Aymeric Laporte

Manchester City’s defence could soon be back to full strength with the return of Aymeric Laporte.

The centre-back hasn’t played a minute this season due to injury after undergoing knee surgery in May. It looked as if Laporte’s campaign was over at the worst possible time last term, with less than three games to go and Liverpool still matching City stride for stride.

Pep Guardiola was already desperately low on defensive options due to injuries elsewhere, with Ruben Dias, John Stones and Kyle Walker all unavailable, forcing Fernandinho to reprise his role as an emergency centre-back. Laporte went off with an injury in the 5-1 over Wolves and City suddenly looked in deep trouble.

But when the next match came around, there Laporte was, in the starting XI. The Spanish international bravely played through the pain when his side needed him most and helped drag them over the line to claim the title. If he hadn’t have played, City might have lost out to their great rivals.

That selfless sacrifice has seen him miss all the action so far this season. Thankfully for City, Laporte is now back in training and should hopefully be able to return after the international break. But getting back into the team might not be quite as easy as that.

With Laporte sidelined and the lack of centre-back options made clear when the likes of Stones and Nathan Ake suffered injuries in the early days of this season, City moved to make a late addition to their squad and bring in some reinforcements. On deadline day, in came Manuel Akanji.

It was a last-minute, unplanned move that even took the former Borussia Dortmund man by surprise. The Bundesliga club had made Akanji available all summer, but had no suitors until City came along. The Swiss international was snagged for a mere £15million and it’s already looking like a great bargain.

Akanji came in for his debut after just one training session with his teammates in the Champions League opener versus Sevilla and put in an assured, confident display at the back. A week later he had a swift reunion with his former club and repeated the trick, keeping Dortmund’s attacking talent largely quiet in the clash, completely blameless for Jude Bellingham’s goal.

Then on Saturday, Akanji started his third game in succession and was handed his Premier League debut. A strikerless Wolves who were down to 10 men before the break was hardly the biggest test but he still didn’t put a foot wrong in a composed introduction to English football.

Three games, three wins, two clean sheets and suddenly City look much more capable of dealing with several injuries. Thanks to Akanji.

When Laporte is available again City will have a lot of strong competition for two places, but it’s certainly Akanji’s spot for now. Guardiola has a history of not dropping his centre-backs if they give them no reason to do so.

Laporte has been on the receiving end of this before. In the 2020/21 season, he was dropped after a poor display against Spurs and lost his spot to Stones, who did so well that Laporte struggled to get back into the team and finished the season with just 16 league appearances. The roles were reversed last term when it was Stones who suffered an injury and Laporte then made himself undroppable.

Now the both of them may suffer the same fate again but this time together, thanks to the start Akanji has made. He was signed as a backup option but if he continues to put in such solid displays and gives Guardiola no cause to drop him, he may just play a lot more than anyone expected.

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