Is City’s World Cup winner playing in midfield hindering the champions?

Manchester City’s World Cup winner Julian Alvarez once again played a deeper role in yesterday’s 1-all draw with Chelsea. While his effort can’t be faulted he was largely ineffective before being substituted in the second half. It does pose a question if City’s World Cup winner playing a deeper role hinder the champions rather than help them?

Alvarez appeared to be playing out of position against Chelsea

The effort of Julian Alvarez can never be questioned. He always gives 110% every time he is on the pitch. This coupled with his tremendous ability makes him a valuable weapon for Pep Guardiola. But his best work is generally done playing up front or playing just behind or paired with Erling Haaland. He can play as a number 8 if required but against teams with quality in midfield, it does appear that Alvarez playing in a midfield role hinders the world champions.

That appeared evident in yesterday’s draw with Chelsea. When out of possession Alvarez did appear tasked with assisting Rodri in midfield. With Chelsea having Enzo Fernandez, Moises Caceido, Conor Gallagher and Cole Palmer at times playing through the middle it was a key battle in yesterday’s game. There were times during the game that Alvarez looked out of his depth against Chelsea’s midfield. Rodri fought a lone battle at times up against the Chelsea midfield. With City playing so many attacking players yesterday the role in helping Rodri was a pivotal one. Unfortunately, at times, Alvarez wasn’t capable of filling the role. That isn’t a knock on City’s World Cup winner but he is a striker not a natural number 8.

Could Guardiola have played someone else in midfield?

It does beg the question if Bernardo Silva was fully fit would he have started yesterday? He was in sparkling form against FC Copenhagen but picked up a knock late in City’s win last week. If Bernardo had started would City have fared better in midfield? In hindsight, the answer may be yes but yesterday Alvarez was tasked with the role and it appeared beyond him.

There were also other options on the City bench capable of assisting Rodri. Matheus Nunes and Mateo Kovacic were both unused substitutes. Kovacic has just returned to the City squad after missing the past two games before yesterday’s game at the Etihad. Nunes has been hit and miss so far during his City career but is a natural midfielder. Perhaps they may have made a difference in the midfield battle, especially in the first half.

Another question is could Phil Foden have had a bigger influence on the game playing centrally? City’s wonderboy played in a wide role on the right-hand side for the majority of yesterday’s game. At times he was on the periphery of the game as much of City’s attacking play came through Jeremy Doku on the left. Having Alvarez play centrally and Foden out wide did appear to rob the champions of Foden’s influence in a big game. Given the performance of Foden and De Bruyne against FC Copenhagen playing in similar positions, it was understandable that Guardiola went with what worked so well at the Parken Stadium.


Manchester City’s World Cup winner wasn’t alone in not being at his best against Chelsea. While Erling Haaland had an off day in front of goal his performance was of a case of poor finishing from City’s number 9. The performance of Alvarez seemed to be a by-product of being asked to play a role that isn’t his best position.

Going forward it will be interesting to see if Pep Guardiola plays Alvarez in the number 8 role again. He is capable of fulfilling the role against less quality opposition but against a quality opponent, he did appear to be found wanting.

Julian Alvarez is a key player for Manchester City. But he is more effective and dangerous playing in his natural position rather than being asked to play out of position. That appears to be one lesson from yesterday’s match at the Etihad.

Tags Bernardo Silva Chelsea Cole Palmer Conor Gallagher Enzo Fernandez Erling Haaland Etihad Stadium FC Copenhagen Julian Alvarez Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City Mateo Kovacic Matheus Nunes Moises Caceido Pep Guardiola Phil Foden Rodri