Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Rodri sees everything

May 18, 2023 — Rodri, for Manchester City against Real Madrid, shows why he is one of the world’s best defensive midfielders with his ability to see the entire field and pick the right pass.

Figure 1.1 - Rodri is passed the ball.
Figure 1.2 - On the turn, Rodri scans and sees Kevin De Bruyne is open.
Figure 1.3 - Before playing the ball, Rodri notices Toni Kroos making the run to cut off the pass to Kevin De Bruyne.

Most midfielders would have forced that pass to Kevin De Bruyne, but Rodri has the foresight to know that Toni Kroos can easily intercept the ball.

Rodri remains patient.

Figure 1.4 - Kyle Walker checks to the play, to make himself available for a pass out. Rodri sees this but chooses the progressive pass to John Stones, in space.
Figure 1.5 - John Stones runs into the space, and Manchester City have the numerical advantage on the break.

Rodri’s patience is awarded. Out of the three options available, he picks the correct one, and now Manchester City is threatening, in transition, at speed.

These are things that go unnoticed. Good defensive midfielders are boring, but if you watch Rodri closely, nothing is boring. He can see the entire pitch with his eyes closed.

This makes you appreciate the buildup to Manchester City’s first goal even more.

Figure 2.1 - Ilkay Gündoğan makes a run, and Daniel Carvajal jumps to anticipate the pass from Rodri.
Figure 2.2 - Rodri fakes the pass and turns, anticipating that conflict. He then passes out to Bernardo Silva.

Again, reading the play. Anticipating when defenders will move and ignoring “open” players. By the time they’re not open, Rodri is already making the next pass.

Figure 2.3 - John Stones makes a run to the corner, and Bernardo Silva plays him the ball.
Figure 2.4 - Bernardo Silva moves immediately after the pass.

I mentioned during the Bayern Munich match last week that I love when players pass and immediately move because it opens up so much space. Bernardo Silva demonstrates the space this movement can create.

Don’t think, pass and move.

Figure 2.5 - John Stones draws three defenders, and then passes to Kyle Walker.
Figure 2.6 - Bernardo Silva has now slipped into a pocket of space, as Kevin De Bruyne is played the ball.

The combined intelligence of both John Stones and Bernardo Silva could power a supercomputer. They know when to go, they know when to stay, and they do it without thinking.

Figure 2.7 - Kevin De Bruyne passes to Bernardo Silva.
Figure 2.8 - Another angle showing the gap Kevin De Bruyne had to pass through.

This goal would not be possible without the awareness of Rodri to pick out the correct pass, the perfect pass. And this is just two examples. There are dozens of other examples during a match where he pulls the correct strings.

The silent conductor.

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