Josko Gvardiol Man City Transfer: How could the Blues line up with Croatian defender

Josko GVARDIOL (L), action, single action, single image, cut out, full body shot, full figure football 1st Bundesliga season 2022/2023, 33rd matchday, matchday33, FC Bayern Munich – RB Leipzig 1-3 on 05/20/2023, ALLIANZAREN A. ? – Photo by Icon sport

Manchester City flexed their financial muscle this week when they confirmed the signing of beefy Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol in a deal worth £77.6m from German outfit RB Leipzig.

The 21-year-old centre-half was one of the most sought-after players in his position before sealing a switch to City and Chelsea, Tottenham, Real Madrid and PSG had all been linked with a swoop for the established international before City completed their deal.

In an official statement released by City this week, the club’s sporting director Txiki Begiristain said: “We are very happy to bring Josko to Manchester City. He is a player we have watched closely, and we feel he has a superb set of attributes. Top clubs all over Europe have been monitoring him, so to bring him here is great news for us.”

Gvardiol, who has penned a lucrative five-year deal with his new employers – is expected to be a key figure at the back for City over the next decade, but where will the former Dinamo Zagreb wonderkid fit into Pep Guardiola’s XI? Let’s take a deep dive into how City could set up with their new big-money acquisition.

How might City line up with Gvardiol?

RB Leipzig favoured a flat back four in 22 of their 34 Bundesliga fixtures last season and Josko Gvardiol, who is a natural left-footer, was most commonly fielded as the left-sided member of a central-defensive duo alongside Hungarian stalwart Willi Orban.

From that berth, Gvardiol made 0.8 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per 90 minutes in the German top tier, while his 2.6 aerial duels per game made him one of the better performers in that metric at Die Roten Bullen.

When Leipzig did switch to a back three, Gvardiol was shunted a little further left where he could utilise his impressive passing range. Indeed, the Croatian completed 89.3% of his attempted passes in the Bundesliga last term, making him the most accurate distributor on the club’s roster.

In Sunday’s Community Shield, Man City set up with a four-man defence against Arsenal, which suggested they could start the fresh Premier League campaign with a similar tactical blueprint.

In that set-up, Gvardiol could form a menacing-looking partnership at centre-half with the reliable Ruben Dias, who as a predominately right-footed player, would offer balance alongside leftie Gvardiol.

Josko Gvardiol Man City Transfer: How could the Blues line up with Croatian defender

Three-man defence: Gvardiol a strong option

However, some flexibility from Gvardiol could also be required at times this season with Pep Guardiola’s squad visibly short on options at full-back.

In 2022/23, Guardiola sprung a tactical surprise when he reworked his City team to accommodate a central-defensive trio. With Joao Cancelo out on loan, Kyle Walker in and out of the side and Rico Lewis used sparingly, City were light on traditional right and left backs, forcing Guardiola to tweak the shape of his team.

In a three-man defensive unit, Gvardiol could operate comfortably alongside the aforementioned Ruben Dias and either John Stones or Manuel Akanji.

With such depth and quality at his disposal at centre-half, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Guardiola construct his City team on a three-man defensive foundation again in 2023/24 – a shape the Cityzens enjoyed success with in both the FA Cup and Champions League finals last season.

Gvardiol is versatile enough to bring his unique blend of steel and composure to either a three or four man defensive unit however, and the £77.6m signing should excel in any system he is deployed in at City, and the club's recent capture is in line to make his debut against Burnley on Friday.

Josko Gvardiol Man City Transfer: How could the Blues line up with Croatian defender