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Three ways Man City could line up when they complete Declan Rice transfer

Three ways Man City could line up when they complete Declan Rice transfer

The search for a midfielder by Manchester City has intensified as they consider a move for Declan Rice.

Even if Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva stay at City, whose futures are still up in the air, Pep Guardiola wants to add a midfielder to his aging squad this summer. Jude Bellingham, a star player for England, chose Real Madrid over joining the Blues, despite the manager’s best efforts.

This summer, there haven’t been many intriguing opportunities to choose from aside from expressing interest in Mateo Kovacic, 29, until now. After Arsenal’s first offer for the £100 million maestro fell short, it’s believed City have entered the competition to sign West Ham star Rice.

It is also said that the Hammers were upset with the format of the proposed transaction by Arsenal, which may have given City the opportunity to express their interest even though they have not yet submitted a bid. Although Bellingham has received the majority of the attention, Rice, a Three Lions midfielder, is one of the best in the Premier League and just guided West Ham to their first European championship since 1965 with a triumph in the Europa Conference League.

It’s understood the 24-year-old will leave the London Stadium this summer, with West Ham chairman David Sullivan believing he has played his last game and is ’99 per cent’ sure he will depart. It would be a statement signing from City to add such quality to a treble-winning side but how would Guardiola utilise him?

The Gundogan role

Bellingham would have been the ideal choice to take over Gundogan’s position, but Rice is a superb substitute. Although Rice may have come into the game as a traditional defensive-midfielder and can still perform that function admirably, he is much more than just a player who sits deep.

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He has repeatedly shown that he has what it takes to be a real presence on the field, to be able to step up and motivate his team with explosive, end-to-end performances.

Rice has made a habit of picking the ball up from deep and carrying it large distances to make something happen in the opposition box. His tenacity and ball-winning abilities would also make him very useful in claiming the all-important second balls.

Even though he might not exactly have Gundogan’s exceptional distribution and tactical understanding, the world’s finest manager can develop those qualities.

 Rodri cover

The fact that Rodri was required to play a lot more than Guardiola had wanted for him to last season was one of his main problems. After Fernandinho left City last summer, Kalvin Phillips was brought in to fill the holding role. However, he struggled with injuries for the first half of the season and wasn’t trusted in any crucial matches after returning to full health. On the rare occasions Rodri didn’t play, he wasn’t even chosen.

There is still hope Phillips could find his best form in his second season like many new arrivals before him but it isn’t looking good, especially if Rice arrives. Rice would be used as far more than a backup option but his ability to play a disciplined, defensive role means he would lessen the burden on Rodri and allow for the midfield to stay fresher throughout the year.

Double pivot

It would be fascinating to watch how John Stones would be affected by Rice’s entry. This year, the defender has wowed by developing into a terrific midfielder in his own right. In the Champions League final, he was unquestionably the best player on the pitch. When City possessed the ball, Guardiola wanted another body in the midfield to provide more passing options and maintain match control.

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Rice can also perform that function, giving Guardiola the option to return to a more conventional defense and use both Rodri and Rice as double pivots.

Guardiola utilised a 4-4-2 on occasions last season when he played Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez up front together and such a quality midfield duo could make it an even more feasible option, especially if Kevin De Bruyne has his minutes managed more tightly with injuries beginning to pile up.

 

Rice has had a great understanding with Phillips in a double pivot for England in the past, so his arrival could even be a way to actually get the best out of the former Leeds man rather than push him out completely.

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