It’s fair to say that a lot of Manchester City fans have not always seen the point of Rodri.
It’s a brutal assessment to make of the Spain holding midfielder, but one that’s easy to make without closer inspection. He is not a glamorous, silky attacker that will hit double figures in goals and assists. He is not a courageous centre-back, or a nippy terrier-like ball-winner.
But, as has become apparent this season, he is arguably City‘s most important player. The Blues have just emerged from the toughest trio of fixtures they could have possibly faced, and in all three he was brilliant.
Operating at the base of City’s midfield, Rodri has recycled the ball, won crucial tackles, started attacks, switched the play, made heroic blocks – you name it, in London, Paris and Liverpool, Rodri did it.
He has impressed so much that City fans and pundits alike are comparing him to great City midfielders of the past.
For former City defender Nedum Onuoha, who joined City Is Ours for a Facebook Live on Tuesday, one quality in particular stands out.
“Rodri always wants the ball. I first noticed this [quality] with David Silva”, said Onuoha.
“We were playing in a game and he was coming towards me asking for the ball, but there was somebody right behind him. I went the other way as they was someone marking him, but then he pulled me and said ‘no, that’s when I want the ball, because that’s when I can do something off the back of it’.
“That was the first time at City someone had said that. I was thinking, ‘you’re being marked, why would I give you the ball?’.”
In Rodri, Onuoha sees a bit of El Mago.
“Rodri is one of those; he’s always in the right spot. It happens a lot with City – teams think they are pressing them really well, but really City are lulling them in, bringing them this way to move them somewhere else.
Rodri’s importance to Guardiola’s City is comparable to the role played by another unsung hero, who played a pivotal role in the 2011/12 Premier League title win.
“He’s like Gareth Barry”, Onuoha said. “He was exceptional.
“Playing with him was a real privilege because he was always in the right spot. Any time there was some level of danger he was snuffing it out and, when he’s on the ball, you trust him to make the right decision all the time.
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“They’re both [Rodri and Barry] very good at reading the mood of the game, reading the temperature and knowing what’s required at any particular moment. When you have that level of trust with someone who is in the middle of the field, at the heart of things, what more could you ask for?”
The stats certainly suggest that Rodri knows what he’s doing with the ball. This season he ranks in the 98th percentile of midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues for passes attempted and the 97th for pass accuracy, as per FBref.
From a defensive standpoint, his positioning has improved. Every 90 minutes this campaign he is tackling 66.7% of dribblers that approach him, compared to 43.1% last season.
“Best of all with Rodri – he’s a big guy you know! The moment people come up to him and start doing stepovers, they feel his force and he takes the ball away,” Onuoha added.
Where doubt once lingered, certainty has taken its place – certainty that Rodri is a crucial cog in Guardiola’s fine-tuned City machine.
Do you agree with Nedum? Is Rodri just that good? Follow City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.