Pep Guardiola’s decision to field Jesus Navas at right-back away at Arsenal on Sunday even threw off Manchester City’s official Twitter account – who put Fernandinho at No.2 and the occasional Spain international in his customary role on the right wing.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 2, 2017
So those who didn’t fully take in the 90 minutes at the Emirates Stadium and instead awaited the post-match analysis of ropy defending from both sides to determine their opinion of the encounter probably assume Guardiola’s latest grand experiment didn’t quite pay off.
It’s certainly true the Citizens paid twice for disorganisation in their own third, the kind of disorganisation you’d expect when a 5ft. 7″ attacker is thrown into defence, especially when tasked with nullifying the world-class threat Alexis Sanchez can offer from the left wing.
Yet, as our infographic shows, the statistics tell a rather different story, one of Navas performing far better than expected in his new role – suggesting Guardiola saw enough evidence to warrant giving his experiment a few more test runs.
Navas finished up with a staggering eight tackles and four interceptions – the best returns of any City player – showing he was no defensive liability against one of the most feared winger-forwards in the Premier League, although two fouls in addition to a yellow card did demonstrate his naivety.
But the 31-year-old also made an impact at his more customary end of the pitch, creating the joint-most chances of any player involved in the match alongside No.10s David Silva and Mesut Ozil, predominantly via his deliveries from out wide.
Of course, one decent game doesn’t make Jesus Navas an established right-back. But performing that well, especially against Sanchez, who had only one shot at goal, suggests Guardiola’s ploy paid off. And looking ahead to a summer in which Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta may leave the club, the often-maligned Spaniard represents an interesting, unorthodox alternative.