Eliaquim Mangala: Kompany’s Apprentice?


Finally, after an incredibly prolonged period akin to City’s wait for a trophy before 2011, Eliaquim Mangala has signed for Manchester City for a fee of £32 million. Although it appeared to City fans that he had already signed two months ago, the complications that came with Mangala’s third party ownership proved as frustrating for them as Edin Dzeko’s performances for long periods of the season.

Mangala sits down for his first interview as a City player since his £32 million move

Mangala’s signing raises an important question for the Etihad faithful – who will partner Vincent Kompany at the centre of the defence this season? Martin Demichelis finished the season as City’s most consistent defender; while Kompany let the pressure cause a shaky performance in a 3-2 loss against Liverpool, Demichelis was almost clean of any of the silly mistakes that plagued the start of his Etihad career.

There is no doubt, however, that Kompany is one of the best defenders (and captains) in the world, so his place on Pellegrini’s team sheet is all but ensured week in week out (injuries permitting). Demichelis is approaching the ripe old age of 34, and, despite his meteoric improvement last season, has still found his pace exploited in a league known for its pace.

This is an area where Mangala trumps the veteran Argentinian. Mangala is a pacy modern centre back with a comfortability on the ball that is among the best in Europe. First plying his trade in Belgium as a striker, then as a left back for Standard Liege in the Belgian Pro League, he can distribute to the midfield and forwards as well as hold his own with the quickest of strikers (much like his possible partner, Vincent Kompany).

The parallels don’t end there – like Kompany, Mangala comes to City at the relatively young age of 23 (Vincent arrived at the age of 22), meaning he is an individual that can be molded to whatever role Pellegrini pleases, just like Kompany was (though under a different manager). The Belgian originally came to the Etihad as a central midfielder, but was soon utilised in the centre of defence, a move that is certainly one of City’s best pieces of work in an era of huge signings.

Mangala is perfectly suited to City’s pacy attacking play style. He’ll be hoping to help City make it two titles in a row this season.

Although he is almost perfectly suited for the end to end, offensive style of Manuel Pellegrini, it can be argued that his inexperience could be his downfall. Demichelis’ defining characteristic was his wealth of experience and an eye for the game, which is why he was able to fit his below average mobility into the fastest league in the world. Mangala has a reputation for temperament (evidenced by his card count last season – 9 yellows and 1 red in 20 games), a sign of immaturity if there ever is one. Could this hinder his integration into a new league and new style of play?

I don’t think it should. If anything, there shouldn’t be too much ‘molding’ needed for this centre back, bar sorting out his habit for going forward too often. He’s quick, he’s skilful, he’s strong. He’s almost a perfect compliment for Kompany in this modern game, which requires defenders to be all round players (hence Demichelis’ uneasiness for the first half of the season), which is an ideal description for this young Frenchman.

I wouldn’t expect him to play the first game of the season, particularly after yesterday’s defensive horror show which, would cause Pellegrini to think twice about taking any risks at the back. Yet he will be heavily integrated into the side as quickly as possible, in an attempt to nail down a starting birth in defense before Demichelis’ impending departure at the end of the season, and to justify his rather large price tag.