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Hindsight

2021-06-21 20:14 Tag:

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Two years after they failed to sign him, Harry Maguire could have a big say on the future of Manchester City s defence.

The Manchester United captain turned down the chance to join City in 2019, who refused to meet his asking price anyway, and forced the Blues to wait another year for a Vincent Kompany replacement.

In hindsight, the eventual arrival of Ruben Dias was worth the wait, but there will always be a wonder of what might have been when it comes to Maguire.

That is a feeling that could characterise England s Euro 2020 hopes, with Maguire back in training but facing a race against time to be fit to play a part in the tournament.

In his absence, City s John Stones is expected to be an ever-present at the back after his fine season, but his partner will pose Gareth Southgate a dilemma if Maguire isn t available.

Conor Coady, Tyrone Mings and Ben White have all done well this year, but have just 17 international caps between them. In comparison, Stones and City teammate Kyle Walker are elder statesmen in the squad.

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So it s no surprise to see reports this week that Walker is being pencilled in for a deputy centre-back role this summer.

In 2018, Walker was the right-sided centre-back in a back three in a formation that worked well for the World Cup, but England have reverted to a back four mostly in the three years since.

Since the World Cup, Walker has played at centre-back just six times for England out of 15 caps in 29 possible internationals. For City, in the three seasons since reaching the World Cup semi-final, Walker has played centrally just four times.

But given the options available to Southgate, Walker does possess the all-round qualities to play at centre-back, with his experience a big bonus. Esepecially with three top-class right-backs to England s disposal, moving Walker inside allows Keiran Trippier or Reece James to play.

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Even though Walker has spoken about preferring to play at full-back, he also is ready to play wherever required for his country. And should he be moved to the centre alongside Stones, it could be a useful exercise for City as well as England.

Walker is facing increased competition from Joao Cancelo at right-back for City, and whenever Pep Guardiola has used a back three there tends to be flexibility to change into a back four if needed. Often, Walker is the right wing-back in that scenario, moving back to right-back rather than moving from the right to the centre, or centre to the right.

With more experience at centre-back, particularly alongside Stones, Walker could return to City with more tactical flexibility to offer Guardiola. At 31, thoughts may soon turn to signing a new right-back to refresh the squad, so giving more cover at centre-back could offer Walker more time at the Etihad in the coming years.

With the invention of the inverted full-back this season, Walker will be aware of the need to continually evolve at City. This summer can boost his prospects in that field, as well as helping England again in their time of need.

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