Analysis: Why Romeo Lavia is turning heads at Manchester City by The American Cityzen
There have been multiple reports recently stating that Manchester City will be promoting defensive midfielder Romeo Lavia in the 2021/22 season from the U-23 team that recently won Premier League 2. Most people do not know much of Lavia, but he is a recent addition to the Manchester City youth academy. He is 17 years old and joined the Manchester City academy in 2020. It has been reported that there were personnel at the club who expected that he would mostly play for the U-18s in his first year, but he impressed so much that he quickly moved into the U-23 squad. Now, after one season, he has impressed enough to break into the first team of Manchester City. It must be noted, however, that it is not clear how involved he will be in the first team. He could train with the first team and still play most of his matches with the EDS, or he could be promoted to the first team full time.
In terms of how Lavia plays, he is extremely gifted for being 17 years old. Of all Lavia’s traits, the first thing that is immediately apparent is his tenacity. He is everywhere in the midfield. Not only does he have great pace, but he uses it intelligently. Manchester City’s U-23 team play very similarly to the first team, which is to control tempo and possession, and to press aggressively when the ball is lost. Lavia’s tenacity fits in perfect with this system. Whenever City loses the ball, he presses the opposin midfielders intelligently and tenaciously to win the ball up the field. In the U-23’s 3-0 win over Manchester United, he put this skill on full display. City lost the ball high up the pitch and United were attempting to play out from the back. Upon losing the ball Lavia pressed United’s midfielder high up the pitch, won the ball, and provided an easy assist for a teammate to tap the ball into the net. His ability to break up play in the midfield looks like it comes natural to him, and he is just acting on instinct. In this area, he reminds many Manchester City fans of a club legend: Fernandinho. Fernandinho has become a master at pressing effectively in the Manchester City high press using intelligence, tenacity, and pace. When watching Lavia do his defensive work, it is easy to see parallels in this area with Lavia and Fernandinho. The young Belgian does sometimes have a tendency to be too aggressive with his pressing or chase the ball, which can leave space open in behind. However, this trait is not entirely surprising given the fact that he is 17 years old playing in the Manchester City system for only one year. Over time, his intelligence in positioning in the press will keep improving, and he will have a great teacher to learn from in Fernandinho for this coming season.
Another trait that is evident in the way Lavia plays is skills with the ball. In the Manchester City system, the defensive midfielder will often have his back to goal and receive the ball under pressure. Lavia is extremely impressive in these situations, which is surprising at such a young age. It is very rare that he is dispossessed in midfield or makes an errant pass to a teammate resulting in an interception. Lavia is very good at receiving the ball on the half-turn and either dribbling out of trouble, or making the right pass to an open teammate to break the opponent press. When watching Lavia, his dribbling immediately stands out. He is a very skills dribbler and does a great job in evading defenders and carrying the ball through the lines of the midfield. However, a more subtle trait that he possesses is his passing. His passing is particularly impressive in that it is not always the safe pass. Many times, the safe pass is the right pass, but this is not the default for Lavia. He often shows an ability to turn and break the lines with accurate through balls, springing promising attacks for his teammates.
These skills are also bolstered by the fact that he is very strong on the ball as well, which is needed to play in the Premier League. Many players at young ages have a slight build and take time to develop their bodies into playing football at the higher levels. Lavia is not one of those players. It is common to see him successfully hold off defenders to run past them or pass around them. He is physically developed, and it would not be any surprise if he was physically ready for the rigors of the Premier League sooner rather than later.
Skill, strength, and passing are absolutely necessary traits for a defensive midfielder to possess in the Manchester City system. Two years ago, Manchester City signed Rodri as a defensive midfielder. Since signing for City, some of his best traits is his comfortability on the ball, strength, and passing. Rodri is also very good on the half-turn and rarely makes a wrong decision in building up from the back. Romeo Lavia exhibits many traits that City looked for in finding Rodri to join City, as well as previous defensive midfielder for Pep Guardiola, Sergio Busquets. Lavia has even stated that he watches Busquets and Fernandinho closely and that they are some of Lavia’s favorite players. Clearly, Lavia has learned from watching the two legends of their respective clubs.
One trait that I noticed Lavia hasn’t exhibited a large range of passing, but that does not necessarily mean that it is a weakness. He simply does not make long passes often, and it would be expected that this skill will grow as he grows as a player. Also, in training with the first team, Lavia will be training with some of the best defensive midfielders in the world to refine his skills. Nevertheless, one thing is abundantly clear: Romeo Lavia possesses all of the skills in order to execute the all-important role for a Pep Guardiola number 6.
It is very clear why Pep Guardiola wants Romeo Lavia to be part of the Manchester City first team. He is an intelligent and aggressive presser of the ball in defense, a comfortable dribbler, adept passer of the ball, and physically strong. These traits are enormously important in the Pep Guardiola system, and Romeo Lavia possesses all the talent to break into Manchester City’s first team one day.