Pep Guardiola has a new undroppable Man City player after Wolves defeat
Manchester City’s performance against Wolves was not one to be celebrated. It was, in Pep Guardiola’s eyes, their first bad day at the office this season and he will be considering several changes for the trip to Crystal Palace.
A source of City’s strength has been their incredible squad which has players constantly pushing for places in the side. As well as being a reality at a club challenging in every competition they enter, it keeps everyone motivated – or should do, anyway – because if they are not getting in the team they need to work even harder and better to change that.
There were quite a few performances against Wolves that will have opened the door of opportunity for teammates-cum-rivals. Is Sergio Aguero still sharp enough to keep Gabriel Jesus out of the team? Will Phil Foden be turned to in midfield? What about Joao Cancelo at either left- or right-back?
Amid the many questions though came a new moment of clarity: Fernandinho must stay in the team.
A mainstay in the starting XI for so long under Guardiola, time finally looked to have caught up with the 34-year-old in 2019. Ilkay Gundogan proved an effective replacement for him in the second half of last season and then in summer Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodri was brought in for a club record sum. The only two matches this season Rodri hasn’t started – at Bournemouth and Preston – it has been the German that has filled in.
Fernandinho’s first minutes did not come until Brighton when he came on as an emergency centre-back option for the injured Aymeric Laporte, and he was back on the bench for the trip to Norwich the following week. With the injury to John Stones and the form of Nicolas Otamendi, however, the veteran has made himself essential to the team once more.
Some believe he is the most reliable option at centre-back, others think he should push up to his preferred holding role – either alongside or instead of Rodri – to give the back four more protection but, for the first time in a while, Fernandinho is an automatic pick.
Given the nature of the squad and competition for places, few players can actually consider themselves in that category. Ederson obviously is immovable, Kevin De Bruyne is always missed when either not fit or not selected, Raheem Sterling probably makes it given he almost guarantees goals but beyond that there are probably seven places up for grabs in the team.
Where Rodri had looked to be making himself essential, the Wolves defeat has showcased just how important Fernandinho is again to the team. As they look to start closing the eight-point gap to Liverpool, the Brazilian seems certain to be there every step of the way.