3 ways Man City can cope with the injury to Aymeric Laporte
Having completed back-to-back Premier League triumphs last season, Man City have once again made a blistering start to the ongoing campaign and manager Pep Guardiola is likely to be happy with the kind of form that his team has shown in the first four games.
A 4-0 demolition of Brighton and Hove Albion at home meant that the Citizens went into the international break placed second in the standings, just a couple of points behind pace-setters and nearest title rivals Liverpool.
Indeed, that was another dominant display from the reigning champions last week and one that would certainly have made Guardiola proud of his team.
That victory, though, came at the expense of centre-back Aymeric Laporte, who was stretchered off against the Seagulls after suffering damage to his knee ligament. The Frenchman underwent surgery on his knee and he is now set for a long spell on the sidelines, possibly up till the New Year period or even beyond.
Fernandinho came off the bench for his first appearance of the Premier League this season to plug the hole at the back and, while the Brazilian looked comfortable on the day in an unfamiliar position, Guardiola will know that he has tougher tests ahead.
Well, it doesn’t require a rocket scientist to figure out that Laporte’s injury comes as an unfathomable loss to Man City, given that he has been one of the mainstays of the club’s backline over the past 18 months or so.
To be honest, it is the sort of twist that might just tilt the title race in favour of Liverpool if the Citizens struggle to cope with the Frenchman’s injury.
Guardiola has always preferred to build his backline around Laporte, owing to his technical skills and impressive well-rounded attributes, however, given that he is now set to be out of action for a while, it will be interesting to see how the Spaniard uses his acumen to keep his defence intact.
Here are 3 possible suggestions as to how Man City could cope with the injury to Laporte:-
1. Use John Stones to partner Otamendi
Guardiola opted against bringing in a like-for-like replacement when veteran Vincent Kompany departed Etihad earlier in the summer, a stance that probably had a lot to do with his faith in John Stones.
Stones started in the 5-0 drubbing of West Ham on the opening day of the season but he has missed the subsequent fixtures with an injury, although the England international is expected to return action after the international break.
With that in mind, Laporte’s absence should not be a massive headache for City but it is worth mentioning here that Stones has proven himself to be an injury-prone defender in the past, one whose health cannot be trusted week in, week out. Hence, if Stones, too, takes his place on the treatment table, City would find themselves in a complete mess.
Also, another issue with Stones in his temperament in dealing with the pressure of high-octane encounters. A reliable presence at the back more often than not, the England international has a habit of letting his team down with occasional lapses in concentration, which has somewhat stalled his progress at City since his move from Everton.
Despite that, however, he looks like City’s best bet to deal with the current crisis.
2. Dip into the academy ranks
Guardiola has proven in the past that he is not afraid to put his trust in the youngsters if they are good enough to do the job for him, as evident from the way the manager backed Oleksandr Zinchenko to cope with the absence of Benjamin Mendy.
As well as that, Guardiola chose to field quite a few unfamiliar faces in the Carabao Cup, including the likes of Arijanet Muric and centre-back Eric Garcia.
Garcia, who joined from Barcelona earlier in his career, is highly-rated in the youth ranks at the Etihad and the way he grabbed his opportunity with both hands last season might convince Guardiola to include him in his plans for the Premier League games.
The 18-year-old is still some way down the pecking order but it is not unusual to see teenagers making the step up to the first team and proving their credentials.
3. Kyle Walker can play at centre-back
Although City never invested in a new centre-back this summer, they were smart enough to bring in Joao Cancelo as cover and competition for Kyle Walker, a stance that might help them cope with the temporary absence of Laporte.
Walker has demonstrated his ability to play as a centre-back in Gareth Southgate’s back-three system for England and it certainly sounds plausible that Guardiola might call upon his services at the heart of the defence if John Stones continues to struggle with injuries.
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The Englishman wouldn’t be missed at right-back, given that Cancelo would slot perfectly into that role.