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How Full-Backs Became So Important To Pep Guardiola And Manchester City

Kyle Walker is one of three full-backs to sign Manchester City this Manchester City have signed three full-backs in the last two weeks, with the club investing in over £124 million in the position. Danilo has joined from Real Madrid to provide competition and offer an alternative to Kyle Walker, whilst left-back Bernard Mendy has impressed for Monaco in the last few seasons and has become yet another reinforcement at the Etihad.

The purchases of Danilo and Walker come directly after Dani Alves opted for Paris Saint-Germain instead, with Pep Guardiola believing that his former Barcelona player was destined to sign for City. PSG offered Alves double the salary, whilst the Brazilian’s wife also works for a modelling agency in the French capital.

This summer’s inflated transfer market has ensured that Mendy is now the world’s most expensive defender having overtaken new teammate Walker, but this area was always a necessity for Guardiola with Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna and Aleksandar Kolarov all leaving since last term.

Fernandinho and Jesus Navas were both used in the role, with the former offering an intelligent footballing brain and the latter providing pace and directness from deep. The price tags of all three-new full-backs are certainly a little extravagant, though they are key to City’s progression.

Guardiola’s Barcelona were infamous for its playing style, with the midfield trio of Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta helping to implement this philosophy. Lionel Messi naturally aided them to reach another dimension, whilst many of the other supporting cast didn’t always get the full recognition they truly deserved.

Victor Valdes made playing out from the goalkeeper look easy, but City’s issues with Claudio Bravo last season show that Valdes did a lot more than simply keep possession. Gerard Pique illustrated composure on the ball in a high-defensive line and scored important goals in the team’s success, which John Stones will surely aim to replicate in the future.

Alves and Abidal’s full-back roles could certainly be added to the list, with many presuming that Alves was providing a more advanced contribution due to his own individual preference rather than by the instruction from his coach. Guardiola wants his full-backs to push up the pitch to create numerical overloads in midfield areas and Alves’ instinct certainly enabled it.

Guardiola’s move to Bayern Munich further emphasised his fondness of the full-back, with Philipp Lahm and David Alaba able to play in-field and down the sides. He likes his full-backs to be clever footballers and they often have a far more intelligent tactical detail than expected.

“When you play the No. 6 role, some managers like a tall player to win headers when long balls come in, but if you have someone like Pep Guardiola who just prefers to keep the ball on the deck, then Philipp Lahm could be that player,” explained Lahm’s former international teammate Thomas Hitzlsperger to The Sportsman.

It wouldn’t be too surprising if both Mendy and Danilo were used as a holding-midfielder on occasion this season, especially given Ilkay Gundogan’s injury past and Yaya Toure’s age and lack of mobility. The Catalan knows the true value of his new full-backs to his methodology, which is why City haven’t been shy in spending their money.

 

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