Pep Guardiola cerebral approach to management ensures that the Man City boss raises eyebrows on a weekly basis with his tactical tweaks.
This season, Pep’s fullbacks have operated almost like supporting central midfielders when his team has possession of the ball, but this trend is nothing new for Guardiola.
He did it with Josh Kimmich at Bayern Munich and Bacary Sagna tucked in from right full-back on many occasions for City between 2014 and 2017.
João Cancelo is the latest player whose brilliant performances have attracted rave reviews and it’s the Portuguese star’s playmaking ability that has really stood out.
“The main reason is to have more players in the middle to pass the ball. The big concept is that we defend with the ball and we have to have the ball as much as possible.”
“You have five or six players to make a short pass and you can gain more control. We did it with Fabian Delph in the year with 100 points, he was incredible, we did it with Alex Zinchenko too and João has the qualities to do it as well. Of course, not all fullbacks can play in this position. Last game against Fulham for example we played with Mendy, he’s a guy who has to play on the sides.”
Here’s a clip of Guardiola discussing his fullbacks with Gary Lineker and the rest of the BT Sport crew after City’s win over Mönchengladbach on Tuesday night.
Pep’s overriding ambition is to hog possession of the ball and if his fullbacks tuck into more central portions of the pitch, there are more passing options. Alex Zinchenko is no stranger to a midfield role having started out and excelled there for his national team Ukraine.
It’s an intriguingly simple insight into Guardiola’s effective strategy that has seen his fullbacks become secondary playmakers.
City’s quest for silverware in 2020-21 continues this weekend when they visit Goodison Park to face Everton in the FA Cup quarterfinals.