Thursday, January 20

Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo is proclaimed the best fullback in the Premier League

While the Premier League is shrouded in uncertainty today, one thing has remained constant: Manchester City win football matches.

With the COVID-19 outbreaks hitting other clubs and forcing excessive postponements, Pep Guardiola’s team has managed to escape largely unaffected, allowing them to quietly begin putting together one of those runs that can break their rivals for the title.

Sunday’s 4-0 win over Newcastle was City’s eighth on the rebound, and it was inevitable from the moment Ruben Dias received a free header inside the 6-yard box in the fifth minute.

This wasn’t City at its best or even close to it – there were a couple of missed moments, sloppy passing, and poor challenges that could have been punished another day, but it was ultimately a match won on autopilot.

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City are so well educated that they know what to do wherever they are on the field, and perhaps no player exemplifies soccer intelligence more within City’s ranks right now than Joao Cancelo.

The Portugal fullback has spent most of the season playing as a left back, but switched to the right at St. James’ Park due to the absence of Kyle Walker, and put on another supreme display.

A defender in name only, Cancelo is comfortable wherever he finds himself, whether it’s attacking high as a right winger or defending deep as a left back.

His highlight Sunday came from a central position, skipping over two weak tackles before crashing on a fierce blow from 25 yards.

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This was his third goal of the season in all competitions, to go with his seventh assist, the last of which came when his hooked cross from Kevin De Bruyne finally reached Dias for the opener.

Full-backs have become an integral part of successful teams in the modern game, especially Guardiola’s big teams in Barcelona, ​​Bayern Munich and now City.

Cancelo, however, is the first defender to directly participate in 10 goals in a single season with the Catalan coach since David Alaba achieved the feat for Bayern in 2013-14.

Such a comeback places him firmly in the group of the league’s most dangerous offensive defenders, alongside Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Chelsea’s Reece James.

Statistically in 2021-22, Alexander-Arnold is ahead with two goals and 10 assists, while James has five goals and six assists, but Cancelo has a technical ability that perhaps sets him apart from his rivals.

Take your delicious floating pass to find Gabriel Jesus in preparation for City’s fourth game against Newcastle, Cancelo’s ball knocked out several defenders before Jesus hit Raheem Sterling for a tap-in.

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Such a moment may not have the statistical impact it deserves, but your teammates and coach will appreciate it.

The Alexander-Arnold-driven crossovers are among the most dangerous in the league, while James has a dynamic frankness with his game, but it is questionable whether they would be as threatening if asked to switch flanks, as Cancelo is he has been forced to do both. this season and last.

Meanwhile, the former Juventus player’s outside foot passes from central areas can open up defenses, although he remains comfortable in high and wide positions as City tries to stretch opponents by launching attacks.

And so while Cancelo is one of the calmest men on the field when playing City, he’s starting to make a big noise as the champions move menacingly through the gears to spend Christmas at No. 1 one. one more time.

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