Manchester City’s midfielders must accept rotation this season as Pep Guardiola picks through an enviable raft of alternatives in central areas.
David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne reprised their dual playmaking roles of last season and combined to set up Sergio Aguero’s opener as City began their Premier League campaign with a 2-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.
Fernandinho undertook the holding role, with Yaya Toure, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and new signing Bernardo Silva all stationed on the bench at the Amex Stadium.
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Guardiola believes the players at his disposal will help City achieve his desired playing style and bounce back from a trophyless return last time around but warned the array of international stars that patience will be required.
“If they are not a little bit generous and a little bit kind it will be difficult. There are a lot of games and everybody is going to play,” he told reporters.
We had to be patient today. In the end a comfortable victory for us. #CmonCity#inSané#LS19@ManCitypic.twitter.com/Za4Ed7vbFZ
— Leroy Sané (@LeroySane19) August 12, 2017
“If you want to play in a certain way that I like, to monopolise the ball, you need talent and we’ve got it. Our midfield position is really good.
“Yaya, for example didn’t play because of Fernandinho but [Ilkay] Gundogan is coming back soon, with Kevin, with Silva, with Bernardo; Rash can play in that position, Phil Foden played outstanding in the pre-season.
“All of them have a lot of quality. When a player has the ball and doesn’t lose the ball I love that. They keep it well and all of them are going to play.
“Last season I rotated the team a lot and this season it’s going to happen again. After that it depends on them, whether they accept my decisions or not.
“If they don’t accept it will be their problem, not mine.”
One man Guardiola conceded was unfortunate to miss out on the opening weekend was England winger Sterling.
“In the line-up he deserved to play,” the former Barcelona boss said, having introduced the 22-year-old as a replacement for Gabriel Jesus. “He played awesome in there.
“I would like to be generous to the guys who train good but he knows that is just the first game and there are a lot of games.
“He has the quality to help us a lot in the small spaces and he has the quality to attack central defenders one-against-one, creating chances for the other ones. He will be so important for us.”
Todays training session @VHaydn_MCFC#MCFCpic.twitter.com/mmUYl94U5Y
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) August 5, 2017
Even as Guardiola’s rotation gets into full swing, with Everton next on the agenda in the Premier League, it seems unlikely David Silva will spend too much time out of City’s starting XI.
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The Spain playmaker fulfilled his customary role as the team’s creative fulcrum at Brighton, as he has since joining from Valencia in 2010.
“He’s a guy who likes to play, he is not afraid,” Guardiola added. “He has courage, especially in the bad moments, to ask for the ball and play and play and play.
“I love to see the players when the situation is uncomfortable. But we depend on everybody, not just David alone.”