What Sergio Busquets was for FC Barcelona during the Messi era, Rodri is now for Manchester City - a strategist in the shadow of exceptional artists. This role in the background refers not only to the level of attention, but also to its spatial position. Like Busquets, Rodri is also a “holding midfielder”, who plays more inconspicuously than the people in front but is still immensely important for his own team. This interpretation of the six position means that the space in front of the defense is kept and the game is characterized by seemingly simple solutions.
Student dormitory & Opel Corsa
This inconspicuous role is also reflected in Rodri's work off the pitch. The Spaniard doesn't have Instagram and was still living in a student dorm after his professional debut for Villareal. Rodri also shows modesty in his choice of vehicle. After getting his driving license, Rodri bought a used Opel Corsa. Even after his breakthrough, he still parked this car next to his teammates' expensive sports cars.
#1 Practical tips: Safety through commitment and simple solutions
Don't just focus on the spectacle in your game. Especially when things aren't going so well, you can regain security through commitment and the “simple” things.
Link and security in the center
As the name “Holding Midfielder” suggests, he holds his position, i.e. a central position and the space in front of the defense. This ensures that there is always a passing station in the center - be it for the first pass in the build-up game, a back pass option when playing in the final third or an intermediate station during a shift. The positioning also has enormous added value in the transition game after ball losses: the important center of the field is secured.
#2 Practical tips: Positional play as a “holding midfielder”
- Hold the center. Don't move too far into wide positions in order to be able to secure the space in front of the defense and the important middle of the field.
- Play in the final third: Stay connected to the action in order to maintain access in the transition game - adjust passing routes in depth, don't let opponents open up and stop opposing counterattacks
- Make yourself open to play or bind opponents: As a six, you have an important role in the game with the ball thanks to your central position - you are the link between offensive and defensive players but also between the two sides of the field. Therefore, you should always make yourself actively playable. If you are blocked, you should specifically open up passing and dribbling paths or not close them. For example, setting down away from the ball can be helpful.
Variable passing game & precise flying balls into the width
After we have analyzed the positional play of a “holding midfielder” and thus Rodri’s positioning, let’s now take a closer look at his actions in the central areas. The Spaniard appears less through dribbling and more through his passing game. After all, Rodri played an average of 82 passes per game last season. Only one player was able to surpass this figure in the Premier League. In addition, his solutions in the passing game are very versatile and intelligent. Rodri not only shows variable passes over short distances, but also repeatedly shifts wide at the right time - both with the left and right.
#3 Practical tips: Fly balls wide
- Play the flying balls wide with backspin & without spin
- Don't swing the shock leg
- Try to play flying balls as quickly as possible and without a long preparation period - otherwise your action will become predictable and the opponent will have enough time to prepare for the action.
- Training flying balls: Play the balls while moving to make the training close to the game - dribble first and then play the flying ball.
But it's not just Rodri's contribution to the game with the ball that is very high. He also played a large part in Manchester City's successful season with his defensive play. This can also be impressively proven with numbers - Rodri intercepts 5.79 passes in 90 minutes. No other player in the Premier League could beat this figure. On top of that, the six-man team wins 73% of their aerial duels. This value is particularly important in his position in front of the defense, as Manchester City presses very high and thus repeatedly forces the opponent to play long balls.
#4 Practical tip: Close pass routes & intercept passes
- Observe the field of vision of the opponent with the ball - balls are in most cases played in the line of sight.
- Keep the opponents behind you in your field of vision and place them in a cover shadow
- Above all, make sure that the passing paths are blocked in the middle of the field
- Read the game carefully and learn to anticipate your opponent's actions
Important in all phases of the game
It can therefore be said that Rodri is extremely important to Manchester City in all phases of the game - he is a link and ball distributor when playing with the ball, he is important for counter-pressing and counter-attack protection and he closes the center in defensive play. And he does it all without being in the spotlight - at least until recently. Because Rodri discovered scoring goals from distance in the Champions League. The Spaniard not only scored in the quarter-finals against Bayern Munich, but he also scored the 1-0 winning goal in the Champions League final against Inter Milan.
About the author:
Luis Österlein (Twitter: LOsterlein ) is a game analyst for the U23 team at FC Bayern Munich and a freelance author. In close collaboration with 360Football, he writes specific blog posts that support players in their football development support.