It may sound like comparing oranges to apples, as Erling Haaland grabs the headlines week-in-week-out for scoring the goals at Manchester City while Manuel Akanji was brought in to protect City’s goal. However, Haaland’s goals will mean little or nothing if the back door is not kept shut by the defenders.
Manchester City have not won the Champions League for that very reason. The Blues have been dumped out of the competition time and time again in the last several years on the odd goal or the away goals rule. So as much as it’s been important to bring in a top goal scorer, it has also been important to strengthen the back line.
Enter Manuel Akanji.
It’s a signing that came out of the blue. The Swiss international was not linked with a departure from Borussia Dortmund in the transfer window despite having just a year left on his contract with the German side. Neither were City actively in the market for a centre-back.
But with the team having problems at the back and in need of cover for the several players struggling with injuries, bringing in an experienced defender became a necessity. A solution had to be found fast.
As can be expected, the executives at the Etihad Stadium made the right moves quickly and the player was secured with not much stress. Akanji fits the bill for a player needed to walk right into the team and perform.
It was a signing borne out of necessity as a result of the circumstances. Yet the City hierarchy made a very calculated move that brought in the right player at the right time for the club. At a time several City defenders are struggling with injuries, the 28-year-old stepped into the team and fit in seamlessly.
His performance impressed legendary centre-backs from both sides of Manchester. Working as pundits for BT Sports for the game, both Rio Ferdinand and Joleon Lescott had kind words to say about the defender while analysing City’s game against Sevilla.
“He was in the right places at the right time and that is the exact performance you want as a centre-half and if you can get through the game being comfortable and getting used to your surroundings, that is great. He looks to be a great signing,” Lescott said of his performance.
It’s unlikely Akanji will feature regularly when all of City’s centre-backs are fit and available for selection. But if the last several seasons are anything to go by, they are rarely all fit.
It’s in such cases that Akanji will prove as important as Haaland. While the Norwegian will be relied upon to get the all-important goals, Akanji will be available to provide needed cover at the back when necessary to see out wins.