After a surprising defeat to Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester City have secured convincing back-to-back victories to get the season back on track.
Bernardo Silva recently secured the club’s player of the month award for October. But the Portuguese was not the only one deserving of the accolade.
Fellow countryman Joao Cancelo could easily have won it. Phil Foden and Rodri are in that bracket too. Cancelo has been one of the most consistent performers in the team and played a starring role in the last two games.
He was not on the score sheet, but the full-back provided three assists for Manchester City against Club Brugge. That’s an impressive contribution from a player whose primary job on the pitch is preventing goals, not creating them.
Creating two assists in a match is usually outstanding even for a forward. When a defender creates three in a single game, that raises eyebrows.
As if to prove that was not a fluke, the 27-year-old followed up his output with another top-class performance against Manchester United. He created both goals as City defeated Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men 2-0 at Old Trafford.
Cancelo is the only player to have started all 11 of City’s league games this season. That underscores how much Pep Guardiola values him. The City boss is usually conservative with his praise of the player but that does not change the fact that he is one of the most important members of the team at the moment.
At a time when some players are not satisfied with their game time due to the manager’s rotation policy, Cancelo has nothing to worry about as his place in the starting lineup is almost guaranteed (as long as he is fit).
The right-back has practically created his own opportunities as a result of his versatility. Not only has he been able to fit in perfectly to the left-back position, he often slots into the midfield when the team is in possession to provide more bodies in the centre of the pitch. That makes it easy for City to overwhelm the opposition.
When attacking, he is also usually on hand to either deliver a cross or take aim on goal. That produced his two goals against RB Leipzig and Club Brugge in the Champions League.
Alongside Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden, it could be a huge mistake for Guardiola to bench Cancelo in City’s most important games this season. These players are in such terrific form that leaving them out of decisive games could amount to self-sabotage.
As for the Portuguese right-back, he is proving to be Guardiola’s joker. In difficult games where the team cannot make a breakthrough, the manager now has an unexpected source to produce something special.
That brings to mind a certain right-back in Guardiola’s days at Barcelona. Cancelo and Dani Alves may not be of the same mould as right-backs, but they can have a similar effect on the team.