It’s safe to safe that Manchester City need defensive reinforcements. The performance of Martin Demichellis at the weekend was that of a man who is indeed of some twilight years in the USA or China, while Vincent Kompany’s calves must surely be starting to come away from his body after his 13th injury to the muscle in five years.
Nicolas Otamendi has been good at times but equally woeful at others and Eliquim Mangala cannot be trusted. The job facing Pep Guardiola is a tough one.
He simply has to start at the back, he has to buy two, possibly even three central defenders if his City side are to mount a serious assault on the Premier League title. It would seem wise that at least one of those players possesses Premier League experience.
At the risk of coming across all ignorant pundit, it can occasionally take time for a player to settle into a league. It’s not necessarily the style of play or the opponents they are facing but it can also be their surroundings, the language and simply homesickness. Footballers are human too.
There has been much talk of John Stones heading to Manchester. That may well happen, but he is not a reliable defender at this stage. He makes regular mistakes and he has been consigned to the bench in recent weeks at Everton. City need someone who can have a consistent and decisive impact from the moment they are signed.
Instead, Guardiola should focus his attentions elsewhere. And the one man who should be top of Premier League shopping list is Virgil van Dijk.
The Saints general has been superb this season after what seemed to be a bit of a patchy start to life in the Premier League. After finding his feet in his first few games the Dutchman has gone on to be one of the division’s most impressive defenders, forming a an excellent partnership with Jose Fonte and easing the pain felt at the loss of the sublime Toby Alderweireld.
Van Dijk has everything needed to be the perfect centre-half at the top of the game. He is pacey, strong and positionally superb, while his composure on the ball, distribution and eye for goal (he has three in his 30 appearances and is a free-kick specialist) should make him even more appealing to the incoming Man City boss.
At just 24 years old he already has a wealth of experience in the British game after two seasons with Celtic and is sure to add to his three caps for the Dutch national side. Statistics site Squawka even ranks the former Groningen man as the best defender in the top-flight.
According to the website the Southampton stopper has not made a single defensive error in his 27 league outings and he seems to grow in stature every week. It looks like Ronald Koeman’s decision to bring him from Scotland was an inspired one and he should face a struggle to keep him at St Mary’s for much longer than the summer.
Any bid for Van Dijk would surely have to be north of £20m, after all he’s not even been with the club for a season, but it is not as if City don’t have the money. Koeman’s style has many similarities to that of Pep’s would mean he could easily slip into Guardiola’s system and should City come knocking it would be hard for the defender to say no.
Another man that could be in the City boss to-be’s thoughts is Winston Reid, but somehow that move just doesn’t seem to fit. The New Zealander is a pivotal player for West Ham and is a massive part of the reason they are in contention for a Champions League spot.
He is a physical presence who dominates strikers and allows others to then utilise the ball, much in the mould of Citizen’s skipper Vincent Kompany. While Guardiola initiated a cull at Barcelona, selling the likes of Ronaldinho, it would be a big call to get rid of Kompany, and a pairing of he and Reid does not seem very ‘Pep-like’.
In all honesty, there are few central defenders on these shores who would be available and are deserving of the chance to work under the 45-year-old. Van Dijk’s performances this term have earned him that right.
The Netherlands international is the sort of player who could develop massively under Guardiola and while his progression so far is down in part to Ronald Koeman, you would imagine that a chance to work with the planet’s most sought-after coach could see him scale new levels.