For a man who seemed destined to leave the Etihad Stadium over the summer when Pep Guardiola was announced as the new Manchester City manager, Argentinian defender Nicolás Otamendi has become an integral part of the Spaniard’s defence over the last few months.
Despite being heavily criticised at times this season for his defending in the continued absence of key man Vincent Kompany, the £28.5 million signing from Valencia has been given Guardiola’s trust to lead the back-line and he finally justified yesterday afternoon why Manuel Pellegrini bought him.
Prior to their victory over Arsenal yesterday afternoon, Manchester City had only won four out of eight games at home, and the Blues have now only kept three clean sheets in sixteen Premier League matches – the same number as Burnley, Swansea and Watford.
However, after being absent from the side in City’s 4-2 hammering at the hands of Leicester City a week ago, Otamendi returned to the side and put in a solid shift at centre-back, particularly in the second-half, as the Blues came from behind to leapfrog their top four rivals into second place.
Despite being partially at fault for Walcott’s fifth-minute goal after lacklustre defending, the Argentinian responded well to nullify any threat that dangerman Alexis Sanchez posed as the Gunners pushed to get back into the game.
Sanchez, who had scored five goals in four Premier League games prior to yesterday’s match, was rarely allowed a sight at goal – which is testament to how Otamendi dealt with him.
The 28-year-old also made the joint-highest number of clearances (7) at the Etihad Stadium, as well as the second-most defensive interceptions (3), as he finally put his experienced stamp on the Manchester City defence that fans have been crying out for.
Credit must also go to the Argentinian for how he managed Aleksander Kolarov’s move from left-back to centre-back, controlling his make-shift defence superbly.
With the away trip to Liverpool on New Year’s Eve the only Christmas fixture against a side in the top half of the table, Manchester City have a real chance to claw back the seven-point gap between themselves and leaders Chelsea.
After a victory against Arsenal for the first time in seven outings since 2013, the Blues and Nicolás Otamendi can take heart from a solid all-round performance.
With City sitting in second after only three clean sheets all season, if Otamendi can begin to mastermind defensive shut-outs then City will certainly be in the mix come the end of the season.
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