Pep Guardiola comment shows Man City criticism of Rodri after Tottenham loss is unfair


Scapegoats are a fact of football life when a team loses a game — even if that same team has just won 14 of the previous 15, and drawn the other one.

So when Manchester City’s excellent run came to an end against Tottenham on Saturday, allowing Liverpool to inch closer to the top of the Premier League, the hunt for someone to blame was quickly underway, chiefly on social media.

Some fans were — with justification — pointing fingers at Ruben Dias, who was caught in no-man’s land as Heung Min Son darted clear from halfway for the first goal, and was similarly indecisive for Harry Kane’s late winner.

Others noted that Aymeric Laporte, not for the first time against Spurs, was drawn out of position by Kane for the first goal and failed to spot the chief danger for the third, which was the lurking presence of the England skipper at the far post.

But many settled on Rodri, and the old debate as to whether he is fit to fill the boots of Fernandinho rose again… on the basis of one poor 90 minutes.

It has to be said that his performance against Tottenham was a long way from acceptable — but no-one will know that better than the player himself.

For the first goal Rodri was distracted by Son’s run, followed him and failed to spot that Kane was dropping to receive the ball. That tempted Laporte to follow Kane, opening up the huge gap behind the defence.

When Kane instantly played the ball around the corner, Son was long gone from Rodri and already sprinting past Dias, who stepped up in a failed attempt to play him offside.

See also  One year after the assault on the Capitol: 700 accused and only 71 convictions | International

Rodri’s bid to retrieve the situation, which should be a defensive midfielder’s priority, was leaden-footed to say the least. There was no sprint back to try to help a defense that was under the cosh.

The second goal was just great football from a Spurs perspective, and the third saw Kane manage to isolate himself with Kyle Walker — not the best header of a ball — at the far post.

That has to be primarily down to the center backs, but Rodri was again wrapped up in uncertainty and ended up playing no discernible role in the defense at that moment.

Boiled down to just those 90 minutes, Rodri would be a poor substitute for Fernandinho.

But the fact is that the Spain international has been superb all season, one of the key players in City’s rises to the top and to the brink of the Champions League quarter-finals. This season has been the first that you WOULD actually say Rodri is up to the task if replacing Fernandinho.

City are forever restless in improving their squad, and their admiration for Declan Rice and Frenkie De Jong is not doubted, with Fernandinho’s future as a player uncertain beyond this summer.

But Rodri has laid down a marker this season, and now looks like the midfield pivot that Fernandinho has been down the years.

The two are very different players, so direct comparisons are meaningless.

Fernandinho in his pomp was more dynamic, but Rodri has a greater physical presence.

Fernandinho still has a better range of passing, but Rodri has been a key element in City’s huge improvement at set-pieces in both boxes.

See also  Kate Middleton's 'act of inconvenience' towards Camilla is telling insight, says expert

What City needed to see from him this season was an expansion of his passing; too often in his first two seasons he would take the safe option, when a riskier, more fruitful option was available.

Fernandinho, and Yaya Toure before him, were masters at dictating the pace and rhythm of games, keeping it ebbing and flowing, before producing an unexpected killer punch.

City play a more cautious, methodical game these days, with possession paramount, but those killer moments are still needed.

In terms of keeping the ball, the average pass accuracy at City is 90 per cent, and Rodri has been above that for most of the season. Against Spurs he dipped to 88 per cent, though it peaked at a remarkable 100 per cent in the 7-0 thrashing of Leeds in December.

His passing accuracy has hovered around the 92 per cent average ever since he arrived, but his passes have become more adventurous in that time, so that can be marked as an improvement.

Manchester City’s Spanish midfielder Rodri (R) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 1, 2022. – Manchester City won the match 2-1. – RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. Do not use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. Do not use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. Do not use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. Do not use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. Do not use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. Do not use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

His three league goals this season are a reflection of the fact he has grown into the role. That matches his career best of three in his debut season, with 12 games still to play, although he also managed a Carabao Cup goal in 2019-20.

See also  Big Brother's Chanelle Hayes says Nikki Grahame's death at 38 was 'awful' and 'horrific'

Rodri was also pinpointed as a weak link in that debut season, when he often seemed too cumbersome and slow for a dynamic, fast-moving City team, and with the Blues quickie falling behind Liverpool’s pace in the title race, he was a clear candidate for blame.

But he has almost doubled the average number of tackles he makes in a game, from 1.4 in that first season to 2.2 this season.

The sheer volume of passes he makes has also grown — he averaged 74 passes a game back then, and that has grown to 84 now — which is a sign he has become the fulcrum of what City do so well, switching the focus of attacks.

Beyond the stats, the evidence of the eyes backs up the fact that Rodri is now the player Pep Guardiola hoped he would be – although still some way from being the finished product.

The fact he was left out of the team for the Champions League final after appearing to run out of steam last season, was indicative of Guardiola’s thinking at that time.

Guardiola pointed out in December that Rodri is still young and learning, but added that he is a regular seven or eight out of ten in terms of performance.

“He is playing this consistency, defensively, offensively,” said the City boss.

Against Spurs, several players were some way below their best, including undoubted key elements like Dias, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva.

To turn on Rodri for one below-par display is unfair and unreasonable.

Sign up to our City newsletter so you never miss an update from the Etihad Stadium this season.




www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk

Related Posts

George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.