When your team takes an early lead there’s arguably no better midfielder in the Premier League to have in your side than Rodri.
The Spaniard is a master in the art of keeping hold of the ball, strolling around the midfield at a walking pace as the game is kept ticking over and the opposition are afforded barely a foothold in the game.
Now, had Rodri played for City two or three years ago we’d probably be lauding him as a midfield maestro by this point – such was Pep Guardiola’s side’s dominance – however, the 24-year-old needs to learn that he’s playing in a very different team to the Citizens of old.
Saturday’s 1-1 draw with West Ham was just the latest in a long line of fixtures in which City have found themselves either level or behind with 20 minutes remaining.
As the game wore on there was a sense of urgency in the visitors’ play, with João Cancelo, Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne desperately striving to impact proceedings as they surged forward in search of a precious winner to avoid yet further dropped points.
However, the same could not be said of their Spanish teammate. Rodri continued to meander around the midfield, showing no desire to pick up the pace as he protected his 200% passing statistics for the day (probably) by lazily knocking the ball back and forth between the City full-backs.
While the midfield man’s game is built upon neat and tidy passes, he needs to learn to adapt his game to the requirements of his team. Once West Ham had taken an early lead through Michail Antonio’s superb overhead kick, it was evident that David Moyes’ side had no intentions of venturing much further forward than the halfway line.
As they sat back into their rigid formation, the emphasis fell upon City to break them down, with slick and intricate passes necessary. However, the need for a change in dynamic appeared to completely bypass the attention of Rodri.
Compare his performance to that of Hammers midfielder Declan Rice. When the scores were level early on the England man was content to sit in front of his back three and soak up any loose balls before playing simple passes to his teammates.
However, once Antonio notched the opener, Rice displayed the kind of in-game management Rodri should have, attempting to break through the City press and alleviate the pressure his team were being put under, even if only to buy a free-kick further up the field and allow his side to step up the pitch.
Nobody expects Rodri to dramatically change his game and suddenly flourish into a David Silva like midfielder who can glide past players when needed, however, the least the Spaniard can do is pick his head up and look to quicken the tempo of the game by fizzing balls into his midfield partners and breaking the stringent opposition lines.
People may argue that Rodri has been given a job to do by Guardiola and so technically he’s just doing what’s asked of him, but the City boss can’t dictate every part of the former Atletico Madrid man’s play. It’s up to the player to recognise the need of his team, otherwise City may well find themselves delving into the transfer market in search of a midfield lynchpin.