Manchester City’s centre back crisis has been the major talking point amongst fans, pundits and the media, but, after the 3-0 victory over Preston North End in the Carabao Cup, it looks like there may be a solution to the problem.
It has been a number of years since the City Football Academy (CFA) was opened for business, but there is a slight hint of frustration creeping in amongst Manchester City fans as to the lack of academy product in the first team squad.
With a huge financial backing and winning silverware, the main concern among those in the boardroom, it is no surprise that City’s team is mostly made up of global superstars. However, the arrival of Pep Guardiola in the summer of 2016 gave fans a fresh sense of hope when it comes to seeing young, promising faces from the academy.
Phil Foden had already gained considerable praise from Guardiola, with the Catalan manager labelling him as one of the best players he had ever seen. But there are now two new players who have won the hearts of fans and hopefully the manager.
The centre-back of pairing of Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis excited Manchester City fans in the Bill Shankly Kop once the teams were revealed at 6:45pm. Two players who were comfortable on the ball at the back, now had the chance to showcase their talent in front of a sold-out Deepdale crowd, which included close to 6000 travelling Blues.
Garcia had already made a strong impression on City fans following his first debut against Leicester City in the quarter-finals of last season’s League Cup. Despite being on the smaller side of a typical centre-back, Garcia was in charge of the back four on that rather wet night in the East Midlands which included Argentinian international Nicolas Otamendi. Following this performance, it was clear the Spaniard was a player City needed to keep a hold of and will be a regular in the first team in the coming years.
Fast forward nine months and Eric Garcia was back to his composed self, but this time he had a partner. Taylor Harwood-Bellis is another City academy product who very much bleeds blue. Like Phil Foden, the centre-back is a City fan who follows the team home and away when he isn’t in action for the development sides in the academy.
His post-match interview on Twitter instantly gained plaudits, as he labelled his appearance against Preston as ‘a dream come true’, and is already wanting to continue his progression while training with the first team. For the whole 90 minutes, neither player looked nervous and certainly rose to the occasion.
Preston are a team which are looking to get promoted to the Premier league and despite Alex Neil fielding a weakened side, there was still a potential for one of Manchester City’s promising players to slip up. A well marshalled back four only allowed to Preston to have five shots throughout the whole game with Garcia and Harwood-Bellis at the heart of it. Both players connected instantly and was never afraid to back down from any challenge from a more direct style of play adopted by Preston.
While these two will probably need another injury at centre-back to earn a starting spot in the Premier League or Champions League this season, there is no doubt that these two will make an appearance in these competitions and judging by the performance at Preston, they will slot into the team perfectly.
At some point, Manchester City’s owners will not be throwing money at the world’s best defenders, so when that time eventually comes, there is no need to worry about centre back, Manchester City have got Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis.
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