Guardiola hasn’t been shy when it comes to forking out on defensive reinforcements since arriving at the Etihad Stadium, and last September he added yet another big-money signing to his roster in the shape of Ruben Dias.
When Vincent Kompany departed Manchester City in 2019, few could have envisaged the impact the veteran defender’s exit would have on Pep Guardiola’s side.
After all, the Belgian’s status as a mainstay in the starting XI had long since waned, yet City’s maiden campaign without their former captain saw them concede more than 50% more league goals than they had in his final season at the club.
The Portugal international has adapted seamlessly to life in the Premier League – with his
partnership alongside John Stones a huge part of the reason City are back to looking like genuine title contenders – though the youngster believes their superb defensive record this season is reflection on the team as a whole rather than just him and his defensive colleagues.
“The connection with John [Stones] has been just brilliant, but I would like to say that it’s not just me and John,” he told the Daily Mail. “A brilliant example of that, I think it was against Brighton. We were winning 1-0 but struggling and then I see Kevin [De Bruyne] and Gundo [Ilkay Gundogan] dying on the pitch. You know, running back, running forwards. Dying.
“That moment just said to me, if these guys are running like that, who will not? If these guys give everything for the team, who will not?
“Trust is given. Trust is earned. So when you start to build that defensive point of view, if we’re not conceding, we’re closer to winning, and then everyone starts to believe in it. They see your will to accomplish that. That makes this team strong.”
Despite Dias proving himself to be more than adept at playing out from the back, the 23-year-old was quick to stress that his main job is to defend and that he takes pride in his work.
“The other day someone said to me here in the club, ‘ah, amazing, another clean sheet’, and I just said the thing that gives me most pleasure is not even the clean sheet,” he added. “It’s the other team not even making one shot on goal. The thing that gives me the most pleasure is that my keeper doesn’t make a save.
“I’m a defender. I’m there to defend. Nowadays the idea is that a defender needs to do much more. My focus has always been on becoming better and doing more but I’ve never forgotten that, first of all, I’m a defender.
“If not me, then who else will take pride from defending? It gives me pleasure to make the other team feel powerless.”
Since arriving in the Premier League, Dias’ communication skills on the pitch have been regularly lauded, with suggestions he could be set to be handed the captain’s armband.
At just 23 he would be one of the youngest captains in the league, though he believes age plays no part in the decision.
“The thing I can say about me is that no matter the age, you are either one type of person or not, you are either the winner or not.” he said. “That’s not a matter of age, it’s a matter of are you ready or not.”
Regardless of whether he is appointed club captain one day or not, the Portugal international has enjoyed a superb start to his career in England, and he’s loving life in the north west.
“What I know now about this city is the way people breathe football… there is just something else here, something special. Even the grass,” he said. “The environment. It is different. It goes a bit further in Manchester.”