To say there’s a mistake in him is something of an understatement.
Eliaquim Mangala has been Manchester City’s weak link in the back line pretty much ever since he arrived in England.
Alongside any of City’s current centre-backs, Mangala looks out of place, and a big-money January move for Aymeric Laporte pretty much shows that despite the Blues’ current comfortable position in the league table, there was a clear need for an upgrade.
That move has allowed the French defender to talk to other clubs and find a transfer of his own, even if it’s just a temporary deal. And Sky Sports News are reporting that Everton are the team ‘confident’ of landing him on loan until the end of the season.
You can see, though, why Evertonians would have reservations about the defender. He is, after all, seen not just as a weak link in the City side, but also as a flop of epic proportions, having been signed for over £30m back when that was a significant outlay even for the Etihad Stadium side.
But there’s a reason why Mangala has looked so shaky, and it’s not because he’s a bad defender.
Indeed, the fact he’s big, powerful and good in the air means he’ll usually have something about him when it comes to keeping the ball away from the goal, but some of his underappreciated qualities include his bravery, his ability to get a block in and his reading of the game, which is better than his ability to sort out his feet suggest.
And yet, the reason all of that wasn’t enough at City is quite simply down to the style of play.
He wasn’t great under Manuel Pellegrini, but the gung-ho style under the former boss coupled with the on-again-off-again fitness of Vincent Kompany meant that anyone would have struggled. Since the arrival of Guardiola, he’s been sidelined mostly because of his lack of ability with the ball at his feet.
Mangala has always been seen as something of a rough diamond, but one which certainly can’t be cut into the John Stones or Gerard Pique mould. Instead, he is a hulking stopper more at home in a team playing with a deep line than one looking to take control of the game, passing and pressing their way to victory. City this season have played with a high line and the Frenchman is clearly uncomfortable with that scenario. But under Sam Allardyce at Everton this season, he might find that this is a new system which suits him quite well.
With no space behind him to worry about, defending on the turn will be less of a problem, and when you take that away and put him into a defence which is well-drilled and competent, like you’d hope Everton’s will be under Allardyce by the end of the season, you might see a very different looking player – one who isn’t forced to do the uncomfortable things, and one who now looks like a commanding presence, not one scared of his own four shadows in the floodlights.
To sweeten the deal, too, Mangala is a left-sided centre back, of which there aren’t too many around. And with left-back proving a problem position for Allardyce, it’s possible that the City defender could provide an unlikely versatility, potentially even filling in for Leighton Baines at certain times, too.
At the moment, there’s always a mistake in Mangala, but put him in a different context and he might well surprise you. Everton under Allardyce looks as good a place as any. And despite the doom and gloom around Goodison Park this season, there is still hope on the horizon, especially with a clever signing like this one.
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