Manchester City head coach David Platt has hailed young defender Matija Nastasic's swift transition to cope with the rigours of Premier League football. The 19-year-old Serbian centre half, signed in the pre-season transfer window from Fiorentina, was expected to take time to adjust to the move from Serie A.
But Nastasic has adapted so quickly to a league generally held to be among the world's toughest that he is keeping Joleon Lescott, an England regular and a fixture in last season's title-winning side, out of the team. Lescott played in 31 of the 38 Premier League games as captain Vincent Kompany's first-choice partner in defence, but was not even among the substitutes named by manager Roberto Mancini for the weekend's goalless draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Stefan Savic, Nastasic's predecessor, never quite made the transition following his £6m move from Partizan Belgrade and the Montenegran defender made the reverse journey to Florence - along with a £12m transfer fee - when the deal was done. Platt, delighted at Nastasic's progress in just six matches, said today: "That is testament to him. He has stepped in. The first couple of games he has had to get used to English football but he has done that very quickly.
"The real, real good performance - he has had several good ones, but the real one where it might be a bit alien to him - was when we went down to West Ham. You knew the ball was coming in, they were hitting the diagonal balls towards Andy Carroll and I thought he acquitted himself exceptionally well.
"You get that (style of play) a lot in the Premier League that you don't get in Serie A and it shows there is an old head on young shoulders to adapt to that," added former England midfielder Platt, who spent four years in Italy as a player with Bari, Juventus and Sampdoria during the 1990s.
Platt also responded to criticism about the much-reduced flow of goals this season from the champions who, despite being the last unbeaten team in England with a third of the season played, are a point behind the Premier League leaders, Manchester United.
Mancini's men had scored 43 goals at this stage last season, and have managed only 25 this time, but City's No2 pointed out: "We were setting records left, right and centre last season, so how many goals we scored last season after 13 games is a false comparison. We would like to have a few more of course, because it would have got those extra victories but 13 games gone, one point off the top, still unbeaten... there's enough in there to be pleased about.
"People have also criticised the defence, or our defensive failings. Last time I had a look, the team that had conceded the least amount of goals in the Premier League is ourselves. I think we have conceded fewer goals at this stage of the season than last."
Looking ahead to the midweek Premier League game at Wigan, he added: "On the whole, we have defended well, certainly in the Premier League. But there's only really one statistic that counts, and that's the points."