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Rodrigo's defensive steel on Etihad debut

HOME DEBUT: Rodrigo made his Etihad Stadium bow against Spurs.

HOME DEBUT: Rodrigo made his Etihad Stadium bow against Spurs.

‘A typical holding midfielder’ is how Pep Guardiola described Rodrigo before the start of the new Premier League season.

The early signs certainly suggested that, with his assured displays during our tour of Asia.

It was the same last week at West Ham United and on his home debut against Tottenham Hotspur, when most fans were seeing him play in the flesh for the first time, he produced a performance that lived up to the boss’ billing.

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He was composed in attack and particularly effective defensively in the holding midfield role, a position in which Guardiola says you must play in a way which benefits the team rather than yourself.

Indeed, it is that side of the game which the player himself identifies as the most important.

“One other thing I think this team needs is someone to apply pressure, to steal balls,” he said during our pre-season tour.

“I must be ready to steal the loose ball and keep attacking”

On his first appearance at the Etihad Stadium, Rodrigo certainly showed a desire to do what many would class as ‘the dirty work’.

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And he excelled at it, leading the team for tackles and interceptions with four and two to his name respectively.

Only Tanguy Ndombele made more tackles, which, in the context of City enjoying 55.4% of possession, is to be expected, whilst the Spurs midfielder and Aymeric Laporte were the only two players to equal Rodrigo’s number of interceptions.

The offensive side of his game was equally as impressive.

“He is so intelligent, with his long balls and short passes,” said Guardiola on the eve of his first Premier League start and Rodrigo evidenced that against Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

He played 57 passes with an accuracy of 98.3%, which was higher than any other player who made more than 10 passes, whilst his seven accurate long balls were also more than anyone else on the pitch managed.

It means that after two games, Rodrigo leads the team for tackles made and he is second only to Laporte for the number of passes completed, though the Frenchman has played 11 more minutes.

There is a long way to go, but it’s been a promising start from the young man from Madrid.

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