It’s hard to be critical of Manchester City‘s exemplary recruitment strategy in recent years but a few eyebrows were raised this summer when the club decided against adding a central defender to their ranks.
Vincent Kompany‘s move to become player-manager at Anderlecht left Pep Guardiola with only Aymeric Laporte, John Stones and Nicolás Otamendi as natural centre-back options, so it would hardly have been a surprise if City, given their resources, dipped their toes into the transfer market.
Admittedly Fernandinho and Kyle Walker have the attributes to operate as makeshift central defenders, but it nonetheless felt a little shortsighted not to bulk out the Citizens’ backline ahead of the current campaign.
That reticence now has the potential to throw a spanner in the works of City’s season, after it emerged earlier this month that Laporte – arguably the club’s most accomplished defender – was set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
That news was then compounded by the revelation that Stones could miss around five weeks with a muscle injury, leaving Guardiola with Otamendi as his only fit recognised centre-back.
Speculation is therefore rife that the Premier League champions are ready to splash the cash in January, as they look to rectify the situation and ensure they have the numbers to keep their title challenge on track.
Ironically the Foxes were in the same boat as Manchester City this summer, having looked short of centre-back options after losing Harry Maguire to Manchester United.
A much-discussed deal for Brighton and Hove Albion’s Lewis Dunk never materialised, but that has been a blessing in disguise for Leicester as Söyüncü has stepped up to the mark in impressive fashion.
The 23-year-old has only played in a total of 12 Premier League games since arriving at the King Power Stadium from SC Freiburg in August 2018, with six of those appearances coming this season.
But his whole-hearted approach to defending has won the Turkish international plenty of admirers among Leicester fans, as he’s helped Brendan Rodgers’ side to three wins and two draws in 2019/20.
The statistics certainly suggest Söyüncü is playing at a level that is worthy of Manchester City’s interest, despite the limited number of matches that he has featured in for the Foxes.
Leicester’s No.4 is inside the Premier League’s top twenty defenders this season when it comes to clearances completed (five per 90), tackles completed (2.17 per 90), and the number of times that he’s won possession back in the defensive third of the pitch (4.67 per 90).
He is also among the top performers for aerial duels won at 4.17 per 90, and has an impressive passing accuracy of 85.4 per cent – a skill that would be particularly important were he to end up playing under Guardiola.
It is difficult to ascertain if Söyüncü has what it takes to make an impact at the best club in the country after so few first-team games at Premier League level, but he is perhaps young enough to warrant City gambling on him continuing his fine form throughout the rest of this season and beyond.
In all likelihood City would only need Söyüncü as a rotation option once their current injury crisis abates, giving the 25-cap international plenty of time to hone his trade under one of the world’s top coaches over the coming years.
From Manchester City’s perspective, they have completed fewer clearances this campaign compared with last season (11.67 vs 14.29 per 90) and have conceded more shots from inside the box (4.67 vs 3.87 per 90), hinting that they are struggling to maintain the high defensive standards that we saw from them throughout 2018/19.
Those numbers could look a whole lot worse in a few months time when the Citizens have played more games without Laporte and Stones at the back.
If Söyüncü is able to continue his early-season form then it would be unwise to bet against Manchester City targeting the man from İzmir when the January transfer window rolls around.
But whether Leicester City are willing to lose one of their biggest assets is another matter entirely.