Connect with us


Gvardiol is finally finding his feet as Man City’s next level defender

Nobody expected Josko Gvardiol to find the far corner of the net when he received a pass from Jack Grealish on the edge of the box against Real Madrid last week. Had it not been for a somewhat loose first touch, the Croatian might not have got his strike away, but Gvardiol’s finish was one of the standout moments of a thrilling Champions League quarter-final first leg.

Of course, Manchester City can’t count on this sort of attacking brilliance from Gvardiol in every match – although the 22-year-old followed up his goal at the Santiago Bernabeu with another against Luton Town in the Premier League – but it highlighted the strides being made by the £77.6m defender.

Gvardiol is finally finding his feet as the next level defensive presence City signed him to be. It took the Croatian some time to acclimatise to his new surroundings at the Etihad Stadium, and Pep Guardiola’s ideology. It is common for new signings to initially struggle under the Catalan coach such is the demands he makes of his players.

Talent has never been an issue for Gvardiol, but there were times earlier in the season when he appeared overwhelmed with the work he was having to do across the Manchester City backline. Guardiola’s desire to push John Stones into midfield means City’s defenders have to cover a lot of ground and Gvardiol wasn’t comfortable with this.

“He arrived and in some periods he was confused,” Guardiola explained when recently asked about Gvardiol’s struggle to get to grips with life as a Manchester City player, highlighting the Croatian’s franticness in possession. “He lost a lot of balls. Every time he had the ball, he wanted to make exceptional things (happen).”

Over time, though, the former RB Leipzig defender has refined his game. Gvardiol is now more effective in defensive transition and is increasingly contributing to Manchester City’s build-up play. It’s becoming easier to see why the Etihad Stadium outfit made such an effort to land him at such expense last summer.

“He receives in central positions when the wingers come with two or three players to make two against one, three against one, against [Jeremy] Doku or Jack [Grealish], he’s free and close to the goal,” Guardiola elaborated on the improvements Gvardiol has made. “He has an incredible talent and I encourage him to do it again and again and again.”

Against Real Madrid last week, Gvardiol was so keen to cut inside and link up with Mateo Kovacic and Rodri that he was effectively operating as an auxiliary midfielder. This isn’t anything new for Manchester City given how Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko used to play at left back, but Gvardiol is a more gifted defender than either of them.

City want Gvardiol to become as important to them as Stones. The Croatian is just as press-resistant on the ball and gives balance to Guardiola’s team being left-footed. He is also an excellent long-range passer which presents Manchester City with another route into the attack. They did their homework on Gvardiol being signing him.

In one-on-one situations, Gvardiol isn’t as accomplished as some of his Manchester City teammates including Nathan Ake and Manuel Akanji, but there are other areas of the Croatian’s game where he is superior. On the ball, for instance, Gvardiol is better at playing through the lines.

By trade, Gvardiol is still a centre back. That’s where he has played the majority of his career and where he caught the eye as one of the best young defenders in the Bundesliga. Guardiola, however, has repurposed him as a left back and that decision is now paying dividends for Manchester City as they chase another Treble.

Recent Posts