Is Fernandinho in the mould of Patrick Vieira?

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870529256Every football fan worth his salt will be well aware of the significant development that Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles played a key role towards heralding in modern day football. While modern-day football fans were quick to criticise the Frenchman for even the smallest of things during the last few years of his tenure, the game owes much of its current sheen to the exhilarating gameplay which Wenger encouraged despite resistance from the traditionalists.

In the 2003-04 season, Arsenal gave the footballing world a true glimpse into a team which was built on the back of a solid foundation with the defenders more than capable of snuffing out any attack and attackers who could conjure moments of brilliance singlehandedly. The side went on to finish unbeaten in the league throughout the season, emerging as the first outfit to threaten Manchester United’s hegemony.

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Athletic Bilbao expecting exits after poor campaign

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With so much focus on Barcelona’s incredible push for an unbeaten season, and the drop out of La Liga for some established names in Spain, there have been a few stories that have slipped through the gaps.

One of those is the dreadful 2017-18 campaign for Athletic Bilbao, who were dragged into the relegation battle in the final few weeks of the season.

The Basque side have never been relegated from La Liga, following its inaugural 1939-40 season, and the lowest they have ever finished is 17th in 2006-07.

They came close to that again this season, ending up in 16th place.

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Laporte gaining vital minutes for Man City

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Aymeric Laporte’s quality laden performance vs. Swansea City at the weekend served as another important step in his integration and adaptation to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Operating as City’s left sided central defender, the Spaniard, who was bought in for an astounding £57.1 million in January from Athletic, hardly put a foot wrong throughout the 5-0 rout. Continue reading

Aymeric Laporte: Expensive, but worth the risk?

Aymeric Laporte

All reports indicate Premier League leaders Manchester City are on the brink of breaking their own transfer record to recruit Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte. The 23-year-old has amassed over 200 appearances for the Basque giants in La Liga but has yet to win a senior international cap. The transfer will make him the world’s second most expensive defender – behind only Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk – and has naturally generated a great level of interest, but who is Laporte and why are City prepared to spend so much money on his capture?

The move must firstly be put into context of Pep Guardiola’s side’s transfer policy across the past 18 months, with a recruitment drive focused upon strengthening the club’s defence. The Catalan tactician inherited a defence which needed total overhaul, with Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany – himself with a limited shelf-life – identified as the only players of requisite quality. Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis and Aleksandar Kolarov were all allowed to depart on free transfers, with Eliaquim Mangala loaned out in the hope of an eventual permanent departure. Continue reading

Best Defenders in La Liga – Week 8

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This past weekend in La Liga it was generally entire defensive lines that won out, rather than individual defenders. Continue reading

Why Manchester United should break the bank to sign Aymeric Laporte

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Manchester United have been linked with Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte for the last 12 months, but nothing has materialised from the speculation. But with the Red Devils being tipped to sell Marcos Rojo, while makeshift defender Daley Blind has at times been unconvincing in his new role, the Red Devils are going to be in need of a new face to bolster their backline and Laporte would be perfect for Louis van Gaal’s men.

The Bilbao centre-back has made six La Liga appearances this season, averaging a tackle or interception every 16 minutes, while having made 25 clearances as well as winning 64% of his aerial duels. Laporte is just 21 years of age, but has been a regular in the backline for the last two campaigns. He’s made more than 115 appearances for the Basque club, and looks set to make a big-money move to further his international career.

Both Spain and France want the promising defender, and Laporte will be thinking about his chances of playing in next summer’s European Championships with both nations. While he’s playing regular football in Spain, he’s sure to make either final squad for the tournament, but could see his stock rise if he’s performing for a side of the stature of Manchester United. Barcelona have also been linked with the youngster’s services, with reports suggesting a £35M bid will be lodged.

United have a void in the backline that could be perfectly solved by Laporte. Chris Smalling is a regular fixture in the defence, but he needs a regular partner who could form a formidable playing relationship for the next few years. There aren’t any better 21-year-old centre-backs than the French U21 international, but the competition for his services could make United’s task a lot harder to sign their coveted target.

Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo are the other defensive options Manchester United have alongside Smalling, but midfield Blind has been operating in a deeper role, and his form has been hot and cold as a result. Laporte boasts excessive pace, is uncompromising in the tackle, and very composed in possession. He’s highly combative, and has incredible timing with his challenges. Sometimes his commitment to the tackle can see him picking up cheap yellow cards, but at his age he has real potential.

With so much experience at such a young age, Laporte is one of the best possible young defenders to mould. He looks worth every penny of £35M, but can United fight off Barcelona for his services?