Pep Guardiola and the ‘fascinating’ way he uses Man City full-backs

Former Arsenal defender and Manchester City supporter Lee Dixon has revealed that he has been left “fascinated” by the way manager Pep Guardiola has got his full-backs playing at the Etihad Stadium.

The full-back areas have been heavily invested in over the years by City, signing the likes of Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo and Danilo in recent seasons to name just a few.

Whilst their primary duty is to defend and stop opposition wingers from making things happen in the final third, Guardiola, certainly in Walker’s and Cancelo’s cases, has taken their game to a whole new level for players of their mantra.

Last season, for instance, both Walker and Cancelo played key roles in helping City wrestle the Premier League title back off Liverpool. Walker often switched between right-back and centre-back, whilst Cancelo even drifted into midfield on no shortage of occasions to show a different side to his game.

For Dixon, who made the right-back berth his own during his Arsenal career, it is the adaptability and versatility of City’s full-backs that has impressed him most.

“It’s not a role I look at and am familiar with,” Dixon told City’s club website. “I could be a dinosaur and say the full-backs these days can’t defend. Of course they can. They just defend in different ways and are asked to do different jobs.

“It is a slightly different position in lots of ways, but it still boils down to keeping the ball out of the net and whether you do that with a flat back four or full-backs pushed in with the ball and sometimes playing in a more central midfield area, it is fascinating for me.

“Now it’s my job to analyse and commentate on it and it is a lot more interesting for me to work in the game now than if all the systems had stayed the same and Pep’s ideas weren’t out there.

“I have played against him a few times, but I’ve not met him as a coach. He intrigues me with his ideas.

“We have all got an opinion on how the game should be played, but the fact that he is so fluid and changes his system during the game and asks his full-backs to do different jobs is fascinating and I love all that, the adaptability the players have got now.”

As well as waxing lyrical about City’s full-backs, Dixon also made a special case for Portuguese centre-back Ruben Dias, who recently extended his stay at the Etihad Stadium by signing a new contract.

Dias joined City from Benfica last summer and excelled in his first season in English football.

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“His impact at City, who needed stability in that position, was obvious,” added the former Arsenal man. “It’s like Lukaku now, he is making the other players around him different because they can see the type of game he is playing.

“It’s the same with Dias. They could see the type of player he is and how assured he is.

“I think his influence on the players around him has been as impactful as his performances as a player.

“We have seen that with how settled the back four look. To become first pick is a testament to himself.”

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