Stones, Laporte could anchor Man City defence for years - Guardiola

Aymeric Laporte and John Stones have been the centre-back pairing for each of Manchester City's marquee matches this season, against Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

The John Stones-Aymeric Laporte central defensive pair has been integral to Manchester City gaining seven points from a possible nine against Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.   -  Reuters

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City's central defensive pairing of John Stones and Aymeric Laporte could dominate Premier League forwards for years to come.

Laporte, 24, has been one of the revelations of City's unbeaten start to the league campaign, playing in every minute going into Sunday's clash with Southampton.

In recent weeks he has forged an effective partnership with England international Stones, also 24, with City's defence conceding just three goals in its opening 10 matches -- the division's best record.

When City's two League Cup games and the Community Shield are added into the equation, Guardiola's side has conceded three times in 13 domestic games this season.

In Premier League history, only Jose Mourinho's Chelsea side of 2004-05 had conceded fewer goals by this stage of the season -- two -- and its eventual goals-against tally of 15 in that season represents the best-ever defensive mark.

Guardiola believes that with veterans Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi offering cover and competition for places, the Stokes-Laporte pairing will be a force for a long time.

“That is the idea of the club, the club is maintaining these two guys with us for the long-term,” said Guardiola. “But still we trust a lot with Vincent and Nico and they have to know they have to fight each other.

“We cannot sustain a long season just with both of them, it's impossible. We can count on injuries, and now I'm really glad Laporte is at a good level but maybe (his form will) go down.”

Strength in depth

Guardiola said competition for places is vital to keep players on their toes.

“The best competition is not the opponents but the men besides you,” he said. “That is why I am so grateful to Manchester City to let me build this squad.

“It is the best thing for the team that the players know if they don't play, they have to be ready.”

Laporte announced he would be available for selection by the French national team earlier this season, despite reports he could switch his allegiance to Spain, although he has yet to win a full cap for either nation.

Guardiola also countered claims from television pundit Gary Neville that his team are guilty of cynical fouls designed to prevent other teams counter-attacking against them.

Neville highlighted Brazilian Fernandinho, in particular, during this week's 1-0 win at Tottenham and joked that the City midfielder “must make 400 fouls a match”.

But the City manager said that he had never instructed players to make a deliberate foul in his managerial career.

“I'm not disclosing a secret when I say that when the opponent has the ball we're going to push them, press them to regain the ball, to attack more,” he said.

But he added: “I don't think we are a team that makes a lot of fouls.

“I'm completely not agreeing with those comments that we are a team that is looking for these kind of situations because it never happened in Barcelona, it never happened in Bayern Munich and it can never happen at City and will never happen in the future in my career. Never.”

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