It has taken him months to find his feet in Spain, but Man City’s Patrick Roberts loan at Girona is finally coming good. After struggling to overcome the language barrier and readjusting to a new environment and style of play, the winger is beginning to display the quality that led to his move to Manchester.
The young Englishman is one of the biggest talents waiting in the wings for their chance to break into Pep Guardiola’s team. It may look like a tall order, considering the array of talents at the manager’s disposal. But that should not stop anyone from trying. Things sometimes change very fast in football.
After being gradually eased into the Girona team by manager Eusebio Sacristán, the 21-year-old is now playing more for the Catalan side. He has gone from making 10-minute cameo appearances to becoming a starter and an influential member of the squad. He has now started four games in a row against some of La Liga’s traditionally better teams. These include games against Valencia, Espanyol, and title contenders Atletico Madrid.
Although he has featured in 10 league games in total this term, his first start came against Valencia, where he gave a good account of himself. In a game that ended 1-0, Roberts made an important contribution as his dribble and shot was parried into the path of Pere Pons who netted the only goal of the match. The team drew blanks against Leganes settling to a 0-0 draw. But the former Fulham man played an important role in the Catalan derby against Espanyol as the Montilivi outfit ran away 3-1 winners.
But he seemed to have reserved his best for the biggest of the games so far as he gave Diego Simeone’s side all sorts of problems on the wings. His dribbling, passing and crossing ability made him always dangerous with the ball. It was not surprising that his intelligent quick pass to striker Cristhian Stuani proved too difficult to handle for goalkeeper Jan Oblak who promptly brought him down in the box.
The Uruguayan dispatched the resulting penalty kick to give his team a 1-0 lead. Although Atleti later rallied to secure a 1-1 draw, Girona’s unbeaten run in the league that stretches back to October was preserved.
The manager who himself is doing a good job with the side commended the City loanee after the game:
“He created problems for Atleti’s defence and every time we got the ball down his side he was capable of holding the ball then breaking lines.
“I’m very satisfied with him, he’s very young but he keeps growing, taking steps forward in his development. He’s showing that he’s very good and we’re confident he’ll keep improving,” said Sacristán.
After 14 matches, the Catalan side sits comfortably in seventh-place on the league table with 21 points. That’s just two points behind fifth-placed Real Madrid and seven behind Barcelona at the top of the table. And in a season where sides like Valencia, Athletic Club and Villarreal are struggling and are placed below them on the table, the performance of the side has been quite impressive.
In a club where most of Manchester City loan players have usually struggled to make an impact as they are a good set of players in the squad already, Roberts is defying the odds. He has got the Gironistes dreaming of his stay at the club for the long term. A standing ovation for the attacker when he came off against the Madrid giants revealed as much. But that will depend on what City wants.