Eliaquim Mangala has a mentor in team-mate and France international colleague Bacary Sagna as he tries to turn his stuttering Manchester City career around.
The latest calf injury setback suffered by captain Vincent Kompany means Mangala is set to line up at the heart of City’s defence for Tuesday’s crunch clash with the Premier League’s surprise package Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
Mangala was a big-money arrival from Porto in August 2014 and endured an underwhelming debut season in English football as Chelsea claimed the title, with City a distant second.
The 24-year-old formed a briefly formidable alliance with Kompany as Manuel Pellegrini’s team won their opening five matches this season without conceding a goal, but the return of Kompany’s fitness woes brought about a downturn in City’s and Mangala’s fortunes.
Combinations of Mangala, Nicolas Otamendi and the veteran Martin Demichelis at centre-back have not managed to yield a single clean sheet in Kompany’s absence.
Mangala’s high-profile errors in defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal have invited particular scorn but Sagna believes he has identified a major talent who he wants to help develop.
“It’s not easy,” the former Arsenal defender, who moved to England from Auxerre in 2007, told reporters. “I want to remind everyone that to come and play in this league is not easy at all. I had a chance to come and it was different for me. I came at the same age, 24, and from the first season I had, everything went well.
“Now we have a setback with him but he started the season very well and we didn’t concede any goals. But when times are a bit harder, the first ones to blame are the defenders.
“I’ve been blamed, he has been blamed but that’s football. We have to deal with it, we have to learn. He’s doing his maximum to improve.”
As Mangala and Sagna prepare to tackle a formidable Leicester attack featuring in-form duo Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, they are leaving no stone unturned in their quest to lift a inconsistent title challenge.
“He is working really hard,” Sagna said of Mangala. “I stay with him after training, to work on his position and control of the ball, and he’s doing quite a lot to make a difference. He wants to get better.
“He doesn’t ask me but I want to help him. No matter what, we try to communicate, even after games. We try to analyse when we concede goals what he should have done a bit better, what I should have done a bit better. We try to analyse to improve.
“We have to focus on us, on the way we want to defend, how we want to communicate with each other. We want to dictate the game. We want to show we are City and we want to be successful this season.”