When Aymeric Laporte signed for Manchester City in January, Pep Guardiola made it clear it was a deal he’d been desperate to complete. “We spoke with the club and said we needed a centre-back in summertime, but we still have a lot of games to play and decided to try and bring him right now,” he said. “Our summer window will now be easier because this is already done."
It’s a decision that’s looking increasingly shrewd. Laporte, with eight months of adaptation to England and the Premier League under his belt, has begun the 2018-19 season superbly, starting all four of City’s matches and performing well in each. Any initial difficulties making the transition from LaLiga to the Premier League appear a thing of the past.
"He is strong in the air, fast, good quality with the pass, so I am delighted, happy and grateful for what the club has done,” Guardiola said after Laporte’s move was confirmed in January. Not for the first time, Guardiola’s analysis has proven scarily accurate. Laporte appears to relish aerial duels, is quick over the ground and is arguably the finest long-range passer in City’s squad. He's left-footed, too, so brings much-needed balance to City's back four. At just 24, he has a remarkably well-rounded game, making him the ideal fit for Guardiola’s team.
He won’t be bullied. He is physically very strong and seems to savour going head to head with powerful forwards. But he also brings finesse, with a beautiful left foot capable of switching play in a split second. His pass completion rate stands at a remarkable 94 per cent so far this season, underlining his accuracy in possession, and has completed 250 passes in three Premier League games this season, the third-highest in the division.
Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Wolves saw him score his first goal for the Club, an emphatic header that gave Rui Patricio no chance. It also saw City drop points in the Premier League for the first time with him in the starting lineup. His record so far reads: P12, W11, D1, L0, with just seven goals conceded in that run of games.
Adapting to the Premier League often takes time, particularly for defenders who often come up against a more direct and physical approach to what they’re used to. But not only has Laporte handled the unique challenges of English football, he’s managed to implement his own ball-playing style.
The thought of him and John Stones establishing a long-term centre-back partnership is a tantalising one.