It was clear from the previous season that the area of improvement had to come to City’s defensive line. When Aymeric Laporte damaged his cartilage and lateral meniscus less than one month into last season when we faced Brighton, the season took a turn for the worse. City only had three other central defenders- Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and a young Eric García. This meant Fernandinho had to step up and play out of position many times in the 2019/20 campaign.
Otamendi was a solid centre back however, he was known to dive in and therefore leave himself out of position. When we signed Stones from Everton back in 2016 there was promise that he could be a starting centre-half for the Blues. However, he has a mistake in him each game which has before led to City conceding. García captained the U18s and had made his professional debut for Manchester City in 2018, in the EFL Cup Quarter-Final against Leicester City. When Laporte sustained his injury, García was yet to make his Premier League debut, therefore it was a lot to ask for the young, then 18-year old.
25-year-old Nathan Aké was the second player the Blues signed, the first to replace the soon to depart Otamendi. He was signed from the just relegated Bournemouth for a fee of £41m on a five-year deal.
In the 2015/16 when Aké played for Watford, the majority of the campaign he started as a left-back. This versatile young player was a perfect signing for the Blues, but there were doubts as to whether he would be a first-choice centre back with Laporte. The statistics also look promising for the Netherlands international, with Bournemouth having a points per game average of 0.5 without Aké, which jumps to 1.1 when he played since the 2017/18 season. This signing is crucial to City, especially the experience Aké has in the Premier League already. Solely as a centre half, this signing would deserve a 7/10, however the recent failures of City left backs and the versatility of Aké, pushes this signing to a 7.5/10.
Long-time Club Captain Vincent Kompany leaving was a huge blow as not only had we lost a player in a position we needed strengthening, but also the leadership he brought. That is why in the 2020 summer window, a new potential leader come centre half was vital to contend again for the title.
At only 23, £61m Rúben Dias could be the answer to Manchester City’s defensive prayers. His former coach has stated that Dias will “lead everything at City and be the coach’s voice [on the pitch]”, which is what City lost when we parted ways with Kompany. Dias has received high praise all round and there is hope that in years to come he will be the next long-reigning City captain. He has further been hailed as a “natural leader” by current boss Pep Guardiola as well.
Dias started his first game for the Blues alongside Laporte, replacing Aké against Leeds United where the final score was 1-1. Although not an ideal result for City, Leeds have looked strong this season and the goal conceded was no fault of our new centre half. Dias commanded the back line and natural on the ball, both him and Aké have slotted into the team effortlessly. Aké also played a part in the fixture, replacing Benjamin Mendy at left-back with 20 minutes to go. With Mendy not seeming to be deserving of a place in the starting XI, does our perfect back four consist of; Kyle Walker, Rúben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Aké?
The signing of Dias seems perfect so far, a leader on the pitch and solid centre half, giving the Portuguese international signing an 8/10, with the potential for this to increase if he proves himself further after the international break.
City’s first signing of the season was hotly anticipated Ferran Torres for £20m. He had been brought in to replace Leroy Sané who left for Bayern Munich earlier this summer. Torres is only 20 years old and therefore cannot be expected to replicate how magnificent Sané had been for the Blues right away. He did however provide the assist for Raheem Sterling’s goal against Leeds and has looked quick down the right wing.
At such a young age, Torres has already debuted for the Spanish international team. He is a less vital signing for Manchester City than two centre halves, however he definitely has potential with more experience. This puts this deal at a 6/10 at this moment with the rating likely to increase in time.
Overall, most City fans will be more relaxed after the introduction of two new defenders. The areas that Blues fans may have liked further signings would be at left-back due to Mendy still not looking good enough for this world-class team. At least there is a potential for Aké to take his spot, although it is not his preferred position. It could also be argued that due to injuries to both Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus, another forward would be necessary. This is true, however if after their spells out, they remain fit, maybe City can hold off another season to replace our Argentinian superstar.