Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Tottenham on Saturday marked only the second time in which Nicolas Otamendi hasn’t started a Premier League game for Pep Guardiola’s side this season, and the significance of that should not be overlooked.
While some will look back at the Argentina international’s worryingly unfocused performance in the Manchester derby, particularly culpable for Chris Smalling’s winner, affording January signing Aymeric Laporte the game-time to prove himself at the heart of defence was most probably Guardiola’s ultimate motivation.
It’s never easy for a young player to come into a title-chasing team mid-season and with City’s Premier League title a mere formality even before Manchester United’s shock defeat to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, the visit to Wembley marked a chance for Guardiola to test the young Frenchman against good quality opposition in strong form.
Not only do Spurs boast a real beast of a goalscorer up front in Harry Kane, but they hadn’t lost a Premier League clash since the reverse fixture at the Etihad Stadium back in December.
And it was an impressive performance from Laporte, who certainly looked the part alongside Vincent Kompany. While an admittedly out-of-sources and isolated Kane failed to register a single effort at goal, the former Athletic Bilbao centre-half made the most interceptions and won the joint-most aerial duels of any City player, also ranking joint-second for clearances and joint-third for tackles.
What will impress Guardiola most though, is how the 23-year-old contributed in possession as well – something obviously vitally important to this City side.
He had the most touches of the ball and made the most passes of any City player, although a completion rate of 84% may need to be improved upon to ensure the new Premier League champions don’t squander possession to high presses.
That display will only worry Otamendi, and even more John Stones. Whereas Laporte’s chance to audition in a tough game has inevitably put the South American’s place in the first team under some threat, at least in the short term, the injured Englishman now feels as far down the pecking order as he’s ever been since moving to the Etihad Stadium from Everton.
So, City fans, which centre-back do you think is the ideal partner for Kompany (fitness permitting) next season?
Let us know by voting below…