Following a relatively disappointing 2019/20 season, Manchester City is back to their impressive ways for the current campaign. The Citizens are leading the Premier League table by 11 points over crosstown rivals Manchester United and currently undefeated in all three cup competitions (Champions League, League Cup, and FA Cup).
The impressive form shown by Pep Guardiola’s team is quite frankly astounding. Yes, the club has been built by spending a massive amount of money over the years; however, this particular season has been interesting due to the fact that City have been nearly unbeatable despite playing many matches without a true number nine center forward.
Superstar striker Sergio Aguero has managed just six total Premier League appearances (three from the bench) due to various knee and hamstring injuries, as well as a bout of coronavirus. Gabriel Jesus has also missed matches due to injuries and a coronavirus illness as well. Along with their main striker duo being in and out of the lineup, City’s top player, Kevin De Bruyne, has also endured his fair share of injuries. The midfield maestro has missed 11 total matches this season.
With all of these important players out, Ilkay Gundogan has received plenty of praise by the pundits for being City’s standout player for much of the season. While there’s no doubt that the Germany international has been outstanding, his midfield partner Rodrigo should be getting much more attention than he is currently getting.
Rodrigo is essentially the focal point of this City team. He currently leads the club in passes and accurate long balls (both per 90 minutes). The midfielder is the perfect transition from defense to offense. City’s defenders regularly funnel the ball through Rodrigo to help move the ball up the pitch and create goalscoring opportunities. Not only does Rodrigo pass the ball a ton, he’s also incredibly accurate. His 91% total pass completion is near the top of all Premier League midfielders and his 70% long ball accuracy is tops in the league among players in his position (at least 75 accurate long balls).
Passing is certainly Rodrigo’s strong suit, but that’s not all he can do. The Spain international also leads all Premier League midfielders in touches and carries, while boasting an incredible 75% aerial win rate (among the best percentages of all Premier League midfielders). The 24-year-old also rarely makes a mistake from the middle of the pitch. In fact, he’s been dispossessed just 11 times from 2,285 total touches on the pitch.
Fernandinho, perhaps another underrated player, has been a mainstay in City’s starting XI since his arrival to Manchester from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013. The Brazilian rarely missed games and was a midfield general for City, but is now 35 and nearing the end of his current contract with the club. If Pep could pick practically any midfielder in Europe to take Fernandinho’s role with his team, he couldn’t choose a better replacement than Rodrigo.
It is a bit strange to see a world-class player such as Rodrigo not receive as much praise as he certainly deserves. Other players in this City team get the attention, but Rodrigo is as important to the club as anyone else in the squad. The Spaniard is reliable, strong, intelligent, clearly capable, and still just 24. Not bad for a player that was released by Atletico Madrid as a youngster because he lacked physical strength.
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