Ruben Dias is the latest player Pep Guardiola is turning to in a bid to address Manchester City's defensive concerns.

Such worries were laid bare in a 5-2 demolition at home to Leicester City in the Premier League on Sunday, marking the first time a Guardiola team had conceded five times in a single game.

Nathan Ake was already brought in from Bournemouth earlier in the window but another centre-back, probably to partner Aymeric Laporte long term, was always likely to be a priority.

Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly and Jules Kounde of Sevilla emerged as targets but it was Benfica's Dias who Guardiola eventually plumped for, with City agreeing an initial fee of £62million and sending Nicolas Otamendi in the opposite direction.

But is Dias the right answer for Guardiola? Using Opta's league data going back to August 2019, we compare the Portugal international against Laporte, Otamendi, John Stones and Eric Garcia, as well as Koulibaly and Kounde to try to answer that question.


The case for the defence…

In terms of the basics expected for a defender, Dias – who has the most appearances in our timespan with 35 – compares pretty favourably against our selected players.

His 45 tackles is only beaten by Koulibaly's 55, and the 1.3 tackles made per 90 minutes is better than Garcia (0.8), Kounde (0.9), Laporte (1.1) and the same as Stones. Both Otamendi (1.5) and Koulibaly (2.2) score better.

When it comes to interceptions, it is again Koulibaly who registers highest in direct numbers with 33, three more than Dias on 30.

Assessing the same area over 90 minutes sees Garcia (2.1), Laporte (1.6), Koulibaly (1.3) and Otamendi (1.2) all make more than Dias (0.9), while Kounde has the same and Stones is at 0.7.

Koulibaly is also the leader in blocks made (19) and blocks made per 90 (0.7) but Dias is second with 17 and 0.5 – Otamendi also scoring 0.5 in the latter measurement.

Dias has made the most clearances at 102 but when measured over the course of a game, Otamendi (3.8), Kounde (3.4) and Garcia (3.3) all rank higher than his 2.9.


More physicality needed?

There is a long-standing stereotype that the Premier League is more physical than its European counterparts.

If such an admittedly cliched notion is indeed true then Dias may have to get used to more physicality. His 88 aerial balls won is fewer only than Kounde's, but a 60 per cent aerial success rate is better only than Koulibaly (55) and Garcia (32).

Indeed, per 90 minutes, Kounde (3.7), Otamendi and Stones (both 3.3) each won more aerial balls than Dias (2.5).

For duel success, Dias is bang in the middle, with his 60 per cent lower than Stones (70), Kounde and Laporte (both 63) but higher than Koulibaly, Otamendi (both 57) and Garcia (42).

Encouragingly, Dias made no errors leading to goals in this period (and only one leading to a shot). The only players making a mistake that did result in a goal were Koulibaly and Otamendi (both one).

Kounde, Otamendi and Stones all made two errors that led to the opposition having a shot on goal.

Dias conceded one penalty in our time frame, as did Kounde, Koulibaly and Garcia. He gave away on average 1.1 fouls per game, with only Koulibaly (1.5) averaging more.


Capable of building from the back

Of course, to succeed as a defender under Guardiola, you must be as adept on the ball as you are off it and Dias has plenty to provide encouragement here.

In the 2019-20 season, Dias was involved in 104 open play sequences that led to a shot on goal and started 23 such passages. Only Koulibaly (120 and 30) was involved in more.

Dias is comfortably the best scorer in terms of involvements in open play sequences that led to a goal with 20. Otamendi scored next highest with 12 in this metric. The Portuguese was also responsible for starting three open play sequences that led to a goal – with Stones and Garcia beginning two.

Since August 2019, Dias has a pass success rate of 89 per cent, with only Kounde's 86 coming in lower. But it is not unreasonable to expect this to improve under Guardiola with Stones, Garcia (both 94), Laporte (93) and Otamendi (92) all scoring well.

Dias will quickly learn he is in a team that will spend plenty of time in possession and his 66.3 passes per 90 minutes are likely to go up when you look at the numbers for Laporte (93.6), Garcia (84.3), Stones (82.6) and Otamendi (80.6) in this regard.


Verdict: So, we asked is Dias the solution for Guardiola's defensive concerns? Well, and excuse the unashamed fence-sitting, the numbers suggest the jury is out. Let's not forget the 23-year-old is moving to a new league, which brings its own unique challenges. But that is not to say there are not causes for optimism for City fans. His numbers for involvements in open play sequences leading to shots and goals are impressive, while his defensive stats stack up well against the others. There may need to be improvement physically but, given time, Dias can be a great addition to City's backline.

Pep Guardiola and defenders. It's been an expensive exercise for Manchester City.

Still trying to fill the glaring void left by long-serving captain Vincent Kompany in 2019, and reeling after a stunning 5-2 Premier League drubbing at the hands of Leicester City, Manchester City have turned to Ruben Dias.

Benfica and Portugal centre-back Dias will cost City an initial £62million (€68m), plus £2.1m (€3.6m) in add-ons should the 23-year-old trigger various performance-related clauses.

Sunday's announcement, with Nicolas Otamendi set to move in the opposite direction, takes Guardiola's spending as City manager on defenders to in excess of £410m (€451m) since 2016.

While City have won two Premier League titles under Guardiola, the team's defence remains an Achilles heel, especially in pursuit of European glory.

As City welcome Dias to Manchester, we look at Guardiola's previous defender signings while in the Citizens dugout.

 

Ruben Dias €68m (£62m)

He is Guardiola's latest big-money defensive signing. Previously linked to the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham, Dias arrives having emerged from Benfica's academy ahead of the 2017-18 season. He helped Benfica to Primeira Liga glory in 2018-19.

Joao Cancelo €65m (£59m)

The full-back position is a complex area for Guardiola, whose formation often centres on inverted full-backs and overloads. City splashed the cash on Cancelo last year but question marks remain over the 26-year-old Portugal international.

Aymeric Laporte €65m (£59m)

Of all of Guardiola's recruits in central defence, Laporte is the only one to truly convince. However, Laporte's fitness has proven a problem since being prised away from Athletic Bilbao two years ago.

Benjamin Mendy €57.5m (£52m)

A key member in Monaco's memorable run to the 2016-17 Champions League semi-finals and triumphant Ligue 1 campaign, Mendy arrived amid much fanfare in 2017. Mendy's off-field activities and his knee issues have prevented City from seeing the best of the France international left-back week in, week out.

John Stones €55.6m (£50m)

Identified as the ideal ball-playing centre-back to fit into Guardiola's system, it has not gone according to plan for Stones, who left Everton in 2016. After a promising start to life, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss appears to have lost faith in the often-injured Englishman.

Kyle Walker €52.7m (£48m)

Walker has served well under Guardiola, having joined as one of the best players in the league in 2017. Aside from a couple of dips in form and questionable off-field choices, the ex-Tottenham full-back remains important to what Pep is trying to achieve in Manchester.

Nathan Ake €45.3m (£41m)

Ake was the first defender through the door ahead of the 2020-21 season after City were dethroned by Liverpool last term. Lured away from relegated Bournemouth, the left-footed centre-back has started both of City's Premier League fixtures, scoring in the humbling defeat to Leicester.

Danilo €30m (£27m)

The Brazilian full-back is no longer a City player. Part of the deal that saw Cancelo swap Juventus for City in 2019, Danilo arrived as a LaLiga champion and two-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid. But the 29-year-old never really convinced in a City shirt.

Angelino €12m (£10.9m)

Part of City's youth team from 2013, Angelino eventually left for Dutch giants PSV five years later. After impressing in Eindhoven, City triggered their buy-back clause to re-sign the Spaniard in July 2019. Angelino made 12 appearances before being loaned out to RB Leipzig in the second half of last season. Despite interest from Barca, he is back on loan in Leipzig.

Oleksandr Zinchenko €2m (£1.8m)

The 23-year-old left-back was plucked from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2016. Following a couple of loan spells, Guardiola has often called on Zinchenko, who played 19 Premier League matches in 2019-20.

Will he or won't he?

That's the question regarding Jadon Sancho and a possible move to Manchester United.

United, however, are reportedly bullish about their chances of prising the England international from Borussia Dortmund.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER CONFIDENT IN SANCHO PURSUIT

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has told Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho he expects the blockbuster transfer to be completed, according to Dagbladet.

United have so far been unable to prise Sancho from Dortmund, who refuse to budge on their £108million (€120m) asking price, with the transfer window set to close on October 5.

However, Solskjaer appears confident of landing his number one target.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona could announce the signing of Ajax full-back Sergino Dest on Tuesday, reports Fabrizio Romano. Bayern Munich are also trying to prise the United States international from Amsterdam.

- The Telegraph says Tottenham are eyeing Bournemouth forward Josh King, who was previously linked to United.

United are closing in on Porto full-back Alex Telles. Romano claims personal terms have been agreed, with final details and agents commission remaining as United and Porto negotiate a fee.

- The Guardian reports Tottenham have not given up on signing Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar. Inter are holding out for £55m (€60m) but Spurs are only prepared to pay between €30m-€35m. Napoli's Nikola Maksimovic could reportedly replace Skriniar in Milan.

- According to L'Equipe, Leeds United are nearing a deal to sign Bayern midfielder Michael Cuisance. Leeds have been unable to meet Udinese's demands for star Rodrigo De Paul.

Marcelo Brozovic has realised Inter want to sell him as the Croatia international eyes an exit, reports Calciomercato. It comes as Inter chase Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante, who has since been linked to United.

- Romano says Milan are confident of completing a deal for Bodo/Glimt star Jens Petter Hauge, who impressed during the Europa League qualifier at San Siro.

Napoli director Cristiano Giuntoli believes star defender Kalidou Koulibaly will remain at the Serie A club, despite links to Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Koulibaly had been strongly linked with Premier League giants City but Pep Guardiola's side agreed a deal to sign Benfica centre-back Ruben Dias on Sunday.

Ligue 1 champions PSG are also reportedly interested following Thiago Silva's departure, while the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool have been linked previously.

Asked about Koulibaly prior to Sunday's 6-0 demolition of Genoa, Giuntoli told Sky Sport Italia: "The team was completed in January with Stanislav Lobotka and Diego Demme, who can play in a few different roles. With Amir Rrahmani, [Victor] Osimhen and [Andrea] Petagna, we are complete, so will now try to release players who won't have much time on the pitch.

"I think Koulibaly is staying, we are very happy and so is he. I believe that he is staying."

Koulibaly helped keep a clean sheet as high-flying Napoli preserved their perfect start to the season against Genoa.

Napoli are yet to concede in two Serie A fixtures this season, while scoring eight goals to top the standings.

Gennaro Gattuso was also quizzed on Koulibaly following Giuntoli's comments and the Napoli head coach told Sky Sport Italia post-match: "I hope he remains with us, selfishly speaking, because he gives us so much both in technical terms and as a character.

"The world has changed because of the pandemic and I realise all clubs need to balance the books. I hope the call won't arrive, but I'll be nervous about it until transfer deadline day."

Senegal international Koulibaly has called Napoli home since arriving from Genk in 2014.

The 29-year-old was instrumental as Napoli claimed the Coppa Italia title last season – the club's first piece of silverware since 2014.

Manchester City have signed centre-back Ruben Dias from Benfica in a transfer worth an initial £62million (€68m) with Nicolas Otamendi heading the opposite way in a separate deal.

Portugal international Dias, 23, has been a regular for Primeira Liga side Benfica since emerging through the academy ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.

Dias has been linked with a number of big-name clubs around Europe, including Manchester United, but rivals City have now reached an agreement with Benfica.

The Portuguese side confirmed the news on their official website on Sunday, shortly before announcing a €15m (£13.67m) deal is in place for Otamendi, who must now undergo a medical.

City will pay an additional €3.6m (£2.1m) in add-ons for Dias should he trigger various performance-related clauses.

Dias captained Benfica in Saturday's victory over Moreirense and hugged his team-mates and sporting director Rui Costa as he left the field at full-time.

"It was a special moment [with Costa] and I think everyone already knows why," Dias said after the game. "Obviously, people leave their mark on you, and the club also.

"Without a doubt, it was very special for me. I am very happy. It was very important to consecrate this game with a goal, it was very special for me."

Dias' arrival ends City manager Pep Guardiola's search for a right-sided centre-back, 16 months after long-serving Vincent Kompany departed the Etihad Stadium for Anderlecht.

Otamendi – who played for Benfica's Portuguese rivals Porto between 2010 and 2014 – spent five years with City and started 31 games in all competitions last term.

The 32-year-old won two Premier League titles, four EFL Cup trophies, two Community Shields and the FA Cup during his time in Manchester, having arrived from Valencia in 2015.

Manchester City have signed centre-back Ruben Dias from Benfica in a transfer worth an initial £62million (€68m) with Nicolas Otamendi heading the opposite way in a separate deal.

Portugal international Dias, 23, has been a regular for Primeira Liga side Benfica since emerging through the academy ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.

Dias has been linked with a number of big-name clubs around Europe, including Manchester United, but rivals City have now reached an agreement with Benfica.

The Portuguese side confirmed the news on their official website on Sunday, shortly before announcing a €15m (£13.67m) deal is in place for Otamendi.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel criticised his players for easing off the pace in the second half of their 2-0 victory against Reims on Sunday.

Mauro Icardi scored his first two goals since February for PSG at the Stade Auguste-Delaune as the Ligue 1 champions made it three victories in succession without conceding.

PSG started with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar together for the first time this season, while Angel Di Maria and Icardi were also named in an attacking line-up.

Despite the comfortable nature of the victory, Tuchel was not overly pleased with his side's performance against a Reims side without a win this term.

"I liked it in the first half, but I don't understand why we missed a lot of chances," he told Telefoot. "After 20 or 30 minutes we should be three or four up. 

"But I am not happy with the second half that we did. It wasn't serious. There was not the same aggressiveness and the same intensity

"The plan was to put Neymar close to Mbappe. We chose an offensive structure. We tried something and I have a lot of confidence in my team. 

"We had a lot of chances and had 70 per cent of the ball. If we put three or four chances away after 30 minutes, we have a different analysis. 

"So we can see that we missed a lot. The efficiency was not there. You can't play a game like that. In the second half, we weren't serious."

Match-winner Icardi struggled towards the end of last season and did not feature in PSG's Champions League semi-final win over RB Leipzig nor the defeat to Bayern Munich in the final.

And he is relieved to have got off the mark in 2020-21 against Reims, the ex-Inter forward scoring from two of his three attempts on target and creating a joint-high four chances.

"It was important for me to score these goals," he said. I'm happy to score. "I was relaxed during my non-scoring period as I was helping the team defensively. Now we must continue. 

"I'm happy to create chances for my team-mates. We could have put in more to kill the game faster, but satisfaction prevails anyway."

Asked if PSG need another forward before the transfer window closes, Icardi said: "This is a question for the directors. The players are here to play."

Mikel Arteta has great admiration for the way Liverpool have combined their "vision and strategy" with smart recruitment to bring success and subsequent riches to the club, as he looks to oversee a similar resurgence at Arsenal.

Liverpool endured a difficult period between the years of 2009 and 2016, as they finished in the top four of the Premier League just once in seven seasons.

That solitary campaign saw Brendan Rodgers almost win the title, but they slipped up late on and could only finish as high as sixth the following season – he was then sacked in October 2015.

While Jurgen Klopp could only take them to 8th in 2015-16, it was clear that the Reds were building in the right direction, with successive fourth-placed finishes following, before Champions League success in 2018-19 preceded a first Premier League title last term.

Arsenal now find themselves in a comparable situation to the early days of the Klopp era, having failed to finish in the top four in each of the past four seasons but seemingly making positive steps under Arteta, who replaced Unai Emery in December last year.

Liverpool are now arguably the standard-bearers in England and just this month managed to lure one of the world's elite midfielders – Thiago Alcantara – to Anfield, and Arteta feels such circumstances have come about through years of patience and good decision-making.

"We are in different moments, as clubs, for the success they've had over the years and how stable they've been in the Champions League and Premier League," Arteta said ahead of the two teams' meeting at Anfield on Monday.

"We just try to get the right momentum by doing deals we believe are going to make us stronger and with the resources we have at the moment, and try to push as hard as we can as a team to do it as quick as possible.

"[Winning trophies helps] give you the financial power, absolutely, but as well you have to recruit the right players and Liverpool have done both.

"They generated finances from performances on the pitch, how they've grown as a club over the years and because they have implemented a vision and strategy that is really clear.

"That is bringing them success with a lot of good decisions."

Ruben Dias is on the verge of leaving Benfica.

The Portugal international is wanted by Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

Could he help City dethrone Premier League champions Liverpool?

 

TOP STORY – DIAS SET FOR CITY

Benfica defender Ruben Dias will join Manchester City, according to journalist Fabrizio Romano.

Pep Guardiola has been eyeing defensive reinforcements following Nathan Ake's arrival from Bournemouth, and now Dias is set to swap Benfica for City.

As part of the deal, veteran centre-back Nicolas Otamendi will move in the opposite direction.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Barcelona rejected a €150million offer for teenage sensation Ansu Fati from an unnamed club. Manchester United have been linked previously.

Sergino Dest will travel to Camp Nou to complete his move to Barca, reports RAC1. The Ajax full-back is also wanted by Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

Milan and Roma are both interested in signing Norwich City right-back Max Aarons, says Sky Sports. The Englishman has previously been linked to Barca and Bayern.

- According to Sportitalia, West Ham are in talks with Serie A holders Juventus for defender Daniele Rugani.

- Lyon want €50million (£46m) for in-demand star Houssem Aouar amid interest from Arsenal, claims RMC Sport. Paris Saint-Germain, City and Chelsea have also been linked.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has no plans to sign new players before the transfer window shuts following his team's thrilling 3-2 win over Real Betis.

Sergio Ramos scored a late penalty as LaLiga champions Madrid claimed their first win of the 2020-21 season at 10-man Betis on Saturday.

After Federico Valverde's 14th-minute opener, Betis turned the match on its head with two goals in three minutes via Aissa Mandi and William Carvalho prior to half-time.

Barcelona-owned Emerson scored an own goal three minutes into the second half before being sent off with 23 minutes remaining, and Madrid made the most of their numerical advantage when Ramos converted an 82nd-minute penalty.

Zidane was asked about Madrid's transfer activity pre-game, with the Spanish giants quiet since the market re-opened, having allowed the likes of Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Brahim Diaz to leave.

Quizzed again on possible new signings post-match, Zidane told reporters: "No. We spoke about this before. I'm happy with the squad that I've got.

"We are what we are and we're going to try to have a successful season."

Reflecting on the match itself following Madrid's goalless draw against Real Sociedad in their season opener, Zidane said: "When you're behind it's difficult to change the dynamics of the game but we managed it today. It's crucial to do that every once in a while.

"We had a lot of chances, and people we talk about how we don't score enough but today we hit three and could have had more. I'm very proud of all the players, they're working brilliantly. We have to keep it up."

"The referee is there to review the action," added Zidane after Betis defender Marc Bartra was penalised for handball. "I think that in the end it's just what happened. He's in charge. I never get involved with the referees and I'm not going to get involved today. The most important thing for us is the game we played at a difficult ground.

"We can be happy with the work done, we had to work hard for it and we managed to take all three points, which is the most important thing."

"In the end it was a very complicated, difficult game," he said. "The players have given their all. It's three very important points for us at a complicated ground and against a team who have just won their first two games. We are happy. We know there is a long way to go and that we can and will improve."

Zidane also handed a rare start to out-of-favour forward Luka Jovic, who continues to be linked with a loan move away from the Santiago Bernabeu.

Jovic – playing alongside Karim Benzema – was tripped when through on goal as Emerson was shown a red card past the hour-mark, and Zidane said: "What I was looking for was to play in the opposition's half with a different formation.

"We can play in different ways and one of them is with the two forwards. We can be happy with the game because in the end we got all three points."

Benfica defender Ruben Dias appears set to join Manchester City after the Portuguese giants' coach Jorge Jesus confirmed Saturday's 2-0 win over Moreirense was "almost certainly" the centre-back's final outing in Portugal.

Dias, 23, came through Benfica's academy and has been a regular in the club's senior side since the 2017-18 campaign.

In that time he has reportedly been tracked by many of Europe's biggest clubs, including Manchester United, but it appears his next move will see him wear blue instead of red.

City are said to have offered €55million (£50m) and Nicolas Otamendi to Benfica for the highly rated Dias, who is also a regular at international level with Portugal.

Dias scored the opening goal in Saturday's victory and also wore the captain's armband, while he was shown sharing emotional embraces with Benfica icon Rui Costa and other members of the club's hierarchy at full-time.

Jesus then effectively confirmed Dias' exit as he spoke to the media.

"I would like to be absolutely sure, but it was almost certainly the last game he played," Jesus told reporters.

"In football you never know, sometimes everything changes in the last second, but I think that will not happen. He is a player we are sorry to see leave. He's a great player.

"But I also have some fault for the departure, this has to do with the elimination from the Champions League [qualifiers] and there are things that have to be balanced.

"He is the only player who has a high market value. He is already a good player and will be a beautiful player."

Jesus also briefly discussed the chance of Otamandi joining from City, suggesting it will not be a swift adaptation period for the former Porto man.

"Of course, Ruben has had seven weeks with me. It was not easy at first for all of them to adapt to my idea of ​​the game," he said.

"And when he [Otamendi] arrives, he will realise that my ideas are different from those of Manchester City. This is if the Manchester City player comes.

"There is also talk of Ruben Semedo. It will be weeks of adaptation."

A visibly emotional Dias savoured his moment with Costa and was thrilled to seemingly close the Benfica chapter of career in such a manner.

"It was a special moment [with Costa] and I think everyone already knows why," he said. "Obviously, people leave their mark on you, and the club also. Without a doubt, it was very special for me.

"I am very happy. It was very important to consecrate this game with a goal, it was very special for me."

Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta is in awe of the winning culture created by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and the German's ability to root out any early signs of complacency, acknowledging they are at a level the Gunners aspire to.

Liverpool ended a 30-year wait for the English top-flight title last season as they won their first Premier League crown, finishing 18 points clear of Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's City had broken a host of records en route to the title in the previous two seasons, although Liverpool finished only one point adrift of them in 2018-19.

While much of the focus for Liverpool is on their success last season, they have been consistently exceptional for two years and Arteta could only marvel at the achievement.

The Spaniard presided over a penalty shoot-out victory against the Reds after a 1-1 draw in the Community Shield at the end of August, while they also won the most recent league encounter at Emirates Stadium 2-1, but Arteta accepts Arsenal have a way to go to reach Liverpool's standard.

"It's a different level, they have done it in the Premier League, in the Champions League, that's why the bar is so high, not only them but Man City as well in recent years, that's the level and you have to be able to compete at that level," Arteta told reporters ahead of Monday's meeting at Anfield.

"This is our context and our reality. We want to be one of those teams – the basic things have to be implemented every day.

"First of all, you need a really individual performance by all of them [the players, to beat Liverpool]. You need certain luck, for sure, in moments in the game and [to be] so consistent through the game because, in any moment, they can open you up and [you] get exposed.

"You never give up, another crucial thing against them, you have to expect them to be at their best. If you are always expecting that, the level of attention is higher, focus is higher, and then you are more determined in every ball. That's key I think."

With regards to what is so impressive about Liverpool, Arteta added: "I don't see any complacency.

"They go to any ground, even when they are 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 up and they are going the same way. This is an incredible credit to the coaching team, the culture they have created and the spirit of the team.

"You can see that in all players – not one player plays half-hearted on the day, not very interested and just playing for moments in the game. They just go for it, every single minute of every game for 10 months.

"That's a massive compliment for them."

Arsenal finished 43 points worse off than Liverpool last season and Arteta laughed off the idea that the Gunners will completely wipe that deficit out in 2020-21, though he does hope Klopp's side drop off a little.

"I don't know if in the history of football someone has closed a gap of 43 points if they're on the same level in just a few months," he chuckled.

"Obviously, what you're expecting is [for Arsenal] to be much, much better, more consistent and then they [Liverpool] can drop a little bit, then the gap is not that big.

"But we can control what we can control. That is the level of our performances and our consistency, and do our best to do much better than last year – whatever they do is up to them."

Arsenal have started the new campaign with back-to-back wins over Fulham and West Ham, while they also beat Leicester City 2-0 in the EFL Cup on Wednesday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted a lack of sharpness was the reason behind Manchester United conceding goals as he ruled out adding a centre-back in the transfer window.

United secured a 3-2 win at Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday thanks to a last-gasp penalty from Bruno Fernandes, who converted from the spot in the 10th minute of additional time.

However, having conceded three times when losing their Premier League opener at home to Crystal Palace, defensive deficiencies were again a topic of conversation after the final whistle on the south coast.

Neal Maupay and Solly March both scored for Brighton, the latter in the 95th minute to make it 2-2, while the home side were denied five times by the woodwork as they had 18 attempts at goal.

Leandro Trossard was particularly unlucky, becoming the first player to hit the woodwork on three occasions in a Premier League match since Cristiano Ronaldo in October 2006, as Solskjaer retained faith in Victor Lindelof despite his difficult outing against Palace.

"We've got many defenders here and I put Eric (Bailly) on to bolster the defence, following the runs of Trossard and Maupay," Solskjaer said in his media conference.

"For me, we've got enough good centre-backs here at the moment.

"When you concede chances and concede goals, there are two different things you can look at - it's either the team shape, or are there any individual mistakes.

"We're not in our best shape of form, our shape isn't there, we're not sharp enough to stop crosses or follow the runs.

"We're a little bit behind, that's more structural mistakes than individual mistakes. I thought Victor did well today."

United have been linked with a new defender, media reports suggesting they are interested in Porto left-back Alex Telles.

Solskjaer promised the players he currently has in his squad will improve as they play more matches after a shortened pre-season. They play Brighton again on Wednesday, this time in the EFL Cup. 

"We've got to be honest enough to say they created the most chances. Maybe 50-50 possession but they had loads of shots, big chances and that's not what we want. We need to improve a lot in the weeks coming forward," the Norwegian boss said.

"The spirit and character of the boys I don't question at all, the spirit is there. The sharpness and fitness might not be, but it is going to come.

"We've got three or four weeks to catch up and the more games we play, the more 90 minutes we get, we'll be sharper and sharper."

Diego Simeone wants Luis Suarez to improve on the goalscoring output of Alvaro Morata and be the catalyst that makes Atletico Madrid LaLiga title challengers again following his move from Barcelona.

Suarez completed a €6million switch from Barca on Friday, signing a two-year contract with Atleti following a largely acrimonious Camp Nou departure.

The Uruguayan striker, 33, reached third in Barca's all-time goalscoring charts in his six years at the club and netted 16 in the league last term, a respectable figure given he made just 22 starts and missed a significant portion of the season through injury.

Ronald Koeman revealed in his news conference on Saturday that, while he planned to discard Suarez anyway, the decision to move the former Liverpool star on had already been made before the Dutchman arrived.

But one man's trash is another man's treasure, and Simeone is adamant Suarez's impact at the Wanda Metropolitano could be massive, challenging him to improve on the 12 LaLiga goals scored last season by Morata, who was allowed to leave for Juventus.

"The arrival of Suarez encourages us to continue growing," Simeone told reporters, having also confirmed the striker is in the squad for Atletico's season opener at home to Granada on Sunday.

"He will give us internal competition. He is a forward who has impressive offensive power and hopefully he can continue to produce the numbers that he has been doing in the past.

"These six years [at Barca] have been wonderful [for Suarez]. His colleagues have received him with enthusiasm we hope he adapts as soon as possible.

"We all know him – he's a great reference for the team. Given the option that Alvaro had of being able to leave, the best way to continue improving was to look for someone who could improve on Alvaro's scoring contribution, and when the option of Suarez appeared, what was I going to say? His numbers speak for themselves.

"We were lucky that when we had a very good [Radamel] Falcao, a very good [Diego] Costa or a very good [Antoine] Griezmann, we came close to fighting for everything. Let's hope that with Luis Suarez it will be like that and we can overcome what we did last season."

Atletico finished third in LaLiga last term, 17 points adrift of a Real Madrid side that, while certainly solid, was hardly spectacular as they clinched the title.

Six teams – including Sunday's visitors Granada – scored more than Atletico in 2019-20, but Simeone feels things will be different with Suarez having a point to prove.

"I'm going to be sincere with you, he was convinced that this was the place where he could show that he was a top-notch forward," Simeone added. "I found what I was looking for for this club – ambition and a desire to be here.

"Hopefully he will give us back the options we had when we had the best Falcao, the best Costa or the best Griezmann. That would mean getting closer to the successes that all fans want."

Ronald Koeman insisted he was not "the bad guy" in Luis Suarez's transfer away from Barcelona, although he could understand Lionel Messi's anger at the move.

Suarez, third on the list of all-time Barcelona goal scorers, left Camp Nou this week for Atletico Madrid.

It was reported Suarez was one of a number of senior stars informed by new coach Koeman they would have to leave the club following an underwhelming 2019-20 season.

But Koeman suggested some portrayals of this conversation were not entirely accurate, saying Suarez could have stayed but would have had a reduced role.

"It seemed that I had been the bad guy in this movie, but it is not like that," Koeman said ahead of the Blaugrana's LaLiga opener against Villarreal.

"Since the call [regarding Suarez's future], I have shown respect for him and I have always told him that it can be difficult to play but, if he stayed, he would be one of the squad.

"Before I signed the contract, the club was thinking about things, and I have tried to support those things. They are not just decisions of the coach.

"Luis and I respect each other and we have spoken clearly about his future. He had the opportunity to go to Atletico and I wish all the luck in the world."

Suarez's exit prompted a furious Instagram post from captain Messi, whose own attempted departure was blocked by the club.

Messi said Suarez did not deserve "to get kicked out like [he] did", adding he was not surprised by Barca's actions.

Koeman responded: "It is normal for him to be upset that a friend has left, but I have no doubt about Messi. I have seen him train."

The former Netherlands coach, who would not rule out moves for Lautaro Martinez or Memphis Depay, is not concerned by the tumultuous nature of his early Barca reign.

"If you ask the coaches who have been at Barca, they will surely tell you that they have never had a quiet day," he said.

"I knew that when I had to face changes I would have people in favour and others against. I knew it.

"No problem, it is part of being in the best club in the world, although I hope there is a little more peace of mind."

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