Analysing How Martin Demichelis Proved His Critics Wrong at Manchester City

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Analysing How Martin Demichelis Proved His Critics Wrong at Manchester City
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It's been a remarkable Premier League season in many ways: results have been almost impossible to predict with any certainty, Liverpool returned to the top end of the table with a largely unstable back four and a manager headbutted a player on the touchline.

It's been difficult to make much sense of any of it.

And then today, Manchester City announce their Player of the Month for April is one Martin Demichelis—the 33-year-old Argentinian defender who was roundly ridiculed by the media and, it must be said, his own fans just weeks ago. The thing is—and the neutrals who haven't been paying close attention to City in recent weeks will struggle to accept this—it is thoroughly deserved.

Demichelis' lack of pace is an easy stick to beat him with. He is painfully slow, and when he's up against quick forwards who like to play on the shoulder of the last defender there are times when it feels like he is a liability—that one quick through ball and turn of pace potentially leaving him for dead.

Add a couple of reckless moments against Barcelona and Wigan into the mix and the critics had their scapegoat. One English national newspaper labelled him "Dem Wit" after his red card against Barcelona contributed significantly to City's Champions League exit, with other pundits and fans all joining in to mock him on repeat.

What they ignored was his impressive reading of the game, his calmness and composure on the ball, his exceptional aerial ability and his rallying of the troops in an otherwise quiet back four, not to mention the injury he sustained just days after signing that resulted in him missing the opening weeks of the season.

The signs of his quality have been evident since his introduction to the side for those prepared to look beyond the cliches and platitudes, but his truly excellent form began away at Hull in the middle of March, a game that, should City go on and clinch the title, may well be looked back on as a turning point.

City went down to 10 men early on as Vincent Kompany was dismissed after dwelling on the ball—a mistake that was overlooked in a way it wouldn't have been had Demichelis been at fault—as the Blues' season appeared to be unraveling. A world-class David Silva performance and an inspired Demichelis saw them take a crucial three points and remain very much in the title race.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The sight of Demichelis orchestrating City's best use of the offside trap in years in between making crucial blocks and tackles was welcome, and one that saw them go from being disconsolate at Kompany's red card, to full of belief at the full-time whistle.

Since then, he's been peerless. He's outshone Kompany and undoubtedly been City's best player, given David Silva's injury setbacks. When the stakes are high, players must emerge and show their best form, and that's exactly what Demichelis has done. Only a series of majestic Silva performances in March denied him back-to-back awards, with his win in April so obvious it must be one of the most deserved in the club's recent history.

As James Maw notes over on FourFourTwo, City's defensive improvement, which has coincided with Demichelis emerging as one of their best players, has made the difference in the title race:

Manuel Pellegrini's side may have conceded twice at Goodison, and three times on their last visit to Merseyside last month, but in the other 10 of their last 12 league matches, they have shipped a total of just five goals. In the same 14-game period, Liverpool have conceded 17. That seven-goal difference could be the deciding factor come next Sunday.

Praise should be reserved, not only for the improving Hart, but also fellow former figure of fun, Martin Demichelis. The Argentine centre-back has grown into a key figure for the new Premier League leaders, and if he can continue in the same vein for another week, he should have a medal to show for his efforts.

The way he's turned things around is the latest in a long line of remarkable footnotes to what has been a truly unpredictable season.

 

Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.

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