Fernandinho’s importance to Manchester City’s midfield cannot be understated.
The Brazilian might not be able to play the raking passes Kevin De Bruyne churns out with embarrassing ease and regularity, nor can he dance through two or three challenges with the elegance of David Silva, but his ability to receive the ball under pressure and quickly move it forward is crucial to City’s mouth-watering possession game.
The former Shakhtar Donetsk man’s absence was notable when he succumbed to a thigh injury over Christmas, with City losing at home to Crystal Palace and then away to Leicester. A near exemplary run of form thereafter, though, would see the champions retain their crown despite the ground given to Liverpool heading into 2019.
With seemingly little to do this summer given the depth in quality all over the pitch available to Pep Guardiola, the focus has rightly been placed on finding an understudy or replacement for Fernandinho who, at 34-years-old, is well into his twilight years.
In the club-record addition of Rodri, Manchester City have just the player they need, and these three key stats from the former Atletico Madrid man’s stellar 2018/19 show exactly what he can bring to the club next season…
Sloppiness in possession is simply unacceptable if you’re playing under Guardiola – as the theory goes, your opponent cannot score without the ball – and 23-year-old Rodri’s 91.1% passing accuracy last season suggests he can slot in seamlessly at the base of midfield.
In fact, he may even be an upgrade on Fernandinho, who completed 87.5% of his attempted passes.
Rodri will be required to sit behind the roaming attacking-midfielders, ready to receive the ball if his side are put under pressure and offload it to either a flying full-back or winger.
The dependability implied by that impressive passing success rate is surely a prerequisite for anyone whom Guardiola is to trust in the trademarked Fernandinho role.
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City achieved a league-high 64% possession average last term.
As impressive as that is, it does mean that, for 36% of the time, they are without the ball. As much as Guardiola can try to turn football into an art form, the necessity for meaty, well-timed tackles will remain constant.
Fernandinho has been at the core of City’s endeavours to regain possession in recent years – he’s been mightily successful at it too – and Rodri’s stats suggest he will be equally adept in the defensive phase.
The Spaniard completed a whopping 3 tackles per game last term – a figure that tied him level with Casemiro and marginally behind Nacho Fernandez in La Liga – and he will be crucial to mopping up on the rare occasions that City concede possession of the ball.
Long balls seldom feature in City’s game but for plenty of other teams they do.
With the acknowledgement that every team has their own style of play – some of which champion a long-ball approach – it’s essential that there are players in the side who can compete on a physical level with the Ashley Barneses and Andy Carrolls of this world, and Rodri will bring that crucial presence to the midfield.
The 7-cap international won 2.3 aerial duels per game in 2018/19 – more than Aymeric Laporte, Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi – and is unlikely to be bullied in the air next season at 6ft 3.