This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Having arrived in the summer for a reported £62.8m, Rodri had big expectations on what he could add to the Manchester City side. Pep Guardiola had heavily relied on ageing veteran Fernandinho for the holding midfield role last season, playing him in 42 games across all competitions. It was therefore no surprise to see the Citizens address that issue in the transfer window.
Speaking after his signing, the club’s director of football Txiki Begiristain remarked: “Rodri has proven himself as a hugely talented, young midfielder. He has as all the attributes we are looking for. He works hard defensively, makes himself available to receive the ball and uses it well when in possession. We are confident he will be a success.”
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So far, he has very much proven to be an influential member of the first-team. Dictating the play from deep, and breaking up opposition attacks, the Spaniard has slotted into the side with ease. But against Wolves at the Etihad on Sunday, he will be coming up against a midfielder who has been around the block, and more than matches his game. The contest between Rodri and Joao Moutinho promises to be a truly defining one.
Playing in central midfield, the duo represent the heartbeat of their respective sides. Whether it’s collecting the ball off the centre-backs and starting attacks from deep, or being in the right place at the right time to make a tackle or interception, both Rodri and Moutinho are vital to the way their teams play.
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The latter has averaged more tackles and double the amount of interceptions per game this season compared to his Spanish counterpart. But that is perhaps down to the greater defending Wolves naturally have to do in games than City.
Both have very similar numbers of key passes per game, with Moutinho edging it by 0.4. At the Etihad on Sunday, the 33-year-old will have to be at his creative best to create chances for his forwards.
Rodri meanwhile, completely dominates the Wolves midfielder for the other two key passing categories. The former Atletico Madrid star is the lynch-pin at the base of City’s midfield, orchestrating attacks and feeding balls into the likes of Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, amongst others.
If Moutinho can be quick to press the 23-year-old and stop him from looking up and picking his pass, the visitors will have a greater chance of picking up a positive result. Allow him to set the tempo of the game however, and Wolves can kiss the three points goodbye.