Since being coached by coach Pep Guardiola in 2016, Man City has always shown a variety of attacking options. Therefore, the huge number of goals scored by the half-blue city of Manchester each season always come from many different triggers. Regardless of the fact that Erling Haaland was brought in and became the club’s biggest source of goals this season, that ethos remained unchanged.
IIkay Gundogan scored twice against Manchester United to help Man City win the FA Cup. Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva shine against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals. And when the names in favor of attack were silent, defensive midfielder Rodri was the difference maker who helped “The Citizens” beat Inter Milan 1-0 in the final of Europe’s number one tournament on June 11 (Hanoi time).
Rodri makes a difference
The mark of players specializing in defense in the offensive field does not often appear in the Champions League final. The last time that happened was the 2016/17 season, when Casemiro, in a Real Madrid shirt, shot far into the net of Juventus.
In addition, Sergio Ramos’ header against Atletico Madrid in the 90+3 minute in 2014 was another rare moment when a bottom player scored in the game that decided the crown of Europe’s number one tournament. .
That said, Rodri’s goal is a special feature in the history of Champions League finals. A precise step from the second line of the Spaniard, who has been considered one of the best No. 6s in the world since moving to Man City in the summer of 2019.
The situation that led to Rodri’s goal came from one of the rare times City reached the bottom of the Inter border in the confrontation in Istanbul on June 11. When the ball returned by Bernardo Silva fell to the second line, the 26-year-old midfielder chose a favorable position to finish the technique, overcome the block of the “Nerazzurri” players and into the net of goalkeeper Andre Onana.
Returns from the bottom are the typical attacks and scoring methods of the teams led by Pep. However, the match against Inter saw the Etihad Stadium host club not control the game well, thereby creating only 7 shots compared to 14 of the opponent. According to Opta, City’s expected goal index (xG) is only half of Inter (0.9 vs 1.8 – PV).
In the context of Man City’s stalemate, when they could not impose the opponent as usual, Rodri brought a solution. As the night at Ataturk Olympic Stadium was filled with tension and suffocation created by Inter’s uncomfortable defense, the 26-year-old midfielder was chosen to blow away the pressure.
However, Rodri’s brilliance before “Nerazzurri” did not appear by chance. Fans have repeatedly witnessed the Spaniard shoot at many moments that required bravery in the past.
Last season, the former Atletico star scored in the decisive match for the Premier League title against Aston Villa. This season, before scoring against Inter, Rodri also drew an ecstatic curve against Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Goal describes Rodri’s goal against Inter on the night of June 11: “The goal of composure”. The 26-year-old’s ability to focus and stay calm in the midfield was in fact challenged by the close front line of the opponent, but was ultimately maximized in an attacking ball.
Two years ago, the Man City midfielder had to sit on the bench watching his teammates lose to Chelsea in the Champions League final season 2021/22. This season, Rodri has been the one to come out and make the difference.
Not only was the best player in the Champions League final in the 2022/23 season, Rodri was later recognized by UEFA as the best player of the tournament on the homepage. With the above marks and recognition, it is not difficult to say that the Spaniard is currently the best defensive midfielder in Europe.
Pillars are irreplaceable
In Pep’s system, position 6 is the core factor. It’s the ball transfer station, the one who controls the rhythm of the whole team’s play. That person must have excellent ball control and often fall back between the two central defenders to receive the ball, thereby creating a numerical advantage in the deployment of the ball from home.
At Barcelona between 2008 and 2012, Sergio Busquets was an indispensable part of Pep’s midfield alongside Xavi and Andres Iniesta. At Bayern in the period 2013-2016, Joshua Kimmich or Xabi Alonso were the midfield bosses. Meanwhile, early stage Fernandinho or current Rodri are the lowest-playing midfielders in the Man City squad since Pep took charge in 2016.
In the summer of 2022, the green half of Manchester spent £ 42 million to recruit Kalvin Phillips with the intention of turning him into a backup plan for Rodri. The English midfielder only played a total of nearly 600 minutes in all competitions this season but eventually won the treble with the club. Rodri’s stability and excellence led to the above incident.
Since joining Man City in the summer of 2019, the Spaniard has played an average of 50 games per season. Pep’s faith in Rodri is solid and reinforced through his performance in the Champions League final in the 2022/23 season. When asked if he had any influence in helping Rodri score the important goal against Inter, the 52-year-old coach replied: “In the middle of the half, instead of blaming him for not controlling the midfield, I just reminded him: ‘Let’s do it. calm down, you’re the best midfielder in Europe.”
Pep motivates by doing psychology to help students gain confidence in themselves and keep calm. However, from another perspective, it is also a praise that the Spanish strategist gives his students in front of the media.
Flying high at the age of 26, Rodri still has plenty of time to become more complete in the defensive midfield role and continues to become an irreplaceable element in Pep’s system at Man City.
Minh To | 18:00 12/06/2023