For all Man City’s attacking prowess, you could argue their most impressive player this season is a defender.
Aymeric Laporte has featured in every game this season, bar an away trip to Oxford United in the League Cup.
That’s not to be taken lightly, given Pep Guardiola’s fondness for rotation.
The Frenchman has done a decent job at left-back when called upon, but he has excelled at centre-back.
With John Stones, Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi (and Eliaquim Mangala…) for competition, Laporte has risen to the top of Guardiola’s pecking order.
And City’s defence is all the better for it.
The 24-year-old’s timing of a tackle has been sublime this campaign.
Dominant in the air, he scored his second header of the season against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night.
It’s almost incomprehensible that neither France nor Spain have capped Laporte at senior level to end the other’s hopes of securing his international future.
Didier Deschamps and Luis Enrique both have Barcelona/Real Madrid combinations at centre-back currently — Umtiti-Varane and Pique-Ramos.
But Laporte could be of a similar level in a few years’ time.
And Spain’s long-serving defenders are both the ‘wrong side’ of 30.
Laporte’s £57million switch from Athletic Bilbao to Man City is the perfect example of how a January transfer should work.
Too often, clubs bring in new personnel halfway through the season in hope they will instantly solve a problem.
Quick fixes rarely work.
City blooded Laporte at the right times and allowed him to get adjust to the league steadily.
The benefits of this approach are there for all to see this season.
Obviously it’s a lot easier to do this when you have a 15-point lead at the top of the table.
Laporte guaranteed himself a Premier League winners’ medal the moment he signed City’s proposed contract.
Perhaps that eased the pressure on his infancy in English football?
Still, the framework holds up — drip-feed a player over six months and watch them flourish the season after.
Clubs could do a lot worse than following City’s methods these days.
- How much should you actually hate your club’s rivals?
- The media are biased against your club because we all support your rivals
- Why Fernandinho is, for me, the most underrated footballer in Premier League history