This post contains affiliate links. “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
Manchester City’s 2020-21 Premier League title bid has been one of unlikely stories and prominent players.
Whether it’s the resurgence of John Stones, leading England’s most miserable top flight defense alongside the record-breaking signing of Ruben Dias and leaving the highly touted Aymeric Laporte out in the cold as a result, or a rotating cast of attackers who impress as forwards. emergency centers in the absence of Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesús, it is worth waiting for the unexpected from Pep Guardiola’s squad.
Perhaps the most surprising development has been Joao Cancelo’s transformation from an expensive and unreliable endorsement to a point man who propels the City game and perhaps even Guardiola’s much-vaunted idea of soccer to new heights.
“He came last season, I was confused at first. He was hoping for something we couldn’t offer him, ”the City manager said of the Portugal side on the eve of Wednesday’s Premier League game against Brighton and Hove Albion, where the victory would move his team to one point behind champion Liverpool with a game. in the hand.
Cancelo came in from Juventus with a price tag of £ 60 million, a sizable chunk of which was paid off when Danilo moved in the opposite direction, and proceeded to start less than half of City’s 58 games in all competitions after your move.
Furthermore, he seemed uncomfortable with the tactical demands that Guardiola placed on him, such as changing and swapping positions frequently during matches. The battle to be the first option as a right back seemed unfairly skewed in favor of Kyle Walker, one of the most consistent players in the Catalan’s management at the Etihad Stadium.
“Last season he struggled a bit with a new club, new ideas, the way we wanted to play,” Guardiola confirmed.
Along with Rodri, who arrived from Atlético de Madrid for a similar outlay, Cancelo became the model for a failed campaign for many City fans, where a third consecutive success in the EFL Cup could not make up for Liverpool’s victory for him. Premier League title.
Despite always being present in the Premier League this time around, Rodri apparently still has more to do to convince the masses. However, first when he replaced as a left back and more recently as a right back when Walker convalesced from a COVID-19 positive, Cancelo has consistently drawn attention.
“Now he has had more time and he helps us to do something we need,” Guardiola said. “He was outstanding all season, playing at a high, high level.”
Driving City forward and backing De Bruyne
From Dani Alves sweeping down Barcelona’s right to Phillip Lahm becoming an auxiliary midfielder late in his career, Guardiola’s best teams have generally featured a full-back doing something a bit special.
During this month’s 3-1 and 2-0 victories at Chelsea and Manchester United in the Premier League and EFL Cup respectively, arguably City’s two best performances of 2020-21, Cancelo excelled, advancing and, through often in the field from a nominal right. back position, his combination of technical and physical skills in the foreground.
While at Bayern and blessed with the services of Lahm and David Alaba, Guardiola pioneered a tactic by which his full-backs could get inside to reinforce the defensive midfield position.
He still uses this tactic at City, but Cancelo has generally dealt damage from more advanced starting points in midfield.
“Oleks [Zinchenko] I can also play there ”, Guardiola said when speaking of the role of Cancelo. “Benjamin [Mendy] and Kyle Walker can play in different positions, but it depends on the opponent, which opponent we can use [the full-back] in out. “
The 26-year-old’s ability to advance with possession has been at the fore. According to Opta, he has created eight carry chances, including one assist, while he has two shots himself.
This is a string that Mendy and Walker don’t seem to have on their bows as they have a carry to create shots each this season.
The frequent presence of Cancelo in rival territory has contributed to him being second in the City squad in terms of chances created (24), passes that finish in the last third (272) and passes played in the area (63) in the Premier League this season. , with the first position in all the categories belonging to Kevin De Bruyne.
Only De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling have completed more dribbles than Cancelo (16), a player who appears to have given a new dimension to a City team that had become stale during the first weeks of the season in the wake of Matches of David Silva and Leroy Sane.
“It’s especially about their quality,” Guardiola added. “It’s not about ‘okay, I want to play with this player in this position’, I have to know if he can do it because of his qualities. That’s it.
“[Cancelo] you can do it, but you can also do it from the outside. This alternative that you can give us as a team is so important. Honestly, it’s very important. “