Men's Team

Guardiola: Opponents recognise Bernardo’s quality

Pep Guardiola says Bernardo Silva’s role in the City machine cannot be underestimated with opponents recognising his quality.

The Portuguese playmaker has starred in the 2021/22 campaign and made history by becoming the first player to claim three successive Etihad Player of the Month awards.

Though he has been involved in fewer goal involvements since the turn of the year, having enjoyed a purple patch towards the end of 2021, Guardiola believes opposition teams are targeting the midfield maestro to limit his effectiveness.

Employed in a variety of attacking positions, Bernardo’s versatility has been a particularly key trait and the City boss says the 27-year-old’s influence is crucial.

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“The impact of Bernardo is so important,” he said, previewing Tuesday night’s FA Cup fifth round trip to Peterborough United.

“He is a player who likes to play inside but I think in the last few games, we have struggled to find him in the middle – more outside.

“Sometimes, in the positions, we think he can make a boost for us. I think he is a typical number 10 behind the striker but the opponents we have faced in the last two games (Tottenham and Everton) closed [the space] with a lot of players there.

“In the last two games, I played with Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne – normally they play in this position and I wanted to use him playing wide but Raheem [Sterling] was playing a good level and Riyad [Mahrez] as well.

“It depends on the opponent. Normally, they try to close a lot of gaps inside.

“It is it the most difficult part of the pitch. The most difficult player is the striker because there are no spaces there. The more you are upfront in the middle, the more difficult it is.

“It is not easy to find players in that position but he is a key player for us for many reasons – for his work ethic, he adjusts to play in six roles upfront: a holding midfielder, a winger on both sides, a false nine…

“The alternatives we have to use him in the game is massive. I have to settle sometimes and try to figure out the spaces for a guy who can create a lot of problems for the opponents.

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“Gabby [Gabriel Jesus] was injured, Jack [Grealish] was injured and I decided to put him there but I’ve said to Bernardo many times: ‘When you’re playing in the middle and you are struggling to take the ball, you can drop to the sides – right, left... Smell your feeling, try to be involved with the ball.’

“This I what we’re looking for but sometimes, when you have [Alex] Iwobi, [Abdoulaye] Doucoure and Allan, who close the gaps inside, it’s not easy to find it.

“It’s not because it’s a bad [performance] because fortunately for us, it’s difficult to find a game where Bernardo doesn’t play well.

“When we make a good build-up and a good process, we can find him and it’s not a problem.”

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