As the waves of Manchester City attacks continued to bombard Brighton's wilting defence, Eric García had another quietly impressive night at the other - rather less busy - end of the pitch.
Given that City tend to dominate almost any side they play, there's often not a lot of defensive work for their defenders to actually do – but in García's flurry of post-lockdown appearances, City's number 50 has dealt with what has come his way calmly and confidently, something which cannot always be said of his defensive colleagues.
Great win lads?? on to the next one now!! pic.twitter.com/Ymgg46CcpJ— Eric Garcia Martret (@ericgm3) July 11, 2020
Since City poached the Spanish centre-back from Barcelona's famed academy in the summer of 2017, García has gradually worked his way up the pecking order. After making his full Premier League debut at the turn of the year, Pep Guardiola has started the 19-year-old four times since football returned after the coronavirus-enforced break.
The assured displays he has delivered in these limited minutes have caught the eye of his former employers. Despite the financial turmoil they find themselves in, Barcelona have been linked with a move to lure their La Masia product back to Catalunya.
Guardiola revealed at the start of July that he was 'confident' García - whose contract expires in 2022 - will stay at the club. Given his outings in the top flight, it's not hard to understand why there is such a desire to secure the young man's future.
Before his night was prematurely ended by an almighty clattering from Ederson, García helped City ease back into Premier League football against Arsenal. The north London side may be lacking at the back, but the potent threat of the jet-heeled Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a daunting prospect for most defenders.
However, García coped comfortably alongside Aymeric Laporte on the night, as Guardiola was keen to explain.
"He understands well and this season when we play, especially on Boxing Day, he played always good," the 49-year-old told the Manchester Evening News. "He doesn't make mistakes, he's always focused and this game we knew we would play against dynamic, fast players."
Having spent his formative footballing years at Barcelona and then under Guardiola's tutelage, García - unsurprisingly - rarely wastes possession. In his last outing against Brighton, the 19-year-old misplaced just two of his 78 passes.
Along with an ease on the ball, García is so widely credited with the intangible quality of leadership that it's hard not to see some truth to the claims. The Spaniard captained every age group during his time at Barcelona, and has already began work on his coaching badges.
Very happy to be back with the team??. Muy contento por estar de vuelta con el equipo? pic.twitter.com/SHNbBgjhiZ— Eric Garcia Martret (@ericgm3) June 29, 2020
Garcia has played alongside the commanding figure of Laporte when he's appeared post-restart, but the pair were both rested for what proved to be a routine 5-0 rout of Newcastle United as Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones got a rare run-out together.
Despite the comfortable scoreline, Otamendi still managed to seem nervous on the ball, slashing the odd pass out of play when an opponent threatened to enter the same postcode as the rash Argentine.
Stones, on the other hand, had a reassuringly quiet afternoon – although that could be one of his last outings in a City shirt, as Guardiola mustered the vague offering 'with the transfer market we speak at the end of the season' in the latest update on his future.
However, City's manager could not have been more effusive in his praise for the younger centre-back, claiming: "We are going to try to convince him to stay here for many, many, many years."
The talented teenager isn't the finished product yet though. While a player's height is not often an issue for Guardiola, the Catalan manager has admitted that – at least at this stage in his development – the 5'11 García may struggle against particularly physical opponents.
After lauding the 'intelligent' and 'clever' García against Arsenal, Guardiola warned that his compatriot is more suited to certain opposition, explaining: "Against Burnley it is a different type of game with their strikers and we need another type of player but for this game we thought he was the right guy to play alongside Laporte and he played really good."
The injury to Laporte earlier in the season brutally highlighted a lack of depth at centre-back for City which - regardless of García's promise - has to be addressed in the summer. However, that is not to say García will be cast aside.
In this cold, fan-less addendum to the season, García's cool and collected style has been a welcome introduction to an all too often hotheaded backline. A 19-year-old with a handful of Premier League starts is not the divine solution to all City's defensive woes, but he is an assured step in the right direction.
Source : 90min