Manchester City’s all-action defensive midfielder Rodri has been pivotal to Manchester City’s play this season, his tally of 0.27 goals per 90  is set to be the highest of his career so far.

Over his illustrious career, Rodri has garnered a reputation for performing in the biggest moments; his knack for scoring important late goals propelled City towards a famous treble last season. His finish against Inter in the Champions League final cemented himself among City legends, earning him a cult following around the blue side of Manchester.

Usually, goalscoring is not a coveted trait amongst defensive midfielders but it is a string that Rodri has added to his bow. This is largely due to the team that he plays for. 

Manchester City are one of the most dominant in world football today. They suffocate teams with the ball, currently averaging 65.2% possession in the Premier League. Rodri is a major part of that control; he is in the 99th percentile for both passes completed and progressive passes amongst Europe's Top 5 leagues(according to FBRef). 

Their style indicates the type of goals they then score. The aim of the City system is to control the ball so they can work the ball into wide areas or the ever more lucrative halfspaces* for cutbacks. Typically, players like the mercurial Erling Haaland are there to finish these chances. That is to say, typically. Later in a game, it is slightly different.

Why are late situations different from the norm? This is where the state of the game is taken into account, City, as established, control the ball and this is even more prevalent in late-game situations. Opposition teams retreat further and further due to sustained pressure from City but also to protect what they have.  This clogs the typical zones of scoring( where a striker like Erling Haaland would reside) and instead, space is in deeper zones where onrushing midfielders, like Rodri, can finish. He often arrives onto the ball, as he is more situationally aware than others on the field, reacting to loose balls and deflected passes.

*The half-space is a term describing the two vertical lanes between wide channel and central spaces. An area from which creators like Kevin De Bruyne tend to play penetrative passes.

Just because you get the chances, doesn’t necessarily mean that you score them. Many elite players have crumbled in big pressure situations and Rodri is simply not one of them. It's not who he is.

  • This article was written by Christopher Airiemiokhale as part of Newsquest's Young Reporter scheme.