EPL

'Undroppable' Ruben Dias measures up to Van Dijk

By Sports Desk February 02, 2021

Pep Guardiola claims Ruben Dias has become "undroppable" amid comparisons between the Manchester City centre-back and Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk.

Dias joined City from Benfica last September for a club record fee of £62million.

He arrived in the aftermath of a chastening 5-2 defeat at home to Leicester City, when Guardiola's men looked a far cry from the team who head into Wednesday's match at Burnley on top of the table and aiming to extend a 12-match winning run across all competitions.

The Portugal centre-back has been a key figure in the turnaround and Guardiola was asked whether his impact at the Etihad Stadium has been similar to the galvanising effect Van Dijk had at Anfield upon his January 2018 arrival.

Although the City manager shunned the chance to make a direct comparison, he left no doubt that Dias is one of the most important signings of his four and a half years in Manchester.

"Yeah, absolutely, absolutely," Guardiola said. "He settled immediately. In terms of mentality he's a guy who lives 24 hours for his profession.

"Every step he does, at home, on or off the pitch, eating, sleeping, recovery time, preparation time - everything is to be perfect during [the next] 95-minute football game.

"That's why [he has had an impact]. It depends on him to maintain [his form] and hopefully we can help him to grow. We are more than satisfied."

Van Dijk proved a crucial piece in the puzzle for Jurgen Klopp, transforming his Liverpool from a thrilling but inconsistent side into a winning machine that lifted the 2018-19 Champions League and 2019-20 Premier League.

Comparisons between him and Dias are set to persist when City travel to Merseyside this weekend, even though Van Dijk remains sidelined following knee ligament surgery.

Before the midweek match at Turf Moor, Dias has played 18 Premier League games, winning 12 and helming 11 clean sheets amid seven goals conceded.

During Van Dijk's first 18 top-flight matches, Liverpool won 11, conceded 11 and kept 10 clean sheets.

Like his Dutch counterpart, Dias' leadership qualities mean he has caught the eye beyond impressive raw statistics.

"He’s not just a player who plays good, he's a player who makes the other guys play good too," Guardiola said.

"It’s 90 minutes talking, 90 minutes communicating, 90 minutes saying what they have to do in every single action.

"When that happens, it's difficult for me [to pick anyone else] and [Dias becomes] undroppable."

It has been far from a one-man act, however, with City's form truly gathering pace since John Stones was paired with Dias at the heart of defence.

In 10 Premier League games together, Stones and Dias have combined for a remarkable nine clean sheets and conceded once - Callum Hudson-Odoi's late consolation in City's 3-1 win at Chelsea last month.

Without the Stones-Dias partnership, City have won four, drawn four and lost two in the league this term, conceding 12 - the same amount of goals they scored in those games.

Stones was Guardiola's first major defensive signing at City back in 2016 but his days in east Manchester appeared to be numbered as he struggled for form and fitness amid personal problems last season.

The Stones turnaround has been as stunning as it was unexpected and Guardiola insists all the credit should lie with the former Everton man.

"What I want from my players - all of them, not just John - is to be happy," Guardiola said. "He struggled to be happy here - especially with injuries, some personal problems, for many reasons, a lack of minutes. I didn't see him like he is right now.

"In the past he was not like he is now, with the stability, the mentality, happiness, commitment, focusing and everything. That's why I give a lot of credit to him. He overcame this situation himself.

"He could have fallen down and gone even more down, but it was completely the opposite. He said 'no, I'm here, I know how good I am'. He didn't need my confidence, he didn't need the words.

"He said, 'I know who I am, I know I'm a top central defender and guys, I'm coming to show you, the whole of England, the whole Premier League and the whole of the world that I'm good'. This is the only way."

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