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Manchester City star admits watching videos of John Stones to improve in complex role



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John Stones’ ability in the defensive midfield role has been the catalyst behind Manuel Akanji’s recent success in the position for Manchester City, the defender has admitted.

The Switzerland international has commanded the secondary defensive midfield role alongside Rodri to great success over the past two games, having starred in the role against Liverpool on Saturday afternoon and filled in during their recent European contest.

Manager Pep Guardiola was particularly keen to praise Akanji and Rodri for their roles played in the 1-1 draw with Jurgen Klopp’s men at the weekend, as he explained, “Manu and Rodri was… Oh my god, a masterpiece.”

He continued, “They played incredible – they moved in the right tempo, in the right moment, they look at each other, break the lines, they contact with the wingers – it was really, really, really good.”

Now, speaking to BBC Radio Manchester after the 3-2 win over RB Leipzig on Tuesday night, Manuel Akanji admitted his delight at being able to operate in Pep Guardiola’s complex and demanding defensive midfield role alongside Rodri. “I like it,” the Swiss international said.

“In the Chelsea game and at weekend against Liverpool, I got more comfortable because I got a little used to playing in the position,” he continued, “When you come from defence to midfield it’s a big difference because normally you have the game in front of you and then all of a sudden the opponents come from all the angles.”

But it isn’t just learning on the training ground that has brought Manuel Akanji success on the pitch, as the former Borussia Dortmund centre-back revealed that watching tapes of teammate John Stones – who has led the way in the role – has improved his knowledge in the position.

“I watch all players in training, especially positions I could play in,” the 28-year-old said. “I listen when the manager talks to us, but also midfielders and strikers so I know what kind of movement they do to help my game.

“When I played my first game there (in the midfield for Manchester City) I looked at tapes of John (Stones) and the way they play and try to adapt this to my game. I think it got better game by game.”

Akanji may be called upon once again to operate in defensive midfield this weekend, as Manchester City welcome Tottenham Hotspur to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon in a mammoth clash at the top of the division.

John Stones is understood to still be working towards full match fitness, and could require several more days before being given the green light by medical professionals to start matches for Guardiola again.

As such, Pep Guardiola could look towards the likes of Manuel Akanji or Rico Lewis to take on the inverted full-back role, unless the Catalan opts to entrust Rodri with commanding the base of midfield in a game that is likely to be of the upmost intensity.