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How good has Manchester City’s defensive recruitment been?

Analysis of the current defenders at Manchester City. In this article I will look at:

1) Specific look at John Stones and Aymeric Laporte individually and against other Premier League defender

2) Comparing Man City's defence versus the other 'top 6' teams' defences

3) Successes and failures of the recruitment

John Stones:


SPG = shots per game

TPG = tackles per game

DPG = dribbles per game

GPG = goals per game

(Data is from only Premier League starting appearances in 2020/21 season)

Transfer fees:

Stones = £47.5 million

Others = £19m + £18 million + £5.4 million = £42.4 million

Stones has the lowest number of shots and tackles per game, joint-lowest dribbles per game, and second-lowest goals per game - despite costing more than the other three together and playing for a team higher ranked in the league compared to the others. Soucek's statistics makes his transfer very good value for money, in terms of shots and tackling - which he ranks top for. Vestergaard, who's transfer fee is similar to Soucek's, ranks top for dribbles per game which supports the idea of him as a progressive defender. Whereas, Clark is more a 'no nonsense' defender, evidenced by his highest statistic being his tackling average and being the lowest in dribbles and goals per game averages.

Aymeric Laporte:

The Frenchman has played 63 BPL games since joining City in January 2018, scoring 4 goals and winning the league every 31.5 league games he has played. Appearances have been limited largely as a result of his knee injury at the start of the 19/20 season. Below compares his record against other defenders:

The above chart shows that Laporte alongside his teammate stones have won more domestic trophies than Chelsea's Rudiger and Liverpool's Van Dijk, despite Laporte being in the Premier League for the joint-shortest time. Laporte's has the highest cost per game, just below £1 million per a start, similar to Van Dijk. This is largely a result of them being there for less time than Rudiger and Stones, and both have suffered long-term injuries. The chart suggests Laporte has been a better signing than Stones due to them winning the same honours, although Stones has been at City for 18m months longer. However, Stones may be the best 'value for money' of the four. As he has won the joint most honours, is the longest servant, and has the second lowest cost per game.

Manchester City's defence compared to the rest of the 'top 6':

Full backs:

Walker £53m

Zinchenko £1.7m

Mendy £52m

Cancelo £60m

Total £166.7

Centre back

Stones £47.5m

Dias £64.3m

Laporte £57m

Ake £40m

Garcia £1.5m

Total £210.3m

Most used defence by City this season, costing a combined fee of £216.8m:

How does this compare against the rest of the ‘top 6’?

The above chart looks at each of the 'top 6' teams' most used defences GA-PG (goals against - per a game). Spurs have the lowest GA-PG and Man City have the second lowest, both have conceded a goal or less per game with their most used defences. Whereas, the other four teams all have conceded a goal or more per game with their most used defences, with Arsenal having the highest average GA-PG (just below 1.4) with their most regular defence. This data should be looked at coherently with the chart below. Together they indicate that Tottenham's most regular defence is the best recruited, at the lowest cost (just over £50 million) and the lowest GA-PG. Manchester City's most regular back four is the most expensive, by a considerable amount, but has the second lowest GA-PG. Which possibly shows that City have reaped the rewards of spending big. Liverpool's defence costing the third highest (a large gap between their spending and the Manchester clubs) and having the third highest GA-PG indicates that they may need to spend more to improve. Although their most regular defence this season is the same as last season, which their defence was huge in winning the league.

Successes vs Failures:

* player has yet to play enough games to establish a full idea of their success/failure as a transfer, therefore is an opinion based on the limited evidence.

Mendy and Stones both arrived for large transfer fees and although they've won various honours, neither have held down their position in the team - whether that is due to injuries or a loss of form. Whereas, Laporte and Walker who also were bought for large fees have been able to appear regularly when fit in the City team since joining.

On balance, the defensive recruitment of Manchester City's current defenders has been mostly effective in strengthening the team defensively. Their average goals conceded and clean sheets for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons was 35 goals and 14 clean sheets. The next two seasons (2017/18 and 2018/19) saw a decrease in average goals conceded to 25 and an increase in average clean sheets to 19. However, in the 2019/20 season City conceded 35 and kept 17 clean sheets - worse than previous two seasons. Yet that season appears a blip, as City are on track to keep 20 clean sheets and concede just 29 goals.

(Statistics up to date till after Sunday 17th games)

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