Cancelo is City’s most important player and here’s why
By Dhylan Patel
João Cancelo has arguably been the most important player for Manchester City this season. He is the only player who has started every Premier League game so far for the blues - the fact that Pep Guardiola deems Cancelo undroppable is the biggest compliment he can give anyone. Guardiola is constantly known for switching up his team week by week, and he has made more changes to his starting eleven on a weekly basis than any other manager in the Premier League since he arrived.
Guardiola has always placed extra emphasis on his fullbacks in the sense that they must do more than traditional players playing in those positions. From the start of his managerial career with Barcelona, to his player conversions at Bayern Munich, and finally his player development at Manchester City. At all three clubs that Guardiola has managed, he has implemented attacking fullbacks which has changed the role of the position in modern football.
In the Premier League in particular, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have been instrumental in changing the defensive roles in England. Klopp’s Robertson and Trent play heavy attacking football as defenders, and make goal contributions on a regular basis, especially Trent Alexander Arnold, who has the second most assists in the Premier League since 2018/19, only Kevin De Bruyne has more.
This season, Cancelo has been following suit in terms of gaining goals and assists this season. The Portuguese had already been in good form before this season had begun, but he has elevated his football to another level and the goal contribution stats are clear proof. The defender has two goals and six assists in all competitions, which includes a hat-trick of assists against Club Brugge in the Champions’ League group stage.
Despite Guardiola’s incredible form, Guardiola has stated that he thinks the Portuguese can do better, which really proves how demanding he is of his players as a manager. Cancelo has been in the form of his life and must start for the blues, yet the manager still feels he can do more. Guardiola’s view on his team may precisely be why City players have improved so much individually. Players competing for a position in the starting 11 plays a factor in this, and Cancelo has beaten the likes of Zinchenko, who was effectively City’s main left back in previous seasons.
The biggest thing that makes Cancelo stand out from other fullbacks in the league is that he has been impressive both attacking and defending. Whilst other fullbacks have excelled in one or the other, Cancelo has been at the forefront of City’s attack on the left side as well as being able to come back and prove himself as a defensive left-back. City currently have eight clean sheets in the Premier League, the joint highest alongside Chelsea and Liverpool. The Mancunian side have only conceded seven goals in the 13 games they have played, only Chelsea have conceded less (5).
João Cancelo is effectively a playmaker for Manchester City, despite being a left-back. He has completed more passes than any other player in the Premier League (905) and has the most crosses for Man City (46). He has also registered 29 shots for City, the most of any City player this season - a very surprising stat considering that all of City’s forwards are prolific goalscorers. On the other side of the pitch, he also has some noteworthy stats - he has made 81 recoveries in defence and has intercepted the ball 31 times, once again the most of any City player.
The stats very clearly show how Cancelo can be a defensive full-back, yet at the same time be City’s main playmaker. He often comes into the midfield role naturally on the pitch, as it is the way Guardiola sets up his full backs. The Portuguese is without a doubt City’s most important player so far this season, which is why he is undroppable from the starting 11, and if Guardiola believes he can do better, then it would be a wonder to see how he plays once he reaches the level of play that the manager believes he can be at.