Last weekend’s 4-0 win against Brighton didn’t come without sacrifice for Manchester City. Superstar center back Aymeric Laporte damaged the cartilage and lateral meniscus in his right knee after a challenge with Brighton defender Adam Webster in the 32nd minute.
The Frenchman is expected to miss the rest of 2019 and joins John Stones on the list of center backs that are currently injured. With club legend Vincent Kompany having left at the end of last season and the inability to sign a replacement in the summer, Nicolas Otamendi is the only healthy central defender the club has.
For the rest of the game against Brighton, Pep Guardiola deployed Fernandinho out of position in Laporte’s stead, and he performed well. This isn’t the first time he’s played in the CB spot, however, having played there during the Champions League round of 16 ties against FC Schalke 04 last season. With new signing Rodri’s designated position as the heir to Fernandinho, he can easily fill that role while the brazillian helps fill the gaps in defense.
John Stone’s minor muscular issue should mean that the 25 year old England international is available after the international break and hopefully he can stay healthy during the CB shortage.
Another more unconventional choice could be right back Kyle Walker. While not Walker’s natural position, he has played as part of a CB trio for England under Gareth Southgate, and the other marquee summer signing Joao Cancelo can finally get solid playtime at right back after his move from Juventus.
Pep could also trust in the youth and play 18 year old Eric Garcia. The Spain under-19 international got his first action in the starting XI against Leicester City in last season’s Carabao Cup competition, playing all 90 minutes in the penalty shootout win against the Foxes, as well as the two semifinal legs against Burton Albion. After joining City in the summer of 2017 for just under $2 million from Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, I think it’s time Garcia broke into the first team like Phil Foden did.
While all of these are options at Pep Guardiola’s disposal, none of them are going to be able to truly fill the crucial role that Laporte played in City’s defense. Since joining the club in January of 2018 from Athletic Bilbao, Laporte has played the most Premier League minutes of any defender on the team (4,171), made the most tackles out of any defender on the team (54), made the most interceptions of any player on the team (58), and completed the most passes out of any player on the team (3,820).
All City fans, myself included, wish Aymeric a speedy recovery.