Rodri shows signs he can replace Vincent Kompany for Man City after Liverpool thriller | Football | Sport


The £62.6 million new defensive midfielder from Atletico Madrid, at 23 is a confident boy. Especially as he looks set to be stepping into the shoes of Fernadinho, the Mr Reliable up until now of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering teams.

But Fernandinho is now 34 and Pep is not one for having his teams stand still, even after winning the treble last year.

Fernandinho was a non-stop, smooth-running, utterly calm bundle of energy, filling holes, plugging gaps, stopping teams before they even got going.

Rodri, on Sunday afternoon, sat in that same position in front of the Manchester City back four – but was a much more powerful, physically imposing figure, with an upright, commanding stance.

The Spaniard was in the game right from the start, easily holding off a challenge and laying the ball calmly off.

The theory is that since the departure of Vincent Kompany, and in the time when the great Belgian was on the sidelines injured, City have lacked a leader on the pitch, a commander.

David Silva, a magician with the ball and for so long the creative hub of this team, is more of a quiet influence, a prompter and leader by example. There has been no one who takes a game by the scruff of the neck and shakes the team into action – not that they have needed it that often. Rodri is the man supposedly to fill that hole.

City’s early goal, from Raheem Sterling, settled the champions down after a flurry of Liverpool attacks had seen Mohamed Salah narrowly miss.

But the pace of the English game, especially the way that Liverpool play it, is going to take some getting used to for Rodri.

Moving forward, the Spaniard was robbed by Firmino and Jurgen Klopp’s team almost profited.

Generally the Spaniard was comfortable on the ball, even when surrounded by buzzing Liverpool midfielders, wanting the ball, keeping it and laying it off.

Several times, his physical strength was all too clear, as Rodri shrugged off challenges to provide a simple pass.

One of his strengths as supposedly that he is a more forward-looking player than Fernandinho. That was not so often evident on Sunday, but then this was just one game.

As Liverpool cranked up the pressure, hitting the woodwork twice, Guardiola threw Ilkay Gundogan on alongside the Spaniard to stiffen things up. But City could not hold out against a vastly-improved Anfield side.

The pressure paid off as Joel Matip headed in Liverpool’s equaliser. Jurgen Kopp’s team now had the momentum, and only a brilliant save from Claudio Bravo from Naby Keita prevented a late winner, and then Salah’s deflected shot dropped just over.

Then Rodri was caught in possession again, this time by Salah, and only a brilliant dash out by Bravo saved City.

Kyle Walker astonishingly cleared off the line to deny Salah and Pep’s men held their nerve to win the shoot out and the first trophy of the season.

For Rodri, the opposition this season won’t always be of Liverpool’s waspish quality. Against lesser teams, the Spaniard, with his strength and quality looks like he could be that leader.

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