After failing to replace club captain Vincent Kompany, Manchester City have struggled defensively this season. Freddie Pye looks at three potential centre back signings the club could make this summer.
Here we go again, a Manchester City fan rambling on about how the club needs to spend even more money to ‘compete’. No, seriously, we really do. Especially in the central defensive department!
In case you hadn’t already realised, City are desperately missing Vincent Kompany, or even just a capable replacement for the former club captain.
Last summer – and I still can’t believe this decision – those in charge of recruitment made a choice not to spend BIG on a replacement for the now Anderlecht man, instead opting to spend a substantial amount on an area of the defence which was maintained quite capably by Danilo.
Manchester City have paid the biggest price for that decision. Pep Guardiola’s side have fallen way off league leaders Liverpool, and have produced some rather comical defending in certain games this campaign.
Sunday’s defeat to Manchester United not only highlighted our frailties in defence, but also a clear lack of leadership when Kevin De Bruyne or Aymeric Laporte are not in the side. Guardiola’s men were subject to yet another derby defeat this season – to a side we’ve been made to believe are ‘miles off’ meeting the high standards of this City squad.
But who can City look at to address this situation in the summer? For a club who’re yet to spend astronomical amounts on a single player, maybe this summer is when that needs to change.
Maybe we will see Txiki Begiristain and co. give the go ahead on a record-breaking transfer in order to plug the gaps we’ve witnessed so far this season. So, without further ado, here are three potential options…
Perhaps the most suitable recruit would be Inter Milan’s Milan Škriniar. He’s a player reportedly at the very top of City’s wishlist ahead of the summer transfer window, but with a price tag in excess of €80m, will City buckle when negotiating a move for the Slovakian international?
So far this campaign, the 25-year-old has amassed a total of nine clean sheets in 32 appearances in all competitions for Antonio Conte’s men. However, what will have caught the attention of City’s scouting team more is Škriniar’s ability with the ball at his feet.
Škriniar has produced an average pass success rate of 91.2% – a trait that’s possibly valued higher than actual defensive abilities by Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff.
That being said, Škriniar’s also undoubtedly capable from a physical perspective as well. He appears to read the game very well and is an integral part of the defensive unit that has conceded the joint-second least goals in Serie A – on a par with current champions, Juventus.
Moving on from Škriniar, we could look closer to home (and may have to if UEFA uphold their two-season European ban). Leicester City’s Çağlar Söyüncü is another option who’s been mooted by the English press, although a departure from Leicester seems very unlikely, given the success Brendan Rodgers is enjoying at the club.
Like Škriniar, the Turkish international makes the shortlist largely due to his ball-playing capabilities. The 23-year-old has produced a remarkably high pass success rate across the course of the season, with an average of 88.9% in his 44 appearances in all competitions for club and country.
That being said, Söyüncü isn’t totally exempt from making mistakes and displayed that against none other than Manchester City at the Etihad earlier this campaign, when he was arguably at fault for a few of the Blues’ attacks.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Rúben Dias of Benfica. The 22-year-old seems to have everything on his side when it comes to being a prospective Manchester City centre back – age, ball-playing ability, defensive qualities, and physicality.
Again however, the potential fee for Dias may prove a stumbling block for City, with his release clause being in excess of £80m – a price Etihad officials were reluctant to pay for any of their top defensive targets last summer.
In 51 appearances for club and country this season, Rúben Dias has maintained an average pass success rate of 87.9% – just slightly lower than the other potential targets mentioned previously.
Although City are yet to have been strongly linked with any defensive targets ahead of the summer, it’s a certainty that the club will invest heavily in this department.
We could see a repeat of last summer, when the club were linked on numerous occasions with moves for Saúl Ñíguez and Frenkie de Jong, but it was Rodrigo who officially joined the Blues after flying relatively low under the rumour mill radar all summer.
Whether or not the UEFA ban stands remains to be seen, although it could be a case of last-minute alterations to transfer plans, should we see the two-year absence from European competition come to fruition.
Follow Man City writer Freddie Pye on Twitter @FreddiePye_