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21 Tackles, 29 Interceptions, 68 Clearances – This Manchester City Defender Is One Of The Most Underrated In The League

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Nicolas Otamendi

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The moment Manchester City announced Pep Guardiola as the club’s next coach, it was certain some players wouldn’t be able to meet up with the demands of the Catalan manager once he arrives, and as such, subsequent exits awaited them.

Mangala, Hart and Nasri have already left on a temporary basis, while there are still doubts over the Etihad future of Kompany, Toure, and a few others.

With all the swift changes and squad shaking up taking place, a player has always constantly proven his worth to the former Bayern Munich perfectionist taskmaster and looks certain to continue doing so in the long-term.

Since arriving from Valencia last summer, Argentina international defender Nicolás Otamendi has become a mainstay in City’s defence, transiting seamlessly from Pelligrini’s style of direct football to Guardiola’s ball-playing cum possession-based defending.

Try as he might, Otamendi is hardly regarded by many as one of the finest centre-backs in the top flight and it’s safe to say he is one of the most underrated players in the difficult position.

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He has played 10 Premier League games thus far, and his appearance in every minute of Manchester City’s Champions League campaign underlines his importance to Guardiola’s defence. The 3 league games he missed were all to rest him for the more important European engagements the club is in pursuit of.

Otamendi’s performance on matchday 13 in the hard-fought win against Burnley once again proves why he belongs to another class entirely, and why he is deserving of more attention and praises than he is currently getting.

No defender was more excellent than he was across the whole league over the weekend, evident in his WhoScored rating of 8.8. Only Middlesbrough’s Negredo (9.14) scored more on the website’s ratings.

Only Benteke (14) has won more aerial balls than the Argentine (12), and his 17 defensive clearances were more than any other player or defender for the day, with the closest to that return being Nathan Ake’s 14.

In the 3 league games he missed, Guardiola’s men conceded a goal per game. While the only 2 clean sheets they have kept thus far have come with him in the starting XI.

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Over the course of his Premier League games, Otamendi has won 21 tackles, made 29 interceptions, 68 clearances and 4 blocks. The 28-year-old averages a whopping 10 defensive actions per game and has completed 5 of his 7 attempted take-ons.

He has created 5 chances, assisted a goal, recorded a perfect shot accuracy of 100% (attempted only 2 shots), and most importantly mastered the possession football Guardiola keeps clamouring for, with his 85% average pass accuracy per game over an average length of 20 meters a testament to that.

Arguably, he is the most important and best defender in the Manchester City squad on the back of his contributions to the team’s defensive success thus far. Only Chelsea and Tottenham have shipped fewer goals (10) than the Citizens’ 12, and they sit just a point below the Blues on the log.

At the end of the day, Guardiola’s achievements since his arrival in England can’t be mentioned without acknowledging the big role Otamendi has played in making that possible. If he is omitted despite these contributions, it only shows to prove how greatly underrated this great defender is.