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Talking Tactics

Why Dias is a strong Player of the Season contender

Adrian Clarke 14 May 2021
Ruben Dias

Adrian Clarke highlights the centre-back's contribution to Man City's title triumph

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 36.

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Manchester City’s imperious charge towards their third title in four years has been aided by a hugely impressive debut campaign from Ruben Dias.

Signed from Benfica last summer, the 23-year-old has been an absolute game-changer for Pep Guardiola’s side.

No longer relying on veteran Fernandinho filling in as an auxiliary defender, the champions now have one of the most accomplished centre-backs in Europe.

Intelligent, resolute and composed, Dias uses anticipation rather than physicality to keep forwards quiet.

In 1v1s he is one of the best around. He is excellent at adjusting his body position when jockeying a player who is trying to take him on, and narrowing space.

He runs attackers into cul-de-sacs, pinching the ball off their toes or simply holding them up, and has only been beaten by six successful dribbles all season.

Least dribbled-past defenders 2020/21
Player Starts Total
Ezri Konsa 31 4
Ruben Dias 30 6
Jonny Evans 28 6
Lewis Dunk 32 7
Tyrone Mings 33 8

Rival teams are learning fast that Dias has very few obvious weaknesses.

But he cannot do everything alone, and he has developed a sturdy partnership with John Stones.

In the 17 Premier League matches they have started together, Man City have kept 12 clean sheets.

Dias and Stones' partnership
2020/21 Total
Matches 17
Wins 15
Draws 1
Losses 1
Goals conceded 6
Clean sheets 12

To play at the back in a fluid Guardiola side it is imperative to be comfortable in possession, and Dias certainly is.

He boasts 93.3 per cent accuracy with his passing, the joint-best figure alongside Stones out of the first-team regulars.

That is even more impressive when you consider that Dias plays more forward passes than any other City player, with many of them being longer diagonal balls.

Indeed, he averages almost six long passes per 90 minutes, clipping the ball in the air or driving it along the turf.

That quality is important as it helps the champions mix up the way they build their attacks, keeping opponents guessing and on edge.

Eyeing the top prize

Dias's consistently high performance level means he has to be a contender for the EA SPORTS Premier League Player of the Season award.

CC

He has certainly been the standout centre-back, playing a huge part in solving Man City's longstanding fragility on the break.

He makes more clearances and blocks than any of his team-mates, by some distance.

Last season, City conceded 22 goals on the road. But this term, in the 13 away matches when Dias has started, they have let in just seven.

While he has perhaps benefited from a mildly more pragmatic approach from Guardiola in 2020/21, his reliability has undoubtedly improved the side.

Dias may have been an expensive club-record signing, but with the title secured and a UEFA Champions League final to look forward to later this month, he has proved to be excellent value for money.

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