Manchester City’s wonderful defence remains an underrated component of their team

While talking about the exploits and achievements of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side, most of the people primarily mention their outstanding midfield and attack. One usually talks about Kevin de Bruyne’s all-round brilliance, Bernardo Silva’s dribbling skills, or Erling Haaland’s machine-like efficiency in front of the goal. One even tends to praise Rodri’s amazing distribution and İlkay Gündoğan’s great knack of scoring important goals.

However, there is no way to ignore the importance of City’s wonderful defense that held firm in their 2-1 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup final. It meant that they became the 13th team to win the English league and cup double. United pressed hard for an equalizer after City had retaken the lead. However, United could score only once thanks to the defensive brilliance of Ruben Dias, Kyle Walker and Manuel Akanji.

Manchester City have gotten used to playing with a back-three

City has played with a 3-2-4-1 formation throughout the second half of the season, with John Stones partnering Rodri as a defensive midfielder. This has allowed Walker – who had lost his place in the starting eleven to Stones – to make his return to the team as the right-sided centre-back. Since then, he has done a wonderful job by using his pace to close down opposition right-wingers.

The same goes for Akanji, who had a wonderful duel with Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the FA Cup final. With Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish, playing as the wing-backs, the responsibility of Walker and Akanji increases considerably. They have done a remarkable job thus far. Akanji is a natural centre-back, but Walker has had to curb his attacking instincts to a large extent to stay inside his own half for the majority of the time.

Dias has also complemented them well, playing the role of a sweeper with great composure and assurance. He is easy on the ball and remains a clean tackler with good aerial prowess. He has emerged as the leader City’s defence required.

A big test awaits against Inter Milan

However, to really make the season an unforgettable one, Manchester City will have to win the UEFA Champions League, which has eluded them so far. Beating Inter Milan in the final is not going to be easy, meaning City’s defense will have to perform well.

Inter has the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Edin Džeko and Romelu Lukaku in their attack, with Nicolò Barella also joining them at times. Both Lukaku and Dzeko are big men, and will have great physical duels with Akanji and Walker. The aerial prowess of the Manchester City defenders might be tested against such big forwards.

Dias will have to be ready to deal with Martinez’s ball-skills, with Rodri potentially enjoying a great battle with Barella. However, City will take heart from the fact that they have two more solid defenders in Nathan Ake and Aymeric Laporte,. They will be on the bench, which allows Guardiola to call on their services at any time. They can also have a five-man defense should the situation demand so. Hence, Guardiola should not be too worried, knowing very well that his team has a great defense.

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