove Albion.
Manchester City had taken seven points from nine before Laporte’s injury but have struggled without the France international. They have slipped 16 points behind leaders Liverpool in the Premier League and have played a game more than the Reds.
Opta highlighted how their defence has leaked goals in 2019-20 compared to last season:
Captain Vincent Kompany departed in the summer, and the absence of Laporte left Guardiola short of defensive options.
John Stones has also missed chunks of the season with injury and has criticised for some poor displays, although Guardiola has defended the centre-back:
Guardiola has turned to midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri to fill in at the back, and Laporte’s return to full fitness will be welcomed by all at the club. Tuesday marked City picking up their first clean sheet in six games.
The manager described him as the “best left-sided central defender in the world” after the match, per BBC Sport.
There is no doubt that City are a stronger team with Laporte in the starting XI, and his return will improve their chances of picking up silverware this season. Retaining the Premier League title may be out of reach, but they do remain in contention in the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League.