Two positions and three options to choose from (even a fourth possibility with Aké) with excellent performing. This is the great and happy dilemma that Pep Guardiola has to face at the start of this season, apart from his other and usual issue to take care of: where to play all the stars he has on the roster.
No doubt that the ‘Citizens’ had the best defenders duo last season, or at least within the top 3: Dias-Stones. Furthermore, both the high level shown with Spain in the EURO plus the astonishing start into the season by Laporte creates a debate on which two defenders should be starters. The competition is very high.
Rubén Dias adapted himself to both the Premier League and Guardiola´s request perfectly. However, he was expected to do so, as Manchester City paid up to 68 million euros for a 23 years old central defender, whose showing was elite. What it was not that expected is such an early outcome.
Dias found in the Premier League a championship where he feels comfortable since the beginning and that helped him to display his abilities. He has played almost every minute since he made his debut and won both the league title and the EFL Cup. On the other hand, he has been awarded as the Champions League Defender of the Season and Footballer of the Year in English football by the FWA (Football Writers Association). Guardiola has acquired through a high but worth investment what always looked for: solidity and hierarchy.
John Stones played alongside the Portuguese. They were both key players for Manchester City to lift their seventh Premier League title and reach their first Champions League final ever. My partner Rafael Berrezueta wrote last week about building the house from the bottom. It is clear than City are not a great example for that but, if Guardiola´s team was short of something, that was clearly defensive reliability, and he now has that with Dias and Stones.
Stones has shown in 2021 most of the potential in he displayed at Everton. Rubén Dias´ addition made a great difference on him after the doubtful performance he had on his first seasons at City and then he got back the confidence he needed so much. As a result, he has been a key player for England in the EURO. The most positive aspect both for Manchester City and the player himself is the regularity he has obtained on his performing level. This turned out into Laporte and Aké´s being left in the bench.
However, the situation could have been changed: the EURO is a great showcase that brings big opportunities and that is the way it has been with Aymeric Laporte. He has the main injured with Dias´sign, as he was left to the bench. Nevertheless, Laporte shined with Spain this summer and the Englishman recovery period has allowed him to play in the first fixtures of the season.
His ability to play the ball from backwards complements perfectly with Rubén Dias´qualities and he has shown an improvement defensively as well. Due to his positive return as a starter, the ‘Sky Blues’ fans agree with him to continue in the line-ups for now. The final decision will be made by Guardiola, as he counts on three of the best current central defenders in the world, for which many coaches might be jealous.
Translated by Guillermo Bermejo.