Aymeric Laporte’s injury layoff has forced Pep Guardiola to make some difficult decisions at the back, including playing natural midfielder Fernandinho in central defense.
With Aymeric Laporte back in training and expected to return to the side soon, Manchester City’s season will really begin. The star French defender has been sorely missed so far this campaign, and his return will undoubtedly bolster the City backline and get the team back to their status as one of the world’s best teams. Fernandinho has performed admirably as a fill-in central defender, so much so, that he is now warranting consideration to be Laporte’s full-time partner at the back.
The Brazilian midfielder has played very well at times this season, and the 34-year old could even remain with the club beyond this year. Given the inconsistencies of John Stones and Nicolás Otamendi, Fernandinho is in serious contention along with youngster Eric García, who has played brilliantly in limited opportunities.
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Guardiola has routinely ruled out any January signings, meaning that City will need to find Laporte’s ideal partner should City want to contend in the Champions League this year. Stones has had his success next to Laporte before, and should get an opportunity to improve next to one of the world’s best defenders. A fit and in-form Stones playing with confidence is the best option in my opinion because he is a natural defender with the most experience, but should be fail to find his footing, I believe it should come down to García and Fernandinho.
García is a top prospect with a bright future that has already impressed at senior level, but given Guardiola’s wary nature when it comes to playing young talent, I believe he will go with the known quantity in Fernandinho. He has been often compared to Javier Mascherano during his time at Barcelona, where he was converted from defensive midfield to center-back, and much like Fernandinho did not have the ideal height or frame to play the position but was able to find success.
The prospect of Fernandinho remaining in defense does concern me somewhat because he is still clearly learning the position in a time where City will now be expected to kick on. Moreover, he will struggle to win aerial duels and often lunges for challenges that are acceptable in midfield but dangerous in and around the penalty area. Therefore, I believe City should at least try both Stones and García, and should neither solidify their place, turn to Fernandinho.