Since joining Manchester City in 2013 as part of the club’s youth academy, Jason Denayer has failed to establish himself as a consistent member of the side’s first team. The 23-year-old has endured a number of loan spells away from the Etihad, including clubs such as Galatasaray, Celtic, and Sunderland.
Now, the Belgian has finally secured a permanent move away from Manchester, joining Ligue 1’s Olympique Lyon.
Having failed in following the likes of Phil Foden – who has managed to emerge as City’s brightest home-grown talents in an era of regular blockbuster signings – Denayer now has the chance to fulfill his potential.
Are Manchester City’s backup options at centre-back strong enough to cope with the hole left by Denayer? Let’s take a look.
Denayer is a versatile defender, able to occupy a central-defensive role as part of a partnership as well as having the ability to play at right-back.
While on loan at Galatasaray last season, the Belgian enjoyed an impressive campaign in which he tallied 22 appearances, even bagging a goal. The 23-year-old also averaged 1.6 aerial duels won per game, with an impressive pass success rate of 89.5%.
Denayer also featured in two of City’s pre-season fixtures against Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool.
Against Dortmund, Denayer played a total of 67 minutes, winning all of his aerial duels (one) and averaging a 97% pass success rate. Against Liverpool, the Belgian played 46 minutes, again, winning all aerial duels (two) and achieving a 90% pass success rate.
So far, against Arsenal and Huddersfield, Pep Guardiola has played two varying systems. During their 2-0 win over Arsenal, Pep played his more conventional 4-3-3, with a partnership of Stones and Laporte in defence.
Meanwhile, against Huddersfield, the gaffer was forced to change to a three-at-the-back system due to the absence of Kyle Walker. Here, Vincent Kompany stepped in at the heart of City’s defence, with Stones and Laporte either side of him and Benjamin Mendy and Bernando Silva as wing-backs.
Judging by Pep’s tendencies in choosing his squad so far this season, it’s safe to assume a partnership of Laporte and Stones is his first choice, meaning three names are left to fill the space: Otamendi, Kompany, and Eliaquim Mangala – the latter of which you’d be forgiven for forgetting he was still at the club.
Mangala only featured in two league games while on loan at Everton last season, so I’ve instead decided his stats at Valencia the previous season would represent his ability more fairly.
As you can see in the above picture, each of the players have both impressive and unimpressive stats across the board.
Remarkably, Eliaquim Mangala tops the table in defence score with 212.19, with Vincent Kompany sitting at rock-bottom with 31.80.
Meanwhile, Nicolas Otamendia tops to table with the most tackles won (43), but Mangala follows closely behind with 40 whilst playing in four less games.
In terms of total duels won, all three defenders stand shoulder to shoulder. Veteran centre-half Vincent Kompany edges out the others with a duel-winning percentage 49.5%. Meanwhile, Mangala again comes second with 48.2%.
Finally, regarding the number of errors leading to a goal, Otamendi surprisingly comes out the worst, despite being such a key figure in the defence of City’s dominant displays last season.
He totalled three errors that led to a goal, while Vincent Kompany tallied zero. In the middle of the pack comes Mangala, who made just one error for Valencia that led to a goal.
Perhaps it might be surprising to some to see Nicolas Otamendi perform so poorly in the statistics shown, given the Argentine gave such consistent performances for the Sky Blues last season.
Given that Vincent Kompany is now nearing the end of his career at Manchester City, it’s hard to imagine Pep Guardiola including him in any of his long-term plans. The decline in his appearances for City in the last few seasons shows as much.
However, it would be interesting to see how well Eliaquim Mangala could do for City if given ample opportunity.
City’s attack is so strong that it often relieves pressure for their defence. At 27-years-old, he’s the youngest out of the three, which technically means his career at the club has more longevity.
Nevertheless, Manchester City’s squad depth is unreal. Their desire to continuously improve as shown by the big-money signings they make annually is what makes them the most dominant force in English football.
With this in mind, don’t be surprised if they add to their defensive ranks sometime in the near future.
And regarding finding a replacement for Jason Denayer, I’m sure they’ll cope just fine.