It’s an almost impossible task to understand Pep’s thinking. Whenever it seems that we have finally got a grip on what goes inside his mind, he continues to prove us wrong. The squad selection for the Champion’s league final was a big example of how crazy his decisions can go. May be it’s this craziness that separates Pep from all the others in the world. My intention here is not at all to state that Akanji signing is crazy from Pep. But, I always thought that Gvardiol is the one Pep had on his Wishlist. It seemed that we were even prepared to wait an other year for him. So, the signing of Akanji very quickly in the last days of the window is definitely an interesting conversation.
New system demands a pacy center back
Now, this might seem like the most crazy reason to go for Akanji. We have won so many Premier League titles without much pace in our back line. But, the system this season is a new one. We have Erling Haaland and Pep has made some sweeping tactical tweaks to play with a striker. Our system has never looked so vertical in any of the seasons before. One of the weaknesses in this system is that we are vulnerable to the ball over the top and quick switches of play from one flank to the other.
Newcastle game showed us how this system could be got at. One of the key features of the game was how Wilson dragged John Stones and Ruben Dias out of position so easily. Our defense in that match was always looking terrified of the ball over the top and we could not play our usual game. Yes, Saint Maxim had a very good game, but our 2 center backs being dragged out of position quite easily and not having the necessary recovery pace was also a big issue.
The injury crisis of 2019-20 season
The 2019-20 injury crisis of our defenders must have surely been on the top of Pep’s mind. Also, this is a World Cup year and the schedule is going to be so unforgiving and relentless. Combining these two factors, Pep must have thought whether he could trust Luke Mbete to play in big games. The obvious answer must have been that Luke Mbete needs more time to develop. That’s the reason why Mbete has been sent on Loan.
Also, Akanji is a very experienced Center Back and he has played over 175 games for Dortmund. His experience in Europe will be very vital to our back line. The initial thought of most people is that he is a cover for our Center Backs. But, I would not at all be surprised if he slots straight into the team. He is a typical Pep Center Back and his positional awareness is supreme
To have cover if a Real Madrid like situation repeats
No, I am not talking about the cover for the way we conceded all those goals against Madrid. The lack of full back options due to Walker’s injury and Cancelo’s suspension was very pivotal in that semifinal leg. We just didn’t have a pacy option at the back. Pace was the need of the hour and it was the only was to deal with Vinicius in that Champion’s League tie. So, the addition of Akanji would mean that we have someone with pace who can cover for those sort of injuries at the back.
This could be a very important signing, come the deep end of the season. It is little signings like these that get you over the line in the final stages of the competitions when depth is the need of the hour. Also, Someone like Akanji could help you close out high pressure games with all of his experience. This was also something we missed in the our last Champion’s League campaign