Why Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala Could Become Best EPL Defensive Tandem

Phil KeidelContributor IIAugust 20, 2014

Kompany (center) makes everyone he plays with look a little better than they are.
Kompany (center) makes everyone he plays with look a little better than they are.Stu Forster/Getty Images

Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala could become the best pair of centre-backs in the Premier League because anyone who plays next to Kompany has such a chance. That is how good Kompany is.

"Even a fire hydrant could score playing with (Wayne) Gretzky," said then Edmonton Oilers general manager Glen Sather. Those words were meant to denigrate a player Sather was trying justify trading, but that fact does not make those words less true.

So it is with Kompany and whoever plays next to him. In the past four seasons, Kompany has dragged along the likes of Joleon Lescott, Matija Nastasic and Martin Demichelis en route to an FA Cup triumph and two Premier League titles.

Demichelis is still Kompany's primary running mate at the back for City, but it may be the Premier League's worst-kept secret that Mangala will supplant Demichelis upon reaching full fitness.

Nastasic was recently devalued (perhaps unnecessarily) by his manager. "We will see in the next few days what happens with Nastasic. He is an important player, but he has offers and I think the best thing for him is to play," City boss Manuel Pellegrini said recently per David Anderson of The Mirror.

Is Nastasic waving goodbye?
Is Nastasic waving goodbye?Clive Mason/Getty Images

So you're selling him then, Manuel? "We will see what happens, but we have until the end of August to see what kind of offers we get for Matija." That sounds like a "yes."

At least City will probably get something for Nastasic. Lescott left this summer on a free transfer to West Bromwich Albion. With his career as a central defender coming to an end, Lescott is concentrating on his social media presence and his comedy.

Nothing will ever be funnier than Lescott's infamous back pass on the last day of the 2011-12 season. It was funny in a "so funny you want to die" kind of way.

So, um, yeah, getting Kompany a partner with real potential to be a club building block was understandably a priority for City this summer. It took awhile, but the Sky Blues ultimately hauled in their desperately sought-after prize.

Candidly, no one can say with absolute certainty the quality of the player City received for their £32 million.

As though there was another option, Pellegrini is bullish about the acquisition. "Eliaquim is a player I believe will make an immediate impact in the Premier League, thanks to his physicality, his reading of the game and quality on the ball," Pellegrini said recently according to BBC Sport.

But Mangala's game has holes. "Mangala is not your cultured, ball-playing central defender, and his passing is generally poor when trying anything more ambitious than the simplest of deliveries," wrote Tom Kundert for fourfourtwo.com.

Looking at that last observation again, it almost makes the argument for Mangala as an ideal match for Kompany.

Mangala is the prototypical monster in the middle.
Mangala is the prototypical monster in the middle.Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Maybe Mangala is not exquisite or "just so" in his defensive style. That will be all right as far as Kompany is concerned, because Kompany is an excellent ball-playing defender and his tactics are usually right.

What Kompany can really use is a space eater and space creator. Someone to sweep the porch in front of City goalkeeper Joe Hart, someone to give opposing attackers that half-second of pause before they flit into the City penalty area. It looked like Nastasic would be that someone, and then it didn't.

That someone will now be Mangala.

If there is one downside about City's signing of Mangala, it is that it just took too long. City play Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea in the next five weeks. It would have been nice to ease Mangala into the Premier League against, say, Burnley

But there is no time for that. And if Kompany and Mangala find their rhythm together against those formidable sides, it will not be long until they are in the conversation with the best defensive pairings in the league.