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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Man City fans praying for Laporte need to remember the last two seasons

The return of Aymeric Laporte is awaited with a degree of anxiety by many Manchester City fans.

The French defender has become the mainstay of the Blues' defence in the last 12 months, and the long-term injury he suffered last month was a huge blow.
It was the equivalent of Liverpool losing Virgil Van Dijk, although in truth Jurgen Klopp now has greater strength in depth in that position with Joel Matip in form and Joe Gomez proving to be top quality.
City have suffered because their only replacement for Laporte was Nicolas Otamendi, a player who has meandered from one extreme to the other during his City career.
In the 2017-18 title season, City's hierarchy regarded him as the best centre back in the Premier League, and Pep Guardiola referred to him as “Superman”.
By the end of last season, he was fourth choice, and pondering a move back to Valencia in order to play more regularly – and a couple of costly, high-profile errors this season have underlined that sense of his time being past.
The old football adage that you are only as good as your last game holds true – Otamendi's problem is that his last game was the home defeat by Wolves in which he was partly culpable for both goals.
And the fact it was his moment of mental blankness that led to Norwich's 3-2 win, serves to underline that.
That was City's first defeat since April – when the Blues went out of the Champions League to Tottenham.
And in the second leg of that tie, which City won 4-3, it was Laporte who twice came up with errors which led to goals.
He hesitantly teed up Heung-min Son for the Spurs equaliser and then gave the ball away, directly leading to their second goal.
Laporte was outstanding last season, but in arguably the biggest game of the campaign, he came up with two major individual mistakes.
Guardiola is always confident when he loses players to injury or suspension, partly because he has a great squad, but largely because his game is about the system, rather than the individuals.
Like swapping machine parts, he takes one player out and puts in another, and the machine keeps functioning because there is an implicit understanding from those players, both of their own role and that of their teammates.
What Guardiola cannot legislate against is individual errors, such as those made by Laporte against Spurs last season, or by Otamendi this season.
Otamendi has shown in the past that he can compensate for his lack of pace, and cut out the individual gaffes.
If he can do that again, the wait for Laporte will be a lot less painful for City fans.

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