Pep Guardiola has hailed new Manchester City signing Ruben Dias as “a natural leader” but insists he will not deviate from his preferred defensive system.
Dias joined City for an initial fee of £62million (€68m), with Nicolas Otamendi heading to Benfica as part of the deal, and he could make his Premier League debut against Leeds United on Saturday.
The centre-half’s move was announced in the hours after City had lost 5-2 at home to Leicester City, marking the first time a Guardiola team had conceded five goals in a game in a coaching career spanning 686 matches.
The City boss warned Dias will need time to adjust to his new surroundings but is confident he will make a big difference when he is settled.
“We knew all about his personality before we tried to buy him,” Guardiola told Sky Sports.
“He’s not just a player with skills, he’s a natural leader – you have to be to be captain of a team like Benfica, one of the greatest teams of all time in Europe, at 23. In a short time, he’ll be captain of Portugal, too.
“He needs time – to know the players, to know the way we want to play, but he came here for six years; in that time he will become an important player for us.”
City have spent in the region of £400million on defenders since Guardiola took charge in 2016, but defensive concerns over the past year have prompted doubts about their strength at the back.
They were punished for some suspect defending in their 2-1 FA Cup semi-final loss to Arsenal and 3-1 Champions League exit at the hands of Lyon last season, and they have kept only one clean sheet in their past six games in all competitions.
Concerns about the vulnerability of a high defensive line are not about to force Guardiola into a change, though.
“The high line has always been like this for me,” he said. “My teams have conceded the fewest goals playing 40 metres away from our box. I’ve always believed the further you are from your goal, the less chance you have to concede.
“We have to control the counter-press as a team, we have to improve playing against the counter-attack. We have to have more passes to have more control in the game but I don’t see it as a big issue right now. We didn’t lose against Leicester because of the counter-attack.
“Every day I try to get the players believing in the message. Most of my backroom staff have remained the same and look what we’ve won in three seasons.
“If ever the players don’t believe the message, it will be my fault. I have to keep doing my best to try and convince them. I know that when you’re winning, everything you’re doing is right, and when you lose, you have a problem. But they’re pretty convinced by what we’re doing.”
City face Leeds United on Saturday, a team managed by Marcelo Bielsa, the man Guardiola says he admires the most “as a manager and also a person”.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss also looks to Bielsa as a reason never to abandon your principles “not even in the bad moments”.
“Whether your career is long or short, you have ups and downs, but never in the downs do I doubt about the players or the way I feel. Nobody can assure you of a victory, nobody can assure you with one idea that you will have success,” he added.
“You have to believe in your own convictions.”