This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
Arsene Wenger has stated that Aymeric Laporte’s absence could be a “big handicap” for Manchester City as they head into the vital clash against Liverpool on Sunday.
The champions will travel to Anfield this weekend for what can be regarded as a must-win for Pep Guardiola’s men. Should the Reds snatch three points over City, they will open up a nine-point lead at the top of the table.
Plus, when you consider Liverpool’s breathtaking form, such a convincing lead early on could be trouble for the current champions. One of the reasons City have been left chasing Liverpool is the weakness they have in their backline in the absence of their most trusted central defender.
And Wenger believes the injury to the French enforcer could be a significant factor on Sunday.
The former Arsenal man told beIN Sports (as quoted by the Mirror): “Well we have seen in recent years that they are very tight games.
“We know Man City will take the game to Liverpool, and that Liverpool will be very dangerous on the counter-attack.
“I personally feel they could not afford to lose [Aymeric] Laporte, Manchester City.
“If you look at their results, they still play great football but they are a fractionally a bit more vulnerable defensively. And that could be a big handicap against Liverpool.”
Laporte picked up the injury against Brighton & Hove Albion back in August and still faces many more months out after undergoing surgery.
The Frenchman’s absence has been heavily felt ever since and City came under pressure immediately after his injury. Within the weeks that followed, the champions would lose to Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, forcing the current six-point gap to open.
The likes of Fernandinho and Rodri have since had to step in at centre-back, but the main cause for concern has been Nicolas Otamendi. In the loss to Norwich, the Argentine committed a calamitous error which allowed Teemu Pukki to score and eventually snatch all three points.
Then, against Wolves, Adama Traore unlocked City’s defence twice late on with Otamendi at the back. Now, up against arguably Europe’s best front three at Anfield, Laporte’s absence is going to be felt more than ever.
The defender has been an almighty miss so far, and Guardiola needs him back as soon as possible.