Shortly after the restart against Nottingham Forest on Saturday, Rodri received his marching orders following an altercation with Morgan Gibbs-White. Manchester City would go on to beat Forest 2-0, but the Spaniard's dismissal left a sour taste in the mouth. "Hopefully, Rodri will learn. Rodri has to control himself and his emotion. That is what he has to do," Pep Guardiola said after the win. The City boss was not happy with his controller, and when asked if Rodri had let him down, he said: "Yeah. I don't like to play with 10 because it is our fault."
Guardiola had praised Rodri in midweek, dubbing the Spain international the best holding midfielder in the world, however the 27-year-old will now miss the next three domestic matches between now and the international break. City will make do without Rodri for upcoming meetings with Newcastle and Wolves, but it's the trip to Arsenal next month that may throw a spanner in the works for City.
The Gunners are expected to challenge City for the Premier League title once more, and the game between the pair at the Emirates could prove decisive over the course of the season. While Guardiola's side would have undoubtedly fancied their chances of securing all the spoils in the capital prior to the international break, Rodri's suspension skews things.
Against Newcastle and Wolves, City do have the personnel to provide adequate cover for Rodri. Kalvin Phillips, Matheus Nunes and Mateo Kovacic between them should ensure the backline have the relevant protection and the quality on the ball to dominate proceedings in the middle of the park. In the trip to Arsenal, though, City's quest for dominance is very much hindered in the absence of Rodri.
An average of 107.8 passes per game is the best in the Premier League this season, while a 95.2% pass success rate is better than any midfielder in the division. City have one of the best possession averages (66.1%) in Europe's top five leagues, and much of that is down to Rodri's distribution in the middle of the park. He sets the tempo for the European champions, and this gives the attackers the freedom to wreack havoc in the final third.
Additionally, Rodri is incredibly difficult to bypass in the rare occasion City are out of possession. Only Everton's Idrissa Gueye (30) has won possession in the midfield third more times than Rodri (29) in England's top tier this term. Guardiola wasn't lying when he said the former Atletico man is the best holding midfielder in the game.
💪 Only Idrissa Gueye (30) has won possession in the midfield third more times than Rodri (29) in the Premier League this season pic.twitter.com/wAut5jQvJY— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 24, 2023
And it's for that reason why he'll be such a big loss against Arsenal. City had just 36.5% of possession when Arsenal faced the Cityzens at the Emirates back in February, the lowest in a league game for a team managed by Guardiola in his managerial career. Yes, City came away with all the spoils, but that Arsenal were restricted to just one shot on target, a penalty by Bukayo Saka shortly before the break, was in part due to Rodri's performance.
He made more accurate passes (32) than any other City player, and more interceptions (4) than anyone else on the pitch as City contained Arsenal well before hitting Mikel Arteta's side on the counter attack. While Guardiola's men had to implement a different gameplan from the one they are familiar with, Rodri's performance allowed City to successfully soak up the pressure before springing forward. They won't have the same luxury in north London next month.
Considering Arsenal's midfield improvements over the summer, notably in the addition of Declan Rice from West Ham, provided he is fit, City's hopes of dictating the play in the middle of the park are severely impacted by Rodri's ban. We'll only be eight games into the season come full time at the Emirates next month, yet in such a huge fixture, it could prove decisive over the course of the campaign, not just in terms of points total, but psychologically too.
The losing side will then have the international break to dwell on the result, knowing full well their rivals have collected a huge three points at their expense, and this is a core reason why Rodri's absence will be a significant blow. City boast a 100% start to the season and it's a record they'll seek to maintain over the coming weeks. That becomes all the more difficult without Rodri and a tough trip to Arsenal looming.