When Manchester City legend, Vincent Kompany left the club for Anderlecht in 2019, Guardiola’s biggest task was to find a replacement. However, he either failed to recognize the vacuum left by his inspirational captain or he just wanted to take a gamble.
The consequences were a shambolic defense of the Premier League title. This followed an exit from the UEFA Champions League at the hands of Lyon. In both competitions, City’s defensive fragility was laid bare.
Pep experimented with Fernandinho and Rodri as part of a defensive pairing with Laporte. Sometimes, he was forced to pair the former whenever Laporte was unavailable. By the end of the 2019/20 season, the extent of the vacuum left by Kompany was clear to Pep and City.
Dias’ Move to Manchester City
It became more and more evident that City needed a perfect replacement for Kompany. This resulted in the purchase of Ruben Dias from Benfica.
Two days before the arrival of Dias, City suffered a humiliating 5-2 defeat to Leicester which heightened the fear of another season with a defensive crisis. Dias’ arrival laid to rest any fear of more defensive struggles.
The Portuguese brought to Manchester City that leadership quality exhibited by Kompany throughout his stay at the club. Dias is vocal, composed in possession, and dominates aerially. He is not afraid to put his body on the line to intercept a pass or block a shot. His blocks in the second leg of the semi-final match against PSG in the UEFA Champions League put social media into a frenzy. Importantly, he forged a great partnership with the often unreliable John Stones at the heart of City’s defense. In the process confined, Laporte who arguably was City’s best defender before his arrival to a bit-part role. His impact at City has been outstanding and obvious too. Manchester City conceded fewer goals compared to the season before he came. Also, Dias reached City’s first-ever UEFA Champions League final whilst reclaiming the Premier League title.
● Dias played a role in 16 of the 18 clean sheets kept by City as of matchday 35. He only featured in 30 of those matches. ● Alongside teammate Rodri, Dias completed the most passes of any player in the League as of matchday 35 (2,566).
● Dias averages a pass accuracy of 93.9% in the Premier League. Only teammate John Stones has a better pass accuracy.
● 18 goals conceded in Dias 30 Premier league matches as of matchday 35. City conceded 34 goals in 35 matches the previous season.
● City concedes less than a goal (0.6) in every 90 minutes Dias features. At this time last season, they concede 0.97 goals every 90 minutes.
Final Thoughts on Dias
Dias’ impact has not gone unnoticed at Manchester City and in the Premier League. Diad touted as a contender for the Premier League Player of the Year award alongside teammate Ikay Gundogan is well deserved. When asked for his choice of the best player in the Premier League, former Liverpool and Manchester United striker, Micheal Owen said: “Ruben Dias is my player of the season.”
Portugal legend Pepe placed Dias above himself when he called him (Dias) “The best Portuguese center-back in the world.”
His coach at City was in buoyant mood following City’s 2-0 defeat of Manchester United in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup when he said: “Congrats to Txiki [City’s sporting director] and the club for bringing this player [Dias] here because he will be outstanding for many years to come.”
Of course, Dias has been outstanding this season; he brought security to the team and helped improved John Stones. Thanks to his addition, City have a chance to claim their first-ever UEFA Champions League title, having won the League and the Carabao Cup.
It is still uncertain if this will continue ‘for many years to come’ as Guardiola said. If Dias keeps playing top-level Football and winning Trophies regularly, it won’t be long before he becomes one of the very best defenders in Football.