Rodri’s role at Man City explained: Pep Guardiola’s master playmaker who now controls the counter-attacks too | Football News

As soon as Manchester City signed Rodri in the summer of 2019, Pep Guardiola said he would be a key player for the club for the next decade. Others took longer to be convinced. Nobody has any doubts now. Rodri became the key to City’s success.

“He has developed so well in that position over the past two seasons,” said Gary Neville Sky Sports. “It often happens under Pep Guardiola, they tend to grow, grow and improve more and more. Rodri is doing it and has done it now.”

The Spaniard has been imperative for City this season. Occasionally making headlines, scoring a stunner against Everton. He always impresses with his use of the ball, catching it in tight situations, setting the pace for his team and controlling games accordingly.

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Rodri’s stunner against Everton was the Premier League goal of November

Even when the Premier League is faster, the pressing is fiercer, Rodri seems to have time. Guardiola attributes that improvement to the player’s mindset, competitive spirit and dedication he brings to every training session.

But it is also the product of long conversations with Juanma Lillo, Guardiola’s assistant and guru. “We tried to help him with Juanma to understand the game, especially what the containment midfielder has to do,” explained Guardiola recently.

“He moved too much last season. The containment midfielder must be there, not move, be there. As if you drive a car and move into the back seat, you can crash.

“The driver must be right in front.”

Rodri of Manchester City

At just 25, Rodri can sometimes look older due to the maturity of his game. In this sense there is a parallel with Sergio Busquets, the man who took on a similar role at the base of Guardiola’s Barcelona midfield when he was still in his twenties.

But he had to learn what’s required of the position.

“With the ball he knows exactly where the spaces are to attack and the pace we have to play. The attacking midfielder sometimes needs five touches, sometimes one, sometimes three and now he plays this rhythm that helps our game.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Rodri has made more passes than any other player in the Premier League this season. There were 1220 of them and so far they are on the rise. “The positions at the center of everything are so important.”

The variety of those passages is somewhat unusual, however, highlighting its range. He ranks in the top five in the Premier League for passes to his left and right. He is second for chip passes and fifth for long passes.

Now he can do whatever the situation requires.

Rodri's move to Manchester City

This is important because while Rodri’s focus is on ball retention, he has to do more. Line breakthrough passes are critical for City against a packed defense. Guardiola needs his attacking midfielder to keep the ball but also to feed it to the attackers.

Rodri has to look forward quickly in those rare moments when opponents are out of shape and, due to City’s dominance, he is operating far higher on the pitch than keeping midfielders elsewhere. He ranks third for passes completed in the last third.

The fact that City’s games largely take place in the opposing half has always placed great emphasis on the team’s ability to handle counter attacks. This is partly why Guardiola wants him to hold his position rather than wander.

Rodri's heatmaps for Manchester City

But it is a balancing act. He needs to take possession when he is there to be won. Rodri has captured the ball more times in the third offensive than any other City player, a fine example that came in the first half against Leeds, which almost resulted in a goal.

Determining when to sit down and when to press is a skill that comes from experience. “The reading of the situation is improving and in the defensive phase it has more presence”. Season after season, he’s winning the ball more often in the last third, capturing those moments.

Rodri's defensive areas of action for Manchester City

As a result, City have regained the control Fernandinho had once given them. This was a problem in the beginning. The number of counterattacks against Guardiola’s team doubled in the 2019/20 season – Rodri’s first – compared to the total allowed in consecutive title wins.

Definition of quick breaks

An attempt created after the defending team quickly turned defense into attack by winning the ball in their own half

Last season it got better. This season, after conceding three of these situations in the defeat to Tottenham on the opening weekend, a game for which Rodri had remained on the bench, there have been only two. in total in the 16 games that the midfielder has started.

In fact, according to Opta, there are now 14 games since City granted an opportunity from a counterattack situation. This is by far the longest streak of any Premier League club right now and City’s longest streak since Guardiola arrived in 2016.

After fears that Fernandinho could not be replaced, the situation changed. City cannot control the games even without Rodri, as the Spurs game proved. His surprise omission from the Champions League final lineup is a decision Guardiola would certainly not repeat.

Rodri now ranks among the best containment midfielders, a playmaker and a presence. “He has already placed himself perfectly in the Premier League.” And there is time to improve. “He’s 25, he’s still young.” A key player for the next decade, after all.

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