Football FanCast columnist David Mooney wonders if it is just coincidence that Kompany’s return has seen Man City look stronger defensively.
After five goals in two games and two clean sheets for Roberto Mancini as the new City boss, you could be forgiven for thinking something had changed at the club. And you’d be right. So, that concludes another in-depth article from me and I’ll be back with more soon…
Oh, you want more now? Okay – I can do that.
The biggest and most notable change in City in the last two games is how much more solid the defence has looked. It recent weeks it’s been about as stable as a toddler taking their first steps on a high piece of scaffolding balanced precariously on several plates of jelly standing unsecured on a mound of ball bearings. In a wind tunnel. During an earthquake.
The point is it’s been shaky. And, more importantly, it’s been leaking goals easily and more frequently than a government department can leak emails.
I’m not entirely convinced if it’s been through merit that he’s been picked or if the situation has been a lack of match-fit players, but since Mr. Mancini arrived there’s been a big Belgian at the back for City, who had previously been overlooked in favour of two summer signings as the centre-back pairing.
And before Mancini took charge, City’s last clean sheet in the league came against Birmingham. Before Mancini took charge, that was Vincent Kompany’s last start in the centre of defence. In the Premiership, the Lescott and Touré partnership has produced just one clean sheet – against Portsmouth at Fratton Park in August.
That’s not to say that Lescott and Touré are bad players, far from it. What it is to say is that something was clearly not working at the heart of City’s defence and that pairing had conceded 20 goals in 11 games, which, let’s face it, is rubbish. And that’s including games against Burnley and Bolton, where three goals (each) went past them. That does, however, have to take into account the fact that the fullbacks could often be seen closer to the opposition’s goal line than City’s, irrespective of who was in possession of the ball.
And from what I saw of him last season – bearing in mind he played most of last season injured and played it well despite that – I think Kompany should be battling with Lescott and Touré for one of those centre back positions, especially since Nigel de Jong is going from strength to strength in the middle of the pitch where the Belgian played last year. Not only does he look assured and comfortable on the ball, but he brings to the defence confidence and leadership.
Oh, and a six foot four, 13 stone frame that doesn’t shirk away from making a challenge.
The defence needed to be tightened; that was one of Mancini’s first jobs. There have been far too many games this season where it’s looked like all the opposition have to do is send the ball into City’s box and it would cause the red alert alarms to sound, panic to spread, arms to be waved around like crazy and, soon enough, a goal be scored. But in the space of two games, the new manager has kept two clean sheets and not had one moment of tension in the City box from a cross or long ball and, personally, I think that that has happened when Kompany has started has been no coincidence.
Having lost his place in midfield through a combination of injury and the subsequent top quality form of Nigel de Jong, Kompany now being available to play at the centre of defence is like having a new signing. Many City fans, judging by nothing more than my own subjective browsing of various internet mediums, had forgotten that he was at the club purely because of how little he had been involved this season.
And now, with Onuoha and Lescott injured, Richards over at right back and Touré soon to head off to the African Cup of Nations, Kompany will get a chance at an extended run in the first team. With his eagerness to get his head on every cross coming in, his willingness to throw himself in front of the ball, his bravery to go in for a tackle when he knows he might get hurt and that odd swagger he has when he’s just crunched an opposition player in winning the ball (fairly, too), he should be staking a claim for a regular place at centre back.
And then it’s up to Touré and/or Lescott to prove they merit their places because, since they signed, neither has truly covered themselves in glory on a regular basis. There’s been a certain steel, a firm-but-fair hardman, if you will, missing from City’s back four this season.
One of the biggest reasons a lot of City fans liked Richard Dunne was because he was prepared to do all the things I said above: put his body on the line to stop the ball going into the net, go in to tough tackles and head every ball coming in from every angle. And that is something I see in Kompany.
Give it a few seasons of regular improvement for both Kompany and the City team, and I think you’re looking at him as the future club captain.
NEW Soccer AM IIII DVD OUT NOW – Order your copy now
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Helen Chamberlain, Max Rushden and the rest of the Soccer Am crew tackle the task of unearthing the team of their dreams.
Tubes, Health and Safety, Rocket and Baby Elvis are among the familiar faces joining Helen and Max to indulge in a special set of sketches, including Kung Fu Academy, Third Eyes and the return of the £10 Goal Celebration.
Who makes it through the filter of football’s funniest show as the Greatest Team In The World?
Does the Premier League take precedence or does La Liga lead the way??
NEW Soccer AM IIII DVD OUT NOW – Order your copy now