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Why Pep loves Fab!

Pep Guardiola does his due diligence. he is recognised as one of the most studious, hardworking managers around. Therefore it is no surprise that when he took over Manchester City in the summer of 2016 he will have studied and assessed the players already in the club. It is also fair to say that he probably didn't realise what a gem he had in Fabian Delph, a player that perfectly suits one of the main tenets of his football philosophy, namely that his full-backs tuck into centre midfield and free up the players that are there to express their creative talents.
Delph made his name at Aston Villa, where he shone as a tough tackling, hard working central midfielder in a poor Villa team. This image probably does him a disservice he is a much more gifted footballer than that. He is comfortable in possession, has a sweet left foot, and an eye for a goal or a pass, but there is no doubting his desire or tenacity. His displays at Aston Villa had helped him to become a fixture in the England set -up and got him a move to the then Champions Manchester City.
Shortly after Guardiola took over the Manchester City team, Fabian Delph picked up an injury and was out until January, which meant he didn't haven't a chance to make an early impression on his new boss, and indeed having dropped to sixth in the central midfield pecking order it looked like he would be on his way out of the Ethihad.
This summer Manchester City spent over £100 million recruiting three pacy, attacking full-backs, Benjamin Mindy, Kyle Walker and Danilo to replace the ageing ones at Guardiola's disposal. Pep clearly had a game plan in mind. The on field roles of footballers has seen a massive evolution over the last fifteen years and none more so than the full back/wing back. The trend was started by the way Brazil utilised their legendary full-backs Cafu and Roberto Carlos who were continuously expected to abandon their defensive duties and add flair and dynamism to attacks. More and more teams have taken wingers and converted them into full-backs. In fact Manchester United have been playing two converted wingers as wing backs iin Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia, these two wing backs have scored four goals in three games which shows how much they are expected to aid their attack. Managers have recognised that in most attacks it is the full backs who aren't marked and whose runs deep into opposition territory get picked up least.
Guardiola has taken this one step further. In a tactic he started to develop at Bayern Munich where superstar full back Phillip Lahm would often end up patrolling central midfield, Guardiola gets his full backs to tuck in to midfield if that is where the space is. Pep Guardiola wants to get his two most creative and destructive players, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva on the ball as much as possible., in order to inflict maximum damage. He pushes his attacking wide players high up the pitch and to hold their position. It helps that the two players in these roles, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, are both super athletes, extremely fast, extremely tricky and with an eye for goal, (fourteen goals between them so far this season). This pushes the opposition back. Opposing teams don't want to leave those players alone and expose themselves to fast breakaway counter-attacks so they hold position and keep them marked. This has the two fold affect of allowing space for the wing backs to move forwards into, but more importantly stretches the field so Pep!s two best players De Bruyne and Silva can get on the ball and push forward. The full backs are then expected to tuck in and sure up the space left, as the two attack-minded central midfielders push forward.
This brings us back to Fabian Delph. When Benjamin Mindy got a bad cruciate ligament injury, ruling him out for most of the season it looked like Pep would have to tweak his tactics. Instead he took a punt on Fabian Delph. It is the perfect role for Delph, his athleticism, fitness and left footed quality allows him to shine when pushing forward. His competitve nature and defensive discipline adds steel to the City defence and he has the instincts of a central midfielder so when the situation needs him to tuck in he is perfectly comfortable and adept at the role.
Fabian Delph is a match made in heaven for Pep's vision of a modern full-back and fortune and good timing have brought them together for Manchester City's most successful run ever!

By Clive Palmer

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