Why Milan Skriniar could be the man to end Man City’s defensive woes
According to the Mirror, reigning Premier League champions Man City have set their sights on Inter Milan stalwart Milan Skriniar as Pep Guardiola looks to shore up his brittle backline with some top-quality recruits in January.
Man City’s hopes of retaining the Premier League crown for the third successive season look all but over, with the Citizens currently 14 points adrift of runaway leaders Liverpool, having played a game more.
However, as per the report, the board is ready to back Guardiola with some significant funds in the January window and City have identified Skriniar as a top target to put an end to their struggles at the back.
The 24-year-old Slovakian international, who is also on the radar of Barcelona and Real Madrid (h/t Mirror), has established himself as one of the most sought-after defensive properties in Europe since his move to Inter Milan from fellow Serie A outfit Sampdoria back in the summer of 2017.
Skriniar rose to prominence with Slovakian heavyweights MSK Zilina before enhancing his reputation at Sampdoria in Italy and earning a coveted move to the San Siro. The 24-year-old hasn’t looked back since then and has cemented his place as one of the key cogs of Inter’s backline, clocking up 110 appearances for the Nerazzurri across all competitions.
The towering centre-back, who has a contract at the San Siro until 2023, has been instrumental in Inter Milan’s surge to the top of the standings in the Serie A this term, having started each of the club’s 18 games and played every minute of their league campaign so far.
The Slovakian giant has been an indispensable component of a backline that has conceded only 15 goals in 18 Serie A fixtures under Antonio Conte in the ongoing campaign, forming a formidable central defensive pairing with Dutch international Stefan de Vrij.
Meanwhile, Man City are in dire need of a major reshuffle at the back after conceding as many as 24 goals in 21 games so far, which is already one more than their tally of 23 goals shipped during the entirety of the 2018-19 campaign.
Having failed to rope in a replacement for former club-captain Vincent Kompany, who departed Etihad to join Anderlecht this past summer, the Citizens embarked on their title defense short of adequate cover at the back, and things have undoubtedly taken a turn for the worse since the long-term injury to Aymeric Laporte early in the campaign.
Guardiola has made an arduous attempt to plug the holes at the back by shifting Fernandinho to a makeshift central defensive role alongside Nicolas Otamendi, while Rodri has also featured in an unfamiliar role at the heart of the defence on a few occasions.
However, with Otamendi struggling for consistency and John Stones also going through his own share of injury problems, the Citizens have been found wanting for stability at the back, which has undoubtedly been one of the major reasons behind their title defense falling apart.
To put things into perspective, it is a no-brainer that Man City need to fix their defensive issues sooner rather than later and completing a deal for Milan Skriniar could well go a long way towards helping the Citizens reclaim their domestic dominance in English football.
As per whoscored, Skriniar has averaged 65.7 passes per game at an accuracy rate of 92.7%, including 4.3 long balls, 1.1 tackles, 1 interception, 3 clearances and 0.9 aerial duels per game in the Serie A this term, figures which lie testament to his obvious qualities as a ball-playing defender with good game-reading attributes.
As evident from those numbers, Skriniar is not really the best when it comes to stamping his authority in the air, and while that could be a red flag for a move to Premier League to materialize, the Slovakian’s assets certainly outweigh his liabilities as a centre-back.
Standing at 6f. 2 inches with a robust frame, Skriniar is set to enter his prime years as a central defender very soon and he apparently has all that it takes to excel in any top league across the continent. Guardiola has transformed Laporte into a world-class asset at the Etihad and the 24-year-old could also take his game to the next level under the Spaniard.
Given that he is one of Inter Milan’s key players and has a contract until 2023, Man City might have to pay over the odds to secure his services, but Skriniar still has plenty to offer at the age of 24, meaning that he could well be worth a significant outlay in the transfer market for the Citizens.
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Suffice to say, Man City completing a big-money move for Milan Skriniar in January would be a massive statement of intent and a clear warning message to their rivals that the wounded champions are preparing to come back stronger than ever next year.