Manchester City supporters have been reasonably satisfied in recent times after seeing their side maintain their unbeaten start to the Premier League season on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola’s men went into their trip to fellow high-flyers Liverpool having won six and drawn the other of their opening seven league matches, sitting top of the pile on goal difference ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s Reds. And the two sides played out a goalless draw at Anfield on Sunday to keep both sides’ unbeaten starts very much intact, although the Citizens could be wondering what might have been had Riyad Mahrez converted his penalty five minutes from time after Virgil van Dijk fouled Leroy Sane in the box.
Nonetheless, there have been many satisfied City fans up and down the country in recent times, several of whom are likely to be intrigued by Jamie Redknapp’s Team of the Week (as published in The Daily Mail), which includes defender John Stones for his efforts at Anfield.
And while it’s hard to disagree with Redknapp’s verdict on the England international, fellow centre back Aymeric Laporte should really have joined the 24-year-old in his Team of the Week given his outstanding display in the heart of Guardiola’s backline.
Ultimately, much was made in the build-up to Sunday’s clash about the previous three meetings between City and Liverpool, what with the latter winning all three and scoring nine goals in the process.
And while there is no doubting that the front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah were slightly off it at Anfield on Sunday, some of that was down to the excellent defensive efforts of Stones, and some down to Laporte’s brilliance alongside him.
England international Stones has always been very calm and composed in possession in seeking to bring the ball out from the back and keep things simple, but his overall defensive qualities have been questioned in the past – yet some of those were put to bed at Anfield this weekend.
The 24-year-old was magnificent in dominating in the air and indeed along the ground, winning five of the six aerials he contested during the 90 minutes, as well as making some very important clearances, alongside the occasional block, interception, and tackle.
And if he was good, teammate Laporte was arguably even better in keeping the Liverpool frontmen extremely quiet, winning all five of the aerial duels he contested over the 90 minutes, making five clearances to relieve the pressure on the City backline, and indeed making a team-high three interceptions to underline his excellent reading of the game.
The duo rarely gave the likes of Firmino, Mane, or Salah a sniff when they got into the forward area, with goalkeeper Ederson having very little to do over the course of the 90 minutes – much of that was down to the efforts of Stones and Laporte.
They appear to be striking up a formidable partnership in the heart of Guardiola’s defence – there won’t be many, if any, sides that go to Anfield and come away with a clean sheet this term.
As such, while it’s difficult to argue with Redknapp’s inclusion of the England international in his Team of the Week, there really should be a place for Laporte in it as well.
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