FA Cup Final: Rodri, Manchester City’s ‘Machine’, Ready for More Glory

Rodri with Premier League Title
Rodri with Premier League Title (PC: Rodri/X)

“When they (Arsenal) faced us at the Etihad, I saw them and said ‘Ah, these guys, they don’t want to beat us, they just want a draw.’ And that mentality, I don’t think we would do it the same way. And we caught them (in the title race). At the end, if you give us one point, we will win the last seven, eight games even though it’s so tough. So, I think that shows our mentality.” These were the words of Manchester City’s Rodri just after winning the Premier League for the fourth consecutive time.

That statement just showed Rodri’s champion mentality. The Spaniard has been a crucial player for Pep Guardiola, and his impact is just irreplaceable. Now, he is gearing up for the FA Cup final against arch-rivals, Manchester United, scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 25.

Rodri’s impact

After a win over West Ham in the last Premier League game, Rodri is now unbeaten in his last 50 league games for City, a club record. He is now second in the all-time list of Premier League players who have enjoyed long unbeaten runs. Talk about his importance to Guardiola’s side? Manchester City lost against Arsenal, Wolves and Aston Villa in the league, and then to Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup this season – all games that Rodri missed due to suspensions. 

Rodri's impact in Premier League
Rodri’s impact in the Premier League (PC: Man City)

Tough as teak

Being a defensive midfielder, it is quite obvious that a player has to engage in tough tackles while also going for some aerial duels with opponents. So, injuries can happen and that might not surprise fans or coaches. But Kudos to Rodri. His fitness has been top-notch since his initial playing days. For City, he has just missed four games, all due to suspensions. Injuries have never been a concern for this defensive midfielder, who plays like a ‘Machine” week in, and week out for his club and country. 

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Rodri with Champions League Trophy
Rodri with Champions League Trophy (PC: Rodri/X)

Manchester City and Defensive Midfielders’ legacy

Before the arrival of Rodri from Atletico de Madrid in 2019, Manchester City fans had been privileged to see quality defensive midfielders like Yaya Toure and Brazil’s Fernandinho donning their jersey. Toure helped this English team to secure their first league championship in 44 years in 2011-12. It was their maiden Premier League title. Then, after him, Fernandinho took the charge at that position and in the 2017/18 season, Manchester City became the first and still only club to hit 100-points mark, league’s greatest tally ever! In 2019, Guardiola was looking for a replacement as Fernandinho was 33 years old by then. On Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football show, Toure described what the Spanish coach wanted from his players in that particular position!

“The main message is just to have good position,” said Toure. “Sometimes, with Pep, when we play, the games can start with the midfield or the [back] three because he loved to start the ball from behind, from the back first. After that, you have this fluidity. It’s like a machine. Something is systematic. When you have the ball, you know what to do. And your friend or your team-mate around you knows what to do, even without looking. This is something that you work on a lot in training.” 

Rodri has certainly lived up to Guardiola’s demands, and with his current and consistent impact, no one can deny that. He is much more than a defensive midfielder and has developed into a box-to-box destroyer. He has always been compared with another Spanish legend, Sergio Busquets, whom Guardiola managed at Barcelona, and there are many similarities. He is an elite ball-winner and controls the game in front of his defence, by keeping possession and distributing the ball cleverly.

Manchester City's Defensive Midfielders over the years
Manchester City’s Defensive Midfielders over the years (PC: X)

Ahead of the FA Cup, Rodri sounded confident in an exclusive chat on his club’s channel. The same final took place in this competition last year, and it was Guardiola’s side that emerged victorious (2-1). “Every final is special for a reason and of course when you win it, it’s special in its own way,” said Rodri. “Last season, Gundo [Ilkay Gundogan] scoring that early goal, it was a good way of starting a final. But we know how tough it was, 2-1, it was very close.”

Scoring on the big occasion is not a new thing for Rodri, as his UEFA Champions League-winning goal in 2023 against Inter Milan is still fresh in everyone’s mind. So, whether he is on the scoresheet at Wembley or not, United will be very much worried about his influence even before stepping on to the famous turf.  

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