Man City Player Ratings 2019/20 - Part Two - The Midfield

In part two, City Xtra take a look back on those at the heart of our creative core and midfielder anchor as Adam Monk runs you through his analysis of Manchester City's midfield this season.
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Right, so that’s the hard bit out the way – the defenders and goalkeepers always seem to get a more mixed response because they’re quite simply the more inept group of footballers in our squad, therefore making them more risible. I received no death threats this time though which is good, but I did get some hate – then again, all art must have its critics.

I do have some gripes though - one individual replied to the article saying, “What a load of crap, rubbish ratings. Walker shouldn’t have more than '2', Ederson '0', Stones '0'”.

So let me get this straight – last year I was slated for giving Bravo a score of '1' - deemed too low by an anonymous Malaysian hitman – and this year I’ve been slated for giving players scores too high for their respective performances, I just can’t win – am I a complete idiot or something? Or is that the guy who thinks he could score higher than Ederson if we stuck him between the sticks?

Also, I thought I should bring up a quote that was turned into a graphic that seemed to get a bit of stick when taken out of context – people read my quote saying, “Nicolas Otamendi may well be nicknamed the “The General”, but don’t forget, many Generals are war criminals rightfully being trialled at the Hague for crimes against humanity...”, and I got about 15 replies all saying “bit harsh" - as if to suggest I was genuinely comparing Nicolas Otamendi to Stalin or Pol Pot – of course I wasn’t, it’s a gross exaggeration for comedic effect… also what’s wrong with Pol Pot? I thought he was brilliant on Britain’s Got Talent when he won it.

Oh, and one last thing – by letter of the law, I’m afraid I’m going to have to downgrade Otamendi’s rating from a '3' to a '2'. In this past week, he – a 32-year-old man – decided to download TikTok and give it a crack; it should come as no surprise to all of us that on the next day, Donald Trump felt it necessary to address the United States and the wider world, advising people to inject disinfectant into themselves.

Right, so the midfielders, let’s have it...


Rodri – 7

Wears boots with laces – none of this slip-on shit. Missionary sex only, opts for Egg & Cress sandwiches at the canteen, brings an Atlas to away games, wears crocs to go out, doesn’t know how to Copy & Paste, reads Harry Potter and watches QI, doesn’t have Instagram, and whenever he sees one of his teammates scrolling on it he goes over to them and says, “are you winning?”.

That’s Rodri, a man we signed in a time capsule from the last time Arsenal won the league – he’s a rare breed these days, but it might be just what we need.

His aptitude for the game of football was apparent from day one, when he was speaking better English at 22 than anyone in the room, simply because he’d been teaching himself in anticipation of a move over here. An intelligent lad who cares about nothing else. He’s kept his head down and said the right things when called upon, despite the turbulence of this campaign, as well as the forced freneticism upon him by those behind him – he’s managed to slot in seamlessly and look the part.

One game stood out for me this season where I think we saw the best of Rodri, that was at Burnley away – his typically languid enforcement of our backline was prevalent throughout, but he supplemented that with countless long range passes and interceptions, as well as that long-range piledriver which would’ve ended up in Ewood Park had Fernando Reges attempted it. The goal had shades of Gerrard vs Olympiakos and the performance had shades of the missing piece of the puzzle we’ve so desperately craved.

Consistent throughout with the odd lapse in concentration, but the truth is, we have one of the best – and most under the radar – young players on the planet.

He’ll be even better next season...

Fernandinho – 8

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there’s vomit on his jersey already – Otamendi, he’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to stop goals, but he keeps on conceding.

Sorry about that – I don’t know what that was...

Anyway, it’s not his fault he was conceding this season, in fact you could argue this has been Fernandinho’s most impressive season to date. To consistently play and be the best player in a position that’s not even his at the grand age of 34 – just stop it. He’s cemented his position - not just a Manchester City great, but as a Premier League great too this season. He’s now excelled in a double pivot alongside an attack-minded Yaya Touré, as a number six in a side that’s ripped up English football's record books, and now, he’s looked assured at centre-half – only him though.

It’s interesting now because as a result of the mismanagement of a post-Vincent Kompany squad, we’ve found a new potential fourth choice centre-half for next season. Due to the fact he’s defying science by not declining, 'Dinho’s managed to pen himself a new deal, meaning we could possibly see Otamendi depart and a new centre back come in; that way we have Laporte, Stones, Fernandinho and a new guy with Rodri and Gundogan as our newly-cemented pivots for next season. That’s what I hope anyway. What could just as easily happen is David Silva departing, De Bruyne getting injured, and then Fernandinho getting shoehorned in as an emergency 'eight' behind Aguero at Anfield – so long as it’s not Gundogan I suppose.

What a player he’s been for us though, the consummate professional who doesn’t just ‘do a job’, but puts in world class performances week-in-week-out. I find it extremely hard to ever criticise Fernandinho when he does drop the odd bad game because he’s by far and away the most overworked player in our squad. You can forget the Tevez’s, the Yaya’s, the Silva’s – their proficiency is always replaceable by adapting your system when you’ve got as much money as we do. What’s harder to replace is the players like Fernandinho who can just about do everything and do it with the right attitude – those are the players that are the cement of a successful side; your Zabaleta’s, your Kompany’s, your Fernandinho’s.

We’re gonna miss him when he’s gone...

Ilkay Gundogan – 7

Right, so which Ilkay Gundogan do you want me to talk about? The virtuoso number six Ilkay Gundogan who protects and compliments the attack in perfect equilibrium? Or the borderline paraplegic number eight Ilkay Gundogan who’s attacking reasoning can be boiled down to a simple AND gate whereby if he has the ball and he sees a blue shirt he just hopelessly lobs the ball towards them. I’ll talk about the number six version, because those ten yards separating both roles on the pitch are what stops me from vomiting profusely week-in-week-out.

He’s a really good footballer is Ilkay - one who’s value gets understated because of how adept those around him are. He’s probably the most well-rounded footballer in our squad if you take De Bruyne out of the equation - lo and behold this is evident when he’s played in the one position that requires a multitude of attributes. He’s comfortable as a number six against the right opposition – he’s press-resistant, tidy on the ball and has far greater attacking qualities than Rodri and Fernandinho in that respective role, and for that reason alone he’s a vital asset to the squad – WHEN USED CORRECTLY.

It honestly baffles me that this is Gundo’s fourth season at City now and he’s still played as an attacking midfielder by Pep, despite quite clearly not having the refined dexterity needed to unlock a defence from a more advanced position. He’s obviously nowhere near De Bruyne – who is? But he doesn’t have the footballing IQ of David Silva, he doesn’t have the potency and tenacity of Bernardo and he’s nowhere near as nimble as Foden, so what’s the actual point of playing him there?

It’s not Gundogan’s fault, but nine times out of ten when Gundogan starts as a number eight, you just get a sinking feeling before a ball has even been kicked, almost knowing that the game at hand is going to be much more of a slog than necessary. When he’s starting as a number six however, I feel much better because to be quite blunt – he’s not interfering.

It’s not an attack on Gundogan at all, I really like him – his standout performance this season being at the Bernabeu in a double pivot with Rodri. I just pray that Pep wakes up to the juxtaposition of his own shot-calling – then again, what do I know.

Phil Foden – 7

We’re both from Stockport me and Phil, well sort of, different necks of the woods really; he’s from Edgeley, I’m from Heaton Moor. We’ve both seen the same things – the Hat Museum, the Coop Pyramid, the Merry go round in Mersey Square, the big Toys R Us (it’s as exciting as it sounds) – it makes me wonder how we ended up so different you know?

Maybe it’s because my area has stupid things like three Deli’s within a 500-yard radius of my house – nobody needs three Deli’s. I was exposed to artisan breads and cured meats from the age of about five. I should’ve been eating Baby Bells but instead I knew what butternut squash soup was - ridiculous. There’s a cinema 100 yards away from my house – a f*****g cinema – I’m not trying to show off, I’m angry. I was able to just go and watch Ice Age 2 because I felt like it. It softened me up, instead of playing football I was asking for stupid stuff like Dr Who figures - they’re still all in a box hidden away in my room somewhere – what the f**k am I going to do with a plastic Slitheen figure now?!

I wish my Dad just said, “No, I don’t want to see your 100% completed ‘LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga’ save, nor do I want to continue paying for your Tenor horn lessons! Put your boots on and get the f**k outside – you can read ‘Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools’ later as a treat”. But he didn’t, and instead I’m now here writing this article, wishing that my interest in football clicked just a tad earlier… mind you I probably wouldn’t have been as good as Phil – Wilfried Bony perhaps.

He is special; whatever we thought about Kelechi Iheanacho, Michael Johnson or Vladimir Weiss, we now know what it’s like to have a true one off coming through the ranks. Next season is huge for him with the imminent departure of David Silva. He may feel slightly hard done by with the number of minutes he’s been given this season, but when he’s been given them, he’s taken them.

That performance in the Carabao Cup final was mature beyond his years, that’s what Pep doesn’t get enough credit for and is what I think many City fans tend to overlook – at Barca, any player that was introduced, fit the system like a glove. The same at Bayern with Josh Kimmich. Here he’s made sure that he’s not thrown Phil into games he doesn’t think he can handle. He’s a rough diamond that’s got to be nurtured to perfection.

I’m hoping next season he’s really ready to make that step up and be a regular first teamer – we started to see signs of that coming to fruition before planet Earth went to pot...

Bernardo Silva – 6

It was all going so well for Bernardo – our best player in the 18/19 campaign. He then made a solid start to the 19/20 campaign - a Premier League hat-trick at home to Watford made everyone believe he was back to his best. It was all going swimmingly, until the morning after that game… HE GOT CANCELLED.

In a way, you have to feel for Bernardo - he’s obviously not a racist. He just experienced a massive culture shock. For a guy who’s the butt of every dressing room joke to try and give a bit back only to find Tommy Robinson sliding into his DM’s and the entirety of twitter calling for a lengthy ban, it felt a tad reactionary.

Of course an education was the answer, and I’m sure that’s what he rightly received, a one match ban? So be it, ultimately what he did was unquestionably wrong. The main cause for concern though was just how bad the patter was; I bet the City WhatsApp group chat is full of Troll Football memes and other abominable pieces of media – part one of my player ratings potentially being one of them. But if that’s the standard of lookalikes being dished out in the group chat then I despair, they need to up their game. Someone needs to tell Bernardo he looks like Gavrilo Princip – the man who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and effectively kick started World War 1 – now that’s great banter.

More importantly though, the whole fiasco seemed to have a detrimental effect on his performances throughout the remainder of the season. He was never bad, just really quiet – much like his bedding-in period in 17/18. I was flipping between a '6' and a '7' because of that screamer he scored at Old Trafford, but ultimately I had to go with the lower option because the Carabao Cup just isn’t enough. There’s a valid argument to be had that he’s rarely played in position, and to be honest I’d agree – his best ever performance in a blue shirt came from the middle as a number eight in our 2-1 home win against Liverpool last season. Since that day, it took over a year for us to see him being played in that very position again.

He’s not direct enough to be a winger yet, also too potent to be played as one – to put it quite simply, he’s one of the most talented footballers on the planet, probably in the top 10 on natural ability alone – so use him correctly.

For one of our prize assets, you’d expect more from him though, this season he was just alright...

David Silva – 6

I’m not a good enough writer to do David Silva’s time at Manchester City justice, nor can I think of anything funny to say about him – which is telling of the man. Someone who elevated the club to a whole new level without elevating his ego, David Silva, quite simply put, is the best player in Manchester City’s 125-year history.

Why?” You ask. Well; Yaya Touré lasted six years, David Silva has lasted a decade. Vinny lasted a decade playing sporadically, David Silva lasted a decade playing consistently. Aguero has lasted a decade – but would he have done without David Silva?

He is THE player of the Sheikh Mansour era – he played with Tevez, he’s playing with Phil Foden. In the years between those, he’s been world class and has arguably improved.

When he dropped two bodies and curled the ball home away at Blackpool, we knew we had a real talent on our hands. When he controlled the ball mid-air and volleyed the ball on a plate to Dzeko to make it 6-1 against United, we knew we had the league's best player. When he was arguably our best and most consistent player in a record-breaking season whilst playing with the life of his prematurely born son hanging in the balance, we knew we had the best we’ve ever had – not just as a player, as a person too.

A consistent 8/10 bar this season for an entire decade - that’s a feat very few Premier League legends can boast. Alan Shearer perhaps, Paul Scholes maybe – but how many can really say they’ve done it for this long at the level David Silva has?

Once he leaves City, many rival ‘fans’ will attempt to sweep David Silva’s City career under the rug because he lacked any real ‘sauce’. These ‘fans’ will most likely be called something like ‘Sexual_Salah’ or ‘Masculine_Mesut’. Just remember, these are children who don’t understand football whatsoever - they think Adel Taarabt was actually once a good footballer – he wasn’t. I advise you to remember what your eyes saw and don’t let stats ever deceive you; David Silva is undoubtedly one of the Premier League's greatest ever players.

It’s going to be really weird seeing him go. I have a lot more personal sentimentality attached to Aguero and Silva as opposed to any other players. I’ve watched them both from age 11 to 21 – so many of my adolescent memories, both good and bad, correlate with certain seasons or games watching City, and those two have been the ever presents at the top of their game throughout.

A footballing IQ like no other, zero match-costing errors, a surplus of important goals and assists - for ten f*****g years…

Thank you Dave!

Kevin De Bruyne – 9

Please god can we just get the most out of this guy! Last season was wasted because he was absent, this one was wasted because the rest of the team were. It feels like despite the fact he’s been here five years, I’ve only seen Kevin get what he deserves in one of them.

He’s a freak of nature, I’ve not seen a player who carries out quick actions and Hollywood passes with such rigour – he knows where all 10 of his teammates should be, and he plays in accordance with that.

David Beckham was an exceptional talent entirely because his trademark technique was refined to perfection; Kevin De Bruyne has about five of those. What do you want? A 30-yard screamer hit with minimal back lift? A first-time drilled pass across the face of the six-yard box without even having to look for runners? A driving run that takes him 60 yards from the opposition goal to 20? You name it, Kevin can almost definitely do it.

There’s only one player in the world currently better than De Bruyne and that’s Lionel Messi, but that lad's playing an entirely different game. In footballing terms, Kevin is the best. I keep coming back to Real Madrid away, but it’s the shining light of our season and a prime example of what Kevin brings to the table for us. Casemiro, Modric and Valverde all made to look like part-timers on their own turf by a guy who’s not just better than them, but wanted every single ball more.

There’s a video on YouTube where the camera is fixated on De Bruyne for the entire 90 at the Bernabeu and it’s scary how he comes across as simultaneously apathetic yet strenuous. One minute he’s taking a brisk walk, barking orders at the mortals around him, the next he’s receiving the ball, and the first thing you notice when he gets it is that his head is up, driving at the opposition. It’s how Kaka used to go about things back in the day - no nonsense, efficient - energy exerted in small amounts and to great effect. Even at 1-0 down it was his penetration into the penalty area that quite literally forced an equaliser for us – there’s no other player in the league capable of doing what he did there.

This was maybe his best season in a blue shirt, just a shame there wasn’t much to show for it. Oh and also that Thierry Henry assist record must be cursed...


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