When Vincent Kompany plays well, it’s sometimes easy to overlook because of how good everybody already knows he is and the level he usually maintains. But when Manchester City played Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday, it was hard not to notice the performance that the Belgian put on in the Camp Nou.
On big occasions, in big games, big players usually show up; that’s the proving ground for the best. Kompany is obviously one of the top defenders in the world, and he certainly played like that against Barcelona. The City captain understands his role at the club; he understands that whatever he does is the lead that everybody else will follow. And against Barcelona he set the standard straight from the first whistle.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini had obviously decided that sitting deep against Barcelona and allowing them time on the ball was the wrong tactic to use in the first-leg last month. In this game he clearly instructed his defenders to step up high and attempt to steal the ball at every opportunity. They never allowed a Barcelona player to stop and turn or allowed them time to think.
Kompany led from the front as he won tackles, intercepted whenever he could and imposed his authority on the game. In addition to that, Kompany also had the passing ability and vision to set City off on the counter-attack as well, which was crucial as City looked to exploit gaps left by Barcelona’s attack minded team.
That right there is exactly what sets Kompany apart from a lot of other center-backs in the world. He can win tackles, anticipate danger, intercept and win headers against strong opponents like anybody else. The cherry on the cake, though, is his ability on the ball — that’s what sets him apart. To step out from the back-four, do a step-over, drift around a couple of opposition players and then slide a pass into the center-forward is unreal for a center-back. Playing FIFA on your Playstation 4 or Xbox One, maybe. In reality? It’s extremely rare. Against Barcelona it was another showcase of Kompany’s all-around talent as a player — not just as a center-back, but the full package.
City’s problem this season has been finding somebody to partner with Kompany with both Joleon Lescott and Martin Demichelis enduring difficult seasons and neither being a suitable partner at this point in their respective careers. Until next season, though, Kompany will have to plug the gaps himself and be aware and cover for his struggling partner, whoever it is. And although we know he’s good, covering two positions might be asking a bit too much! Well, maybe — maybe not.