Manchester City have been found out this season in the absence of the Brazilian and Pep Guardiola will already be looking at possible replacements.
Pep Guardiola is either extremely fortunate or highly skilled or both. The Spaniard has built teams which have reached dazzling heights. His sides have not only terrorised defences but also managed to forge a strong rearguard, shutting out opposition attacks. It’s no surprise, then, that for all the attacking gems he’s worked with down the years, some of Guardiola’s most important players have been the midfielders. Xavi and Busquets at Barcelona, Xabi Alonso at Bayern and Fernandinho now at Manchester City to name a few.
The beginning of the end?
The Brazilian has been a hugely influential player under Guardiola. Positionally he is among the best in the world at being a consistently open passing option for his teammates. Defensively, without being a voracious tackler, he presses and limits areas for the opposition like few others. Now 33, all those miles on the clock are surely going to start to take a toll. There is some evidence to point towards this already happening.
In 2017/18 he led the league for accurate passes with 83.57 per 90 and, as per understat.com, was only marginally second to De Bruyne in xG buildup with 22.24. The Belgian’s figure was 22.90. This season, his passes per 90 has dropped to 63.9. His pass accuracy has also shown a dip from 90 per cent in the Premier League to 88 (was as low as 85 around early October).
The Champions League tie against Lyon produced further evidence. Houssem Aouar had a seventh-minute opportunity in which he drifted inside Fernandinho, brushing off his challenge, before drilling a shot wide of the near post. Worse was to come as he misplaced a pass on halfway in the build-up to Maxwell Cornet’s opening goal and was also partially at fault for the second.
Here are the possible target whom the Catalan might be looking at.