It’s not often that a defender is lauded as man-of-the-match following a 4-1 win. But after City trounced United in the season’s first Manchester derby, amongst the many contenders for the accolade was Vincent Kompany, as the City captain put in a typically inspirational performance.
Sky Sports’s Jamie Carragher, a pundit notoriously difficult to appease from a defensive perspective, was waxing lyrical about the Belgian’s showing in his post game analysis:
“As a centre-back myself, watching that performance I was just in awe. Kompany gave a performance defensively and attackingly – he was involved in some of the goals. I don’t think I have seen a centre-back perform like that. He was not playing against Mickey Mouse players – that was England’s front two!”
Carragher was right, for Kompany bossed both Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney. And it wasn’t just the typical physical dominance you often associate with your average centre-back. Kompany comprehensively out-thought the United strikers too. When you combine that pace and power with such a high-level understanding of the game, the end result is often a world class talent.
Kompany is a player well befitting of the world class tag, and he has been so for a long time now. Whether he is ready to be considered as the world’s best centre-back is another matter entirely, but that is exactly what some are proclaiming him to be. Following that marvelous performance in the derby, former Belgium international Marc Degryse put his case forward:
“He came back from injury, but was immediately outstanding. And to do that in such a game is world class. I can think of no better central defender in the world.”
Whilst Degryse refers to the Belgian’s most recent showing in isolation, this sort of performance is nothing new for Kompany. He has been central to City’s recent successes and played a key role in winning both the 2011 FA Cup and 2012 Premier League title. His growth has been steady since arrival in England, and at this juncture he is someone who has every attribute the modern game demands of it’s very best defenders.
Physically, there are few forwards who can stand up to him. He is one of the most athletic players in the Premier League, and as a defender who looks to play very much on the front foot, his physical qualities compliment his combative style perfectly. His developing patent for nipping in front of the attacker, stealing the ball and powering into midfield with purpose has become an increasingly useful attacking weapon for City.
To play in that particular style, it’s also key that you have a supreme appreciation of the game. Again, Kompany has developed this facet since his arrival in the Premier League. His awareness of space around him, how to close it off and remarkable reactions mean that he can often cut out danger before he even has to fall back on his athleticism.
And when he has the ball, he’s completely in control. Used as a midfielder during Mark Hughes’s tenure as City boss, Kompany was able to refine his ability when in possession and this is evident in the intelligent manner in which he distributes the ball. He rarely picks the wrong pass, whether playing out from the back or at the end of one his trademark bursts forward.
Granted, other premier centre-backs like Thiago Silva, Mats Hummels and Sergio Ramos are all comparable to Kompany in the aforementioned stakes. But they don’t come close when it comes to leading their side.
The way Kompany galvanizes his team is a rare trait. Just look at his influence in the two games since his return from injury: City won both comfortably, and they should have been tricky contests against Plzen and United. Prior to their skipper’s return, the team struggled to four points from three games against Stoke, Cardiff and Hull.
In amongst City’s glut of superstars, Kompany is a well-rounded, eloquent and amicable individual who draws a huge deal of respect from his teammates. In turn, the City players seem to thrive when lining up in tandem with their skipper. It would be difficult not to, for Kompany leads by example and has a contagious will to win.
If Kompany’s not the best centre back in the world already, then he can’t be far off. If he can stay fit, inspire City to another league title and into the latter stages of the Champions League, then this tag could be beyond dispute come the end of the season.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball