Football Features

Josko Gvardiol’s left-back mastery is powering sublime Man City’s unbeaten run

By Will Evans | Twenty3

Published: 9:33, 8 May 2024

Josko Gvardiol is improving at a remarkable rate under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage.

The £77million summer signing took some time to adapt to life in England, but has emerged as a star performer for Manchester City in recent months.

And he has helped the Citizens to a 20-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, as they go in search of a fourth-consecutive title.

Here’s why the Croatian defender has become such a key figure at the Etihad Stadium.

Transition period

New arrivals often take some time to settle at Manchester City, due to the distinct nature of Guardiola’s demands.

That was certainly the case for Gvardiol, as Guardiola explained last month.

“There was a period that was so uncertain, he [Gvardiol] was not really, really good,” Guardiola said.

“I said before, it’s normal, first season, Premier League, demanding challenges, skills and strength, but we talked and we saw many of his performances and he got it.”

Gvardiol missed a run of matches with an ankle ligament tear in February, but has looked notably accomplished since returning. The transition period certainly appears to be over for the 22-year-old.

Defensive impact

Gvardiol has been more active defensively since the Citizens embarked on their run of 20 league games without defeat.

He has made 2.62 tackles per 90 minutes from late March onwards, which is notably more than his 1.83 per 90 prior to that point.

Collectively, City are benefitting from this approach.

They conceded 1.1 goals per 90 while Gvardiol was on the pitch in the period before their hot streak commenced, but that figure has fallen to just 0.62 per 90 since.

Attacking contributions

There is far more to Gvardiol’s game than just solid defending, however.

For starters, he is comfortable dribbling out from the back, with his 24 completed take-ons putting him inside the division’s top 10 defenders for that metric.

He is also a progressive passer, having completed a notably high 391 passes into the final third this season.

And Gvardiol has started chipping in with goal contributions, too — scoring and assisting against Luton last month, before finding the net again in the away victory at Nottingham Forest.

With a wide-ranging skill set and plenty of years ahead of him to develop further, Gvardiol is on the path to becoming a truly first-class full-back.