Former Manchester City centre-back and captain Richard Dunne has compared Ruben Dias’ impact at Manchester City to that of Virgil Van Dijk at Liverpool. The Dutchman helped the Reds win both the Champions League and the Premier League title in the last two campaigns by shoring up the backline.
The Blues lost the title to Jurgen Klopp’s side last term as a result of defensive frailties brought about by the long-term injury to Aymeric Laporte. But the club brought in Dias in the summer and the 23-year-old has been a rock at the back for City since making the switch. His performances have drawn praise from several quarters with Dunne joining the party to shower praise on the Portuguese.
“The 5-2 defeat to Leicester in September was a shambles for City. But it’s what they did next that counts – they went out and bought Dias and he has been brilliant for them,” Dunne told Sunday World.
“I think he has changed that City team, helped get the best form out of John Stones. With the way they play, City will always create chances, they are now looking so confident going forward because they are so solid at the back.
“Dias isn’t what you’d consider a typical Guardiola player. He’s solid, he is good on the ball, but his first job is to defend. I was impressed with his first interview at the club when he said, ‘I’m a winner, I am a leader’.
“City didn’t want another ball-playing centre-back, they needed a central defender who could defend, who had that mentality of keeping a clean sheet, keeping his focus on doing that and leaving it to the attacking players to score.
“It’s not far off what Liverpool did with Virgil van Dijk. Once they got Van Dijk in, everything else seemed to just work well.”
The former Ireland international also feels the Blues are now well-positioned to win the Premier League this season. That is due to the team’s new-found solidity at the back. That has also served as an inspiration for the forwards to start creating and scoring again.
“Manchester City will be very, very hard to stop,” he said. “I can’t see any weakness in the City side. No one else is creating chances like them, they look to be a far happier squad than anyone else in the top six.
“City look like a side who are taking great pleasure in keeping clean sheets, they have Joao Cancelo able to move from full-back into central midfield, and they have that tactical nous that everyone else seems to be lacking. City were always vulnerable to counterattacks, now with Dias in the side they stop them before they start.
“Manchester United don’t have that, and neither do Liverpool, with Van Dijk out injured.
“They are growing as a team, their confidence is high at a time when everyone else in the top six is being tested, and even though they have lost Kevin De Bruyne, they have clicked. Every other team has problems, but it’s all falling City’s way now.”
It is easy to agree with Dunne as the results speak for themselves. City’s clean sheet record this season is impressive. Despite the struggles on both ends of the pitch at the beginning of the campaign, the team is now looking really solid.
Worthy of note is also the fact that Guardiola has been able to bring out the best from the team despite having little contribution from his strikers. Both Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus have been in and out of the side with the former playing little football so far due to injuries.
Speaking of which, king of assists Kevin De Bruyne is currently sidelined. But the team has shown no signs of missing him with eight goals scored in the last two games. Yet, there is still a need to remain cautious as the season is just half-way through.