Men's Team

Rodri: Champions in focus

In the latest edition of our series marking City’s 2021/22 Premier League title success, the spotlight is shone upon Rodri.

In celebration of another memorable campaign, which yielded our sixth Premier League trophy, we take a closer look at the contributions of our City stars.

It was a true team effort with every player producing a significant impact. Today, we analyse the influence of our Spanish holding midfielder…

SEASON STATS

Total appearances (all competitions): 46

Total goals: 7

Assists: 2

Premier League appearances: 33

Total cumulative minutes: 3,928

SEASON HIGHLIGHT

The Spanish international holding midfielder has been a key component in Pep Guardiola’s side since joining us from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2019.

With his astute reading of the game, fine passing attributes and sharp eye for goal, the 25-year-old has played a huge role in our success in the past three years.

However, few would argue that Rodri enjoyed his finest season yet at the Club across what was a superb 2021/22 campaign.

So much so that there were numerous individual highs – but two moments at opposite ends of the pitch especially stand out.

The first arrived at Anfield last October in a fiercely fought encounter between Liverpool and City which mirrored our titanic title battle with Jurgen Klopp's side.

With time almost up and the game locked at 2-2, a ball into the City box cleared goalkeeper Ederson and his defenders and fell to the unmarked Fabinho on the left of the six-yard box.

The Liverpool midfielder controlled the ball and had an open goal to aim at with the City defence unable to recover.

It appeared as though Fabinho was guaranteed to score. However, Rodri launched himself towards the ball and somehow managed to time his move to perfection, so clearing the danger to ensure City took a deserved point back up the M62

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CITY+ commentator Ally Mann memorably described it as "the tackle of the century" and given the fact we eventually won the title by a point from the Merseysiders, it’s importance was hard to overstate.

Rodri then produced another defining moment along the road to our eventual title triumph almost three months later as City rang in 2022 with a crucial New Year's Day assignment away at Arsenal.

It proved another tough and testing affair with Riyad Mahrez’s second half penalty drawing us level after the Gunners had taken a first half lead via Bukayo Saka.

Though the home side were also reduced to 10 men with Gabriel receiving a second yellow card, as the game went into the third minute of stoppage time, a 1-1 draw seemed guaranteed.

Step forward Rodri. A cross from Kevin De Bruyne into the box bobbled into the path of the Spaniard, and he got a vital toe to the ball to force it past Arsenal 'keeper Aaron Ramsdale and into the corner of the net.

His raucous celebrations spoke volumes as to the magnitude of the moment, the goal also sealing an 11th straight league win for Guardiola’s side.

It proved to be one of the most celebrated and important goals of the season.

OVERVIEW

The work of a defensive holding midfielder often goes unheralded and can slip below the radar. But by whichever metric you choose to highlight it, Rodri’s colossal impact was impossible to ignore this season.

Aside from those key moments at Anfield and the Emirates, he also weighed in with several more vital – and often impressive goals – including a quite stunning strike against Everton and a similarly spectacular strike in our 5-1 win over Watford.

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Rodri it was too who showed the class and composure to expertly guide home our second and equalising goal in May’s nerve-shredding 3-2 comeback win against Aston Villa which saw us secure the title in the most dramatic of circumstances.

And his importance as the protective anchor of our midfielder is further borne out by a glance at the stats across the 2021/22 campaign.

Rodri proved to be the Premier League's best defensive midfielder in 2021/22, providing a solid bulwark at the base of our midfield.

Offering an imposing physical presence around the pitch, Rodri broke up play better than anyone else, making 17 recoveries per 1,000 opposition touches, far more than anybody else.

Furthermore, Rodri also proved invaluable in possession, finding a team-mate with 91.8 per cent of his passes.

He also topped the list for the most successful passes inside the opposition half while his seven league goals in total further illustrated his all-round impact.

By whatever metric you ascribe - defensively, creatively and as an attacking threat - Rodri delivered when it really mattered for City.

What they said

Pep Guardiola:What is important to be a holding midfield is to be always stable: 7, 8, 7, 8. It's not nice to have a big 10 performance and then a 2 or 3. Maybe wingers or strikers can do it but for a holding midfielder it’s not good.

"I think now he’s so stable, he’s always paying attention and he's realising what we are looking for because sometimes you need time to understand what we are looking for.

"Because he is 25 years old, he’s still young and his mentality, he’s a competitor, who can show it in every training session and game.

"We are more than satisfied. We knew it when we went to him at Atletico, he's growing and hopefully he can be a better player.

“It depends on him and if he opens his mind and understands what he has to do, because he still has the margin to be a better player and, hopefully, we can help him."

Paul Dickov:We talk about the defensive record, he’s pivotal in that.

“If the full backs are going to bomb on it can sometimes leave the centre backs exposed but he just sits in there and protects the back four unbelievably well.

“His game management’s outstanding, when he does win the ball back he very rarely gives it away.

“You can see what a player he’s going to be now. He’s pivotal to how Pep wants us to play.

“We all talk about the fantastic forward players we’ve got, but he’s the one in there who sits in there and puts out fires left, right and centre!”

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