Analysing Man City’s unusual squad make-up: Small in size yet deeper than most

Pep Guardiola and Manchester City’s Small Squad Strategy

Pep Guardiola recently discussed why he prefers to have a small squad at Manchester City, the smallest in the Premier League. Guardiola emphasized the importance of versatility when recruiting players, stating that they look for individuals who can play multiple positions. He specifically mentioned Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez, and academy prospect Oscar Bobb as examples.

City has occasionally named a short bench this season, exemplifying their reliance on key players like Rodri. However, they have successfully dealt with early-season injuries by finding creative solutions to cover gaps. For instance, they have used Kyle Walker as the sole presence on the right wing and shifted defender Manuel Akanji to midfield, partnering Foden and Alvarez behind Erling Haaland.

The diverse characteristics of City’s players allow Guardiola to adjust the team’s pace and style of play based on their availability and positions on the pitch. He mentioned using players like Mateo Kovacic in attacking midfield or Rico Lewis in that position for more control and fewer runners in the final third.

Guardiola’s tactical approach heavily influences how City plays, with games ranging from controlled and uninspired to explosive and attacking. This variation means players can have different roles and performances from game to game or even within halves.

Player Breakdown

Kyle Walker

Age: 33
Positions: RB, RCB, RWB

While Walker previously played as an overlapping right-back, he has now assumed a different role. Guardiola has deployed him as a right wing-back, covering the entire right flank by himself when City is in possession. This allows the nominal right-winger to tuck inside, creating new opportunities for players like Foden and Bernardo.

Rico Lewis

Age: 18
Positions: RB, LB, DM, CAM

Lewis has emerged as a versatile player within City’s squad. He has showcased his abilities as a right-back, left-back, holding midfielder, and even as an advanced midfielder. Lewis offers defensive balance and complements more attack-minded players like Foden, Alvarez, and De Bruyne.

John Stones

Age: 29
Positions: RB, CB, CM (CAM)

Stones epitomizes Guardiola’s emphasis on versatility. Guardiola initially used Stones in central midfield in 2018 and helped him develop the necessary skills. Stones can be a reliable center-back, but he truly shines when stepping up into midfield, even venturing into the opposition’s box.

Ruben Dias

Age: 26
Positions: CB

Dias may not have as diverse of a skill set as some other City players, but his role as both a right and left center-back is crucial. His defensive abilities, counter-pressing, and reliable passing make him a valuable asset on the pitch.

Manuel Akanji

Age: 28
Positions: RB, CB, LB, DM

Akanji’s versatility often goes unnoticed due to his lower-profile name. He has played as a center-back, right-back, and left-back, adapting well to each role. Akanji’s flexibility allowed Guardiola to experiment with his defensive lineup, including deploying him as a partner to Rodri in midfield.

Nathan Ake

Age: 28
Positions: CB, LB

Ake’s role as a left-sided center-back in City’s back three suits his defensive strengths. Unlike previous left-backs, Ake’s primary responsibility is defensive rather than pushing forward. He also provides a threat in attacking set-pieces.

Josko Gvardiol

Age: 21
Positions: CB, LB

Gvardiol shares similarities with Ake, excelling as a left-center back. With his passing skills, he adds an extra dimension to City’s play.


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