Josko Gvardiol recently secured his transfer to Manchester City, making
him one of the priciest center-backs globally at a staggering 90 million
euros. The Croatian left-footed central defender is poised to become a pivotal
figure in Pep Guardiola's lineup, potentially playing an influential role in an
already well-rounded team. In this analysis, I aim to delve into Gvardiol’s
performance during the recent World Cup to gauge his compatibility with
Guardiola's playing style. Typically, Guardiola prefers defenders who are
adept with the ball and play high up the field. I will examine Gvardiol's
gameplay with Croatia, focusing on his defensive actions, intentions, and
overall style to determine his fit within Manchester City's ranks. It's
essential to highlight that Croatia and Manchester City have distinct
gameplay models, so the analysis will primarily focus on the player's
intentions and abilities.
In initiating this analysis, my primary
focus was on the defensive actions of
Manchester City’s central defenders from
the 2022/23 season. I examined data
from FBRef for players who played in
central defender positions. Concentrating
solely on blocks, interceptions, and
clearances, these players averaged 3.42
defensive actions per game.
Subsequently, I gathered the same metrics from
all of Gvardiol’s matches to determine if he met
or surpassed the average number of defensive
actions for Croatia. Interestingly, Gvardiol's
defensive contributions seemed limited, as he
didn't feature among the top 10 players in terms
of defensive actions.
I used a one-sided z-test to check if Gvardiol
exceeded the average defensive actions of 3.42
per game. The p-value was
3.249647389619567×10−5, leading us to reject
the null hypothesis. This confirms Gvardiol's
defensive contributions surpassed the average, allowing me to proceed with
analyzing his passing abilities.
A hallmark of Pep Guardiola's style is his emphasis on possession-based
gameplay. It's crucial for his players to not only pass accurately but to make
3. passes that advance play. To evaluate Gvardiol's capability in this regard, I
delved into his 'progressive passes'. I introduced a "Progression" column,
determined by the difference between the starting and ending x-coordinates
of a pass, representing pass distance. Setting a threshold of 8 yards, I
classified passes exceeding this distance as "progressive". Furthermore, only
forward-moving passes were considered truly progressive in this analysis.
Gvardiol's propensity for
progressive passes is
evident, particularly on the
pitch's left side. His
preference for the left,
stemming from his left-
footed nature, is
conspicuous. Notably, many
of his passes also channel
through the center, aligning
well with Guardiola’s
penchant for vertical play.
This could be a promising
sign for his integration into
Manchester City's tactical setup.
Transitioning to an examination of the zones from
which Gvardiol consistently completes his passes
is vital, given Manchester City's tactical demand
for their central defenders to maintain advanced
positions. This visualization delineates Gvardiol's
passing zones. Brighter green hues indicate zones
where he predominantly completes his passes,
while darker shades, verging towards red,
highlight areas of frequent incomplete passes. A
declining trend from the plot is Gvardiol's
decreasing pass completion rate as he ventures
higher up the field. This observation could raise
concerns for Manchester City's tactical
framework, as it implies potential challenges in
maintaining possession in advanced positions.
Gvardiol exhibits strong defensive attributes coupled with adeptness in ball
progression. However, the notable drop in his pass completion rate in
advanced areas warrants a deeper analysis. It's essential to determine if this
trend could adversely affect Manchester City's possession-centric approach.
It remains to be seen how Pep Guardiola might adapt or address this aspect
of Gvardiol's gameplay within the team's tactical framework.