No doubt, Fabian Delph is a very good player on his day and can add much more to a team than just his display on the pitch. The former Aston Villa captain is a leader and can be a valuable squad member in that regard. His versatility on the field of play is also an asset as he provides a viable option for the manager to be able to tinker with his selection even with limited resources. Perhaps all these factors have combined to keep the England international in this talented Manchester City side under Pep Guardiola.
The Catalan manager is not one to keep a player in his squad who does not bring much to the table. Delph was instrumental to City’s record-breaking campaign last term, providing cover for injury ravaged Benjamin Mendy while also perfectly slotting into the midfield when required to give the team more bite. His heroics didn’t go unnoticed as he was recalled into the national team and made the squad to the World Cup in Russia.
Gareth Southgate even gave him the captain’s armband in a subsequent friendly match between England and USA praising the 29-year-old for his leadership abilities. But that has been the only bright light in his career within the last six months or so. For City, Delph has simply not been up to par with the level of performance he delivered last term. He has gone from second choice at left back behind Mendy, to a class apart from Oleksandr Zinchenko.
At a time when the young Ukrainian is vastly improving and delivering Man of the Match performances, Delph has been on a steady decline. This has made the Kevin De Bruyne look-alike the owner of the left back position after Mendy.
For a player who was a regular in the starting line up last season as Mendy kept his appointment with the doctors, Delph has rarely played this time around. And to make matters worse, he has failed to give a good account of himself when called upon. Back in December, he was afforded a rare start in three Premier League games; against Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Leicester City. They all ended in defeats for Guardiola's men.
Of course the losses cannot be put down to one player as the whole team display wasn’t good enough. But Delph definitely contributed to them, even bagging a straight red card against the Foxes to compound City’s woes. Needless to say, his performance in these matches was nothing to write home about. Yet, there has been no improvement in sight.
A more recent showing against Swansea almost cost City the match, and a place in the FA Cup semis. He brought down Connor Roberts in the box for a penalty that put the Swans 2-0 up. It took Sergio Aguero and Zinchenko coming off the bench after Delph's substitution to right the wrongs. The duo was outstanding as the reinvigorated Sky Blues scored three goals in the last 21 minutes to turn the game on its head winning 3-2.
With his contract set to expire in 2020, this summer will be a good time to send him on his way. That should fetch the club some money rather than allowing him to leave on a free a year down the road.
Nevertheless, Guardiola could still squeeze out the best from him if he feels there is more he can give to the team. Although performances on the pitch may not be the main reason for his continued stay as he has been on a downward slide. Maybe his personality in the dressing room and leadership role as one of the older players in the squad will count in his favour.
But then again, that was not enough to keep Joe Hart in the team. Besides, a squad consisting of Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Fernandinho and Aguero doesn’t lack leaders. Sometimes there’s just a chemistry between some people that is absent with others. The bottom line is Guardiola must really like Delph for him to have made it this far as a City player. Whether that leads to the Englishman staying longer at the club or his output this season makes him surplus to requirements remains to be seen.