This was arguably one of the most important nights of Pep Guardiola’s managerial career with Manchester City.
Having been humiliated at home by Leicester City in a 5-2 drubbing, and along with his whole ethos under the microscope, there was little margin for error in his next outing.
And is there a more intimidating check than going head to head with the coach who impressed your entire mantra, and his newly-promoted, gung-ho and free spirited bandits? Possibly not. The Citizens had been in determined need of a robust, commanding show at Elland Road. A efficiency worthy of champions.
Pre-match, all of the focus was unsurprisingly aimed on the defence. A crew now known for inexplicably crumbling on the first sign of actual hazard, City wanted a change. That change got here within the form of Benfica star Ruben Dias.
Guardiola rolled the cube on the Portuguese centre-back, splashing one other £50m on the man they hope will rework a leaky, powderpuff defence into a fearless brick wall. So, all eyes had been on the 23-year-old and simply how he would get on towards Marcelo Bielsa’s swashbuckling Leeds.
Dias and Man City had been instantly helped by the return of star centre-back Aymeric Laporte, whose absence over the past 12 months has hit the previous Premier League champions arduous. The Frenchman undoubtedly brings an air of composure and calm to this defence, but regardless of how good he is, he needs a man worth his salt alongside him.
It has to be said, his new associate in crime could also be precisely that. Dias is the right compromise on a typical Guardiola defender. Strong and aggressive within the tackle, while assured and authoritative on the ball. He can do the ugly stuff equally as successfully as the attractive side of the game.
He nearly got off to a dream start inside 5 minutes, when he found himself unmarked on the far post from a corner. The defender skewed his header horribly large, and a large likelihood went begging. Still, he confirmed some nice motion and knowhow to get into that position. A risk in both bins, maybe.
We’re not right here to decide his goalscoring prowess, anyway. Especially when Raheem Sterling is tucking away stunners like he did to give his side a well-deserved lead.
What we are able to say about Dias’ abilities in his own third is that he loves to defend on the front foot. In itself, it is a beneficial and highly effective trait to possess. However, we noticed the best and worst of it within the space of 4 minutes, as Man City looked to stem the move of Leeds assaults.
On 32 minutes, we noticed the nice. As Whites striker Patrick Bamford looked to gather the ball along with his back to goal, Dias noticed his moment, and commandingly claimed possession from behind, beautiful the forward, before springing a counter-attack of his own. It was precisely what Guardiola would have needed.
Only 4 minutes later, we noticed the dangerous. With Man City holding their line on the sting of the penalty space, the centre-back charged out to meet the forward receiving the ball on the flip. But this time, they had been ready. The ball was popped out to the left-hand side instantly, and with the defence now a man down and out of form, Leeds went for the jugular. Ederson was in the way in which this time, but it was a warning shot.
The second half began with Leeds wanting to get back into the game, and inside 30 seconds they need to have thought their goal was about to arrive. A splendidly labored spell of football noticed the play move to the right, and as the cross got here in, Bamford threw himself in its path. But so did Dias.
He confirmed nice studying and anticipation to get in front of the shot, and very good athleticism to snake a boot within the ball’s trajectory. And that was the story of the second half. Leeds got here forward, finally getting their equaliser, though it got here by way of an Ederson mistake, relatively than any moment of magic or poor defending.
Bielsa’s men had been by far the better side within the second half, stretching the game and bringing Man City down into a boxing match. Much like a game of basketball, it was utterly end to end, with both defences left hopelessly uncovered by their midfielders. In these excessive circumstances, you need a regular head and a pacy, confident defender to hold his own.
Dias was precisely that. The Citizens had been thrown into a number of three-on-two or four-on-three conditions, with Leeds flying at their backline in numbers. Cross after cross rained down, and a mountain of intelligent by way of balls had been flicked of their goal’s path.
Once once more, the brand new man was on hand, and was impeccable, too. He blocked a couple of actually harmful assaults from the left flank, slicing out Helder Costa’s depraved deliveries with ease. All in all, it was a stable, promising show.
Leeds have already confirmed this season that they don’t seem to be to be sniffed at. They pushed Liverpool all the way in which, and picked up wins of their different two Premier League matches. It’s protected to say, they’re no bizarre newly-promoted side.
So Guardiola can take nice coronary heart and encouragement from his side’s show – after they dominated the first half, and stood agency within the second – on an evening by which they might effectively have crumbled solely a week in the past.