Welcome to the official Premier League preview!
The 2020/2021 season kicks off this weekend and while Manchester City won’t debut until the 21st of September, this week we will preview all four position groups. GK, defenders, midfielders and forwards. We will look at three areas, beginning with strengths and weaknesses. Then, move in to positional battles, to hopefully gain a holistic view at the squad as they enter Pep Guardiola’s fifth season in charge.
Catch up and read part one, Goal Keepers, HERE
Kyle Walker, John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy, Joao Cancelo, Nicolas Otamendi, Eric Garcia, Fernandinho and Nathan Ake. As of now this is it. A possibility of Garcia leaving as Angelino left and a possible inclusion of Kaliodu Koulibaly could come in to play.
Probably the strongest trait about this group is one man, Aymeric Laporte. A certified world class defender and leader, his absence was felt ever so strikingly during his injury last season.
Add a new face in Ake, who is a jack of all trades and solid in the air is a nice coup. Ake can play fullback, center half and even pinch start in midfield. He is a solid pickup with much upside.
The fullbacks. We have speed. Flair and flamboyance is a bound for this side. Mendy, Cancelo and Walker are all elite at attacking and can more than serve that side of the ball. These players can really stretch the field and tuck in when needed to better serve the midfielders, it works well.
The rest. In Stones, Otamendi and Fernandinho we have ok to subpar defenders some of who are undergoing a confidence crisis. Stones one strength is in aerial dudes where he can be an asset. In Otamendi and Fernandinho you do have leadership and can be a vocal part of the squad. Garcia, while young has shown poise and that he can play at this level.
Oh boy. Where to begin. For the center backs, the lack of speed and lateral quickness really hampers the team. Ferna and Otamendi lack both. In Stones, we have a once solid player with some current issues of fitness and confidence. Plus, with this crop there is no real aerial threat other than Stones and he might not feature a lot.
Fullback wise, well they just don’t defend well. Cancelo and Mendy especially. From refusing to go down and defend to just basic lack of tackling expertise, the mistakes while they have lessened don’t seem they will go away. Lack of effort is also an issue when defending and I do believe effort is over half the battle. Walker while mostly solid, can be prone to a knuckle headed tackle ever so often and his spacing is an issue as well. There is much room to improve.
Laporte is a write in stone starter. The rest, even Walker will have to compete. Ideally, I could see Cancelo start the season on the left and Walker on the right. Mendy can and should challenge both for a starting role, but like most of his tenure, it will rely on how healthy he is. The interesting choice will be Ake, who will probably start alongside Laporte. Guardiola, though, is a bit stubborn so if Ake is not fully aware of his duties I would bet it’s Garcia or Fernandinho.
Thoughts on Manchester City’s defenders?