According to the Daily Mirror, Manchester City are ‘weighing up’ a move for Everton central defender Mason Holgate. The 23-year-old is reportedly valued at £30m and has reportedly emerged a ‘realistic target’ as Pep Guardiola looks so strengthen his back line.
Manchester City defensive problems
The one major let down for City in this campaign as opposed to the last one has been their defensive stability.
Last season, City conceded just 23 goals all season as they marched to another brilliant Premier League title win, edging out Liverpool by a single point. By comparison, they’ve conceded 29 goals already this season, and there are still 11 games left to play.
Much of the issues they have had at the back have come from the fact that Aymeric Laporte has spent the vast majority of this season on the sidelines. Laporte is not just Manchester City’s best defender, but he’s a leader from the back and a pivotal part of Guardiola’s side.
This season, he has made just seven appearances in the league. In his first Champions League appearance of the season on Tuesday, he went off injured midway through the first half at the Santiago Bernabeu as City beat Real Madrid in their own back yard. According to reports, he will miss a further four weeks.
His injuries have meant that the Brazilian veteran midfielder Fernandinho has had to fill in at the back alongside one of John Stones or Nicolas Otamendi – neither of whom have set the world alight with their defensive contribution in recent times.
According to TransferMarkt, Fernandinho has played at centre-back in all of his 29 appearances this term – a staggering stat given how important he has been to the team in defensive midfield over the last few years.
So, is Mason Holgate the answer?
You’d be tempted to just immediately answer that with a flat “no, no he is not”, but he has every chance to be a great signing for Manchester City. While he’s not exactly Virgil Van Dijk – he’s young, he’s a solid defender and from his time playing in midfield and at full-back, he’s got decent ball-playing ability.
What does concern me is the price-tag – he’s not a £30m player. What we’re seeing here is the good old English tax that you have to pay in football these days – for some reason talented Englishman always cost far more than they’re actually worth.
According to TransferMarkt, Holgate’s current market value is just £6.3m. While I don’t think he’s worth quite the £30m quoted by the Daily Mail, I do think he’s worth more than £6m. Personally, I’d have his value at somewhere in the region of £15m.
This season, Holgate has made 20 league appearances for Everton and played the full 90 minutes in all but one league match since the trip to Brighton in late October. In terms of game time, the most comparable Manchester City defender is Nicolas Otemendi – he’s played 18 games in the Premier League this season.
Holgate leads Otamendi in a number of defensive stats. He has more blocks, interceptions, tackles, tackles won, clearances and headed clearances. In fact, the only stat in which Otamendi leads Holgate is aerial battles won. Interestingly, Holgate has made five fouls less than Otamendi (11-16), despite having played two games more.
At the top end of the field, Holgate has contributed three assists in the league this season, but has failed to register any goals. By comparison, Otamendi has registered two goals, but no assists.
Holgate can be a valuable member of the Manchester City squad if this move does end up happening. This move, as his predecessor will attest, is a make or break shift for a player – but I’d back Holgate to prosper.
The thing I think might just swing it for him is his versatility – Guardiola loves a player who can play in two or three key positions. Given that he can play all across the back four AND in holding midfield if necessary, he certainly has that attribute.
All-in-all, this move is a little bit of a gamble from City if they do indeed decide to go for it, especially given their recent history of buying players from Everton (Jack Rodwell, Stones…). I do think £30m is too high, but if Manchester City can get that figure down, it seems like it could be a good move.