Matheus Nunes is closing on a move to Manchester City. The 25 year old will bolster Pep Guardiola’s midfield options and he’s capable of operating in a number of different roles. Here’s a look at how Man City may line up with Matheus Nunes.
At Wolves, the Portuguese international adapted quickly to life as a Premier League midfield player, taking on defensive and offensive responsibilities depending on the match situation and his ability to influence matters at both ends of the pitch is no doubt something that has attracted the City boss to the player.
A revised £53m deal has now reportedly been agreed which will make Nunes City’s second most expensive signing of this transfer window after defender Josko Gvardiol. That doesn’t guarantee him a regular starting role by any means in such a high quality side, but Nunes will certainly add to the competition in the middle of the park at the Etihad.
How could Man City line up with Matheus Nunes?
Nunes as a defensive midfielder
Matheus Nunes is a difficult player to categorise. He’s somebody who mostly operated in a defensive midfield role for Wolves alongside compatriot Ruben Neves, although he is far more than just a typical holding midfield player who sits deep and tries to break up opposition attacks.
Nunes has developed a reputation as one of the best ball carriers in the Premier League, frequently collecting the ball in his own half and bursting into opposition territory. For City, he could be the linking piece between defence and attack, as a player capable of covering a lot of ground.
He’ll face competition from the likes of Mateo Kovacic and John Stones, but if Nunes impresses, he’s capable of pushing for the starting role alongside Rodri in either a 4-2-3-1 system or the somewhat experimental 3-2-4-1 approach which delivered such impressive results in the 2022/23 season.
In either set-up, Nunes’ role would be quite similar. He’d offer a bit more of an offensive threat than Stones who frequently occupied the position last season, but would need to adapt to Pep Guardiola’s methodology if he’s to fully adapt to the role and provide the kind of defensive cover that would be required at times.
Filling in for De Bruyne
Manchester City have started this season with a more orthodox 4-2-3-1 approach but they have a problem in that star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is injured. The Belgian could potentially miss the remainder of 2023 and that leaves Guardiola with a significant dilemma in the middle of the park with hardly any player in world football, let alone his own squad capable of replicating De Bruyne’s creative qualities.
One possibility is that Matheus Nunes initially plays in a more advanced role than we were used to seeing him in for Wolves to compensate for De Bruyne’s absence. Nunes’ ball carrying game could be even more threatening if his starting position is further up the pitch, although he wouldn’t be a like-for-like replacement for the 32 year old.
Although largely a result of his deeper role, Nunes doesn’t have a particularly impressive track record when it comes to assists. He managed just one in his debut Premier League season and only two in the league in each of his previous two years in Portugal. That’s clearly a massive drop-off from De Bruyne who recorded a league high 16 assists in the English top flight last season.
The introduction of Nunes in a more advanced midfield role would most likely mean a slight shift in terms of how Man City play. There’d be greater emphasis on the likes of Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva to provide the killer final balls that serve up chances for Erling Haaland and Nunes' role may be as much about moving the ball out wide as it is slicing open opposition defences.