“I think he’s going to be a superstar.”
By the middle of the season, we were already used to the kid with the afro in the Manchester City starting lineup. Rico Lewis from the club’s academy pulled the match against Chelsea and is generally blazing as João Cancelo and Kyle Walker frown on the bench. There were rumors that they could leave the Etihad – if so, then Pep has a worthy replacement ready.
We introduce you to 18-year-old Rico Lewis: Pep molds him into a new Philip Lam, his father taught him how to punch in boxing from the age of four, and Kevin de Bruyne gave him respect four years ago.
Let’s start with the most important thing – how did Lewis overshadow Cansela and Walker?
Pep compares Lewis to Lam. Rico combines three positions at once (just like Philip)
Comparison with Philipp Lahm is the best characteristic of Lewis after breaking into the base. Pep worked with the German at Bayern, so he knows what he’s talking about:
“We have players who are great individually and Rico makes the whole team play better. It is very difficult to find such quality now. That’s what makes Rico our little Lama. He’s a very smart guy.”
The comparison to Phillip isn’t limited to cool decision making. They also have a difficult voluminous role in common. Like Lam, Rico is a cornerback who doesn’t actually play a cornerback. In this position, Lewis finds himself only in the rarest scenario for City – when you have to defend in your own half:
Much more often, City meets the opponent with pressure. At this stage, the role of Lewis changes. Trigger – the movement of the partner on the flank. Riyad Mahrez, who plays Rico on the right, tends to put pressure on the central defender, while Lewis rises to the winger. On the opposite flank, Jack Grealish solves a similar problem – that is, from a defensive player, Rico abruptly turns into an attacker.
This type of pressure comes with risks – Liverpool punished City in the League Cup match precisely through the zone left by the pressing Lewis. But praise from Guardiola is indicative: already after the next game, Pep said that there was no one in the squad who could pull off such a task. Attention: Kyle Walker was not injured at this point, the remark applied to him too.
Thanks to the pressure, in which Lewis has a key role, City have great control over the opponent. Wolverhampton hit their first field goal in the 47th minute, Leeds in the 54th and Everton in the 63rd. Guardiola’s team gets not only control, but also bonus moments – including after interceptions by Rico.
But Lewis’s most interesting function is when he plays. Here the comparison with Lam looks particularly accurate. Rico is Guardiola’s fake full-back. Doesn’t create width, but in Philippe’s style it comes in the middle. Pep explains that he wants an extra player in midfield. It is achieved precisely through Lewis – he enters one line to Rodri in the support.
The key task is to move the team closer to the opponent’s goal. Rico does a good job with her. Pep’s verdict after the match with Chelsea, when Lewis came out to save at half-time, is indicative:
“The dynamics that Rico offered helped everyone find freedom. He changed the game from the first minute he appeared on the field. In the first half we didn’t pass well, couldn’t deliver the ball to our wingers and eights. We didn’t have much chance. In the second half – and especially thanks to Akanji and Rico – everyone played better. Rodri played better, Kevin played better. Rico is such a talent. Since we came back from the World Cup, it has been incredibly important to us.”
The level and specifics of the opponents, on which Lewis’s successful streak fell out, make him admire his performances even more. Pep especially liked the trip to Leeds, a team that, in his opinion, does not leave even two seconds for a decision, but generally leads the league in terms of pressure intensity. There, Rico was also as calm as possible on the ball.
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