According to a report by The Express, Manchester City are considering a move to sign a centre-back after the injury blow suffered by Aymeric Laporte. Guardiola has now identified Inter Milan defender Milan Skriniar as an ideal centre-back replacement (temporarily) for Laporte and might even consider signing him in January.
The long term injury suffered by Laporte would mean City would now be without their best centre-back for a number of months after he underwent surgery on a knee injury sustained in a tackle against Brighton.
Pep Guardiola will be at least thankful the Frenchman didn’t suffer a torn ACL, as was initially feared, but instead damaged the cartilage and lateral meniscus in his knee.
The injury blow is still set to rule the centre-back out for a number of months regardless which leaves Pep Guardiola with just Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones as senior centre-back options.
Fernandinho replaced the injured Laporte and did well in his absence – Guardiola could also call on youngsters Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis if required but City are still short on numbers at the back.
Following the events, the Daily Mirror have now reported that Guardiola is interested in launching another move to sign the highly-rated Skriniar.
It’s claimed that City targeted him in the summer but had their interested rebuffed and now the Citizens may make another attempt.
Guardiola did want to sign another centre-back in the summer following the departure of Vincent Kompany but passed up on the chance to sign Harry Maguire after claiming City couldn’t afford the Englishman.
It’s reported that Guardiola is still looking to add a defender and 24-year-old Skriniar is again set to be turned to as Laporte’s interim replacement.
Will the possible signature of the Italian international be a move worth it? Further analysis will show stats comparing Skriniar and Laporte’s performances from last season. Perhaps we’ll know why Guardiola is keen on the 24-year-old.
Last season, Laporte was highly praised as one of the top-performing centre backs in the EPL. His stats showed he made an average of 1.2 tackles, 1.1 interceptions and 0.3 blocks per game (via Whoscored).
As impressive as it may seem, it paled in comparison to stats of Skriniar at 1.8 tackles, 0.8 interceptions and 0.8 blocks per game (via Whoscored).
Stating the obvious fact, that Guardiola would like to bring in someone with equal or a better defensive grit than Laporte could offer. In this case, it would appear to be the latter as Skriniar is more solid defensively.
Also, both players were constants for their teams featuring in at least 34 league appearances out of a possible 38 games. However, Skriniar managed to amass 93 minutes more than Laporte did (3150 compared to 3057). Fitness, as well as quality, is what Guardiola is looking out for and once again Skriniar fits this bill properly.
Perhaps this is what makes Laporte standout compared to other centre-backs. His ability to produce a good performance and balance at both ends of the pitch make him a very “irreplaceable” player.
As far as offensive contributions go, not many centre-backs can match the Frenchman’s numbers.
Last season, Laporte had an impressive five goals and three assists in all competitions with an average of 0.7 shots and 0.4 key passes per game. Not bad stats for a centre-back.
The difference is obviously clear in comparison with Skriniar who could only manage one assist all season with a lesser average of 0.4 shots and 0.2 key passes per game.
In this regard, Laporte is by far the clear winner.
Yet even more reason why Laporte would be hugely missed by City.
Guardiola is well known for wanting to play out from the back and it’s why he always makes sure all personnel (goalkeepers inclusive) are great passers of the ball.
In actual fact, Laporte and Skriniar have great passing stats any centre-back would be proud of but once again Laporte shows just how much more he can add to a game.
Last season, Skriniar made an average of 68.6 passes per game with an accuracy of 92.6%. The City man still boasted more passes with an average of 85.6 per game and an almost equal accuracy (to Skriniar) at 92.3%. This will still suggest Laporte is a better passer of the ball considering he attempts way more per game.
Also, Laporte’s 4.9 long balls per 90 minutes is significantly better than that of Skriniar at 3.6 per 90 minutes. Which is why the City man was able to rack up three assists from the back compared to Skriniar who could only manage one.
It’s obvious Guardiola’s intention is to bring more solidity in the heart of City’s defence.
Skriniar might not be as offensive as Laporte but if he’ll be coming to City in January then Guardiola will solely want him to focus on his main duties – defensive stability and Skriniar will most likely do just that.
Even at that, playing in a more attacking and possession-oriented team will see Skriniar’s offensive numbers improve too and might just make it am a herculean task for Laporte to displace him when he returns.
In a nutshell, 24-year-old Skriniar would be the “ideal” cover for Laporte if they can secure his services come January.