Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes he can rely on new defenders Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake because the pair “do not make mistakes”.
The summer arrivals lined up along side each other in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Arsenal in the absence of Aymeric Laporte, though Ake was largely deployed at left-back with Kyle Walker taking a central role in a fluid City line-up.
It is something which is likely to be repeated in Wednesday’s Champions League meeting with Porto as both Laporte and Benjamin Mendy are set for spells on the sidelines with what were said to be muscular problems – Laporte for up to 10 days and Mendy potentially for a month.
City paid a reported £62million to bring in Dias from Benfica last month, the big-money defensive signing that was arguably needed last summer following the exit of Vincent Kompany.
Guardiola said it was meaningless to try to compare the 23-year-old Dias with the long-time club captain, but is happy with his first two outings in a City shirt.
“It will be a big mistake to compare him to Vincent,” Guardiola said. “Vincent was unique. But he is 23. We had both the defenders, Nathan and Ruben today, and the reason they play is they don’t make mistakes.
“We suffered a lot last season with mistakes. We still have to improve but we have a feeling we can really help them to adapt and create more of the spaces we need. It will need time and training.
PEP 💬 It will be a big mistake to compare Ruben Dias to Vincent (Kompany). Vincent is unique. Ruben is young.
He is a type of leader. He will lead the team. He is just 23 years old. We cannot forget he plays for Portugal. We are delighted with what we have seen.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) October 17, 2020
“(Against Arsenal) was a difficult game. Ruben is the type of leader, a guy who in a short time will lead the game. We are delighted so far with what we have seen.”
Raheem Sterling’s 23rd-minute goal settled the game but City needed a big performance from Ederson, who made key saves from Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the first half.
Guardiola acknowledged his side are not yet up to speed after the disrupted off-season and the flood of fixtures since the campaign resumed, not helped by the intensive international schedule which has contributed to City’s injury list as Kevin De Bruyne was hurt playing for Belgium this week.
There was significantly better news on Saturday as Sergio Aguero made his first appearance since suffering a knee injury in June, clocking up 65 minutes.
City have been playing without a striker in recent weeks with Gabriel Jesus also sidelined, and Guardiola admitted he did not yet know when the Brazilian will return.
“Gabriel still has problems,” he said. “The injury he has is in his quadriceps. I think we have to be calm and cautious because he’s still not on the field training.
“This is why we struggled a lot from the beginning (of the season), because of the lack of preparation and the number of absences, and that is why we are not able to play at the level for 90 minutes consistently.
“But we have had good news with Bernardo (Silva) back, Phil (Foden) very good, Riyad (Mahrez) outstanding and Rodri very good. I’m satisfied with what we’ve done so far with the situation we have.”