Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Josko Gvardiol has the mind of a midfielder in the body of a center-back

Manchester City used Josko Gvardiol as a quarterback in the first half against Brentford. The execution of his passes is beginning to catch up with his high football IQ, but he still needs minutes to develop that sharpness to time the pass.

Figure 1.1 - Passing options open to Josko Gvardiol

You not only need accuracy, you also need the timing to be right for the pass.

The timing is important because when the opponent is this compact, if say, Foden drops, he only has a few seconds where he’ll be free. The moment he moves, the defender is there. That opportunity is lost.

To start the season, Josko Gvardiol looked like a center-back, not a full-back. For a man of his stature, he has always had the mind of a midfielder. His ideas were good but the execution wasn’t fully there yet.

As time has passed, there are still instances where the pass is slightly behind or ahead of the player receiving. That can completely throw off an attack. But we’re slowly beginning to see a positive change.

His dribbling is getting sharper, decisions are quicker, passing is becoming more accurate, he’s judging the weight of the pass better, and he’s making more intelligent runs.

Figure 1.2 - Josko Gvardiol passes to Kevin De Bruyne, and moves.
Figure 1.3 - Kevin De Bruyne chips the ball over to Josko Gvardiol.
Figure 1.4 - Erling Haaland curves his run to the back-post.

This is the run of an intelligent midfielder in the body of a center-back. Pass and move then run into the space. No hesitation. Kevin De Bruyne can perfectly time the pass to be over Gvardiol’s shoulder. He could kiss the ball if he wanted to.

Training the larger players to play like smaller players is the advantage teams are looking to opt for.

Figure 1.5 - Josko Gvardiol takes the shot but it goes wide.

This is his main weakness. Crossing and hitting the ball at speed on the move. A simple back-post pass across the ground is on, and it would be dangerous. Erling Haaland is there for the tap-in. If he gets the shot anywhere on goal, maybe it goes in, or maybe it gets saved and falls to a City forward in the box.

Teams normally wouldn’t persist and play him through this period of learning. They’d bench him because it’s not perfect, but the only way to iron out the kinks is by getting real minutes in important matches. When you need a goal he might not be my first choice to operate in that space, but he needs that time.

Match: Brentford 1-3 Manchester City, 5 February 2024

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