Man City: Does Guardiola trust Stones and Otamendi to cover for Laporte?

“If his injury is as bad as it looks, it shifts the title towards Anfield. It is that big.”

That was BBC pundit Jermaine Jenas’s reaction on Match of the Day, a few hours after seeing Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte carried off on a stretcher during their win over Brighton on 31 August.

When the extent of Laporte’s knee injury was assessed over the international break, the news was not good for the Frenchman, or City.

While the 25-year-old left-sided centre-back avoided the fate of team-mate Leroy Sane, who is sidelined until March after damaging his anterior cruciate ligament during the Community Shield, he is still not expected to return to action until the start of 2020, at the earliest.

If that prognosis is correct, Laporte will miss at least 15 Premier League games, City’s entire Champions League group campaign and the start of their Carabao Cup defence.

It adds up to about a third of City’s season, so we are about to find out just how important he is – especially because City’s two remaining senior centre-backs have played together a lot less than you might think.

Aymeric Laporte played in 51 out of 61 games for Manchester City last season and helped his side win the domestic treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup, plus the Community Shield

‘Laporte absence is like Liverpool losing Van Dijk’

Since he joined City from Athletic Bilbao for £57m at the start of 2018, it has largely been ‘Laporte and one other’ at the centre of City’s defence, although he has occasionally moved over to cover at left-back.

City’s centre-backs since Laporte joined (Premier League only)
Who played? Games started together Win % Goals conceded per game
Laporte & Otamendi 16 88% 0.6
Laporte & Stones 15 73% 0.6
Laporte & Kompany 11 91% 0.5
Otamendi & Kompany 6 67% 0.8
Stones & Otamendi 3 67% 0
Stones & Kompany 2 100% 1
Laporte & Stones & Kompany 1 100% 1
Fernandinho & Otamendi 1 100% 1
Laporte & Otamendi & Kompany 1 100% 1

“Laporte is their gladiator at the back – City’s leader and number one defender,” said BBC pundit Chris Sutton. “So it is going to be interesting to see how they cope without their main man.

“He is for City what Virgil van Dijk is for Liverpool. Of course it is important that he can bring the ball out so well, but his main job is defending. He makes City more solid, and he gives them stability right through the team.

“Pep called Laporte the best left-sided centre-back in Europe last month for a reason. Losing him affects the dynamic of the whole back four, and he will be a massive part missing from their team.”

Does Pep trust a Stones-Otamendi partnership?

Pep Guardiola has picked a defensive partnership of Otamendi and Stones only six times in the past 20 months

With John Stones also on his way back from injury, and no replacement signed since Vincent Kompany left in the summer, Guardiola currently has only one fully fit senior centre-back – Nicolas Otamendi.

In the short-term at least, City can use Fernandinho to plug the gap.

The 34-year-old Brazilian holding-midfielder was training as a centre-back