Manchester City: Fabian Delph will be rewarded for his loyalty with a Premier League medal
Delph’s transformation from combative midfielder into dynamic fullback should not be overlooked in City’s title winning season.
In the summer of 2017, former Stoke City boss Mark Hughes remarked when asked about the possible capture of Fabian Delph “I think that is more dependent on Manchester City”. What followed was in fact quite the opposite.
In today’s modern game, where toys are thrown out of the pram with almost no hesitation. Where agents and players alike feel they have the utmost bargaining power and upper hand on their clubs, one player, in particular, realised it was time to knuckle down. Fabian Delph decided he was not giving up his Manchester City dream easily.
Up for the fight
After his switch to the Etihad from Aston Villa for £8 million two years previously, he was already being linked with a move away from the club this past summer. His move to one of the now traditional big ‘six’ was seen as somewhat of a shock at the time and it didn’t take the doubters long to question his capabilities after he struggled to break into City’s midfield from the word go.
Delph’s injury problems combined with a new manager in Pep Guardiola left the Yorkshire native struggling for game time and many people, including a portion of City fans, could not see him lasting under the Spaniard as they were unsure of where he would fit into the star-studded City midfield.
As the former Leeds man’s tenure in east Manchester looked to be coming to an abrupt end and the rumours spread of his imminent move to Stoke City, Delph put a stop to it all.
It was announced that he wanted to remain in Manchester, claiming he wanted to stay and fight for his place. ‘Good luck with that one’ is what followed along with the ever predictable Twitter brigade in full swing with their ‘snake emojis’ and ‘money hungry’ trolling. If only they knew.
Taking to his new role
With his decision to stay now settled, Guardiola obviously sensed there was a determination within the 28-year-old and realised he was somebody with the willingness to learn, execute his plans and do everything he could to become part of the first team set up.
It was clear to see from his days at Aston Villa that Delph was an energetic, hardworking and gritty midfield player, but what has transpired this season surprised everyone. Guardiola recognised that not only was Delph willing to learn the way he wanted to play but that he also had the mindset to implement it. His leadership qualities where there from the time as Villa club captain and his positional play as good as any, but with Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, and Fernandinho as your midfield three, where can you fit him in?
When Benjamin Mendy was ruled out for up to almost 8 months with a knee injury, Guardiola decided it was Delph who would replace him. When the team sheets where released on the 30th September at Stamford Bridge, in City’s biggest challenge to date against the reigning champions, a lot of heads must have been scratched in the City away section. Delph was in, and he was in at left back.
In a game where City would dominate with ease and state their case that they were the team to beat in this seasons title race, Delph was exceptional. His first game at left back, thrown into the West London lions’ den and he escaped not only with a clean sheet but with the aura of a man who had been playing in that position his whole life.
Reality check vs Mo Salah
After the Chelsea game, Delph made 14 consecutive starts at left back amid City’s record-breaking 18 game winning run. During this, he scored an absolute screamer in the 5-0 rout of Crystal Palace. He was now City’s established left back.
Despite Delph’s seemingly unfadable transition into an unfamiliar position, he hasn’t had it all his own way for this entire season so far. His toughest test came at Anfield, and to nobodies surprise, he struggled when facing the magnificent Mohamed Salah. In defence of Delph during this game, the whole team looked rocked by Liverpool’s press as they were hassled and harried all over the pitch in their first league defeat of the season. Delph got injured on the hour mark and was quickly substituted.
Delph never had time to redeem himself, though, as he was ruled out of both legs of their Champions League tie with Liverpool last month, still suffering from the knee injury picked up in the league game. The most noticeable thing perhaps in both games was how much he was missed. Guardiola’s hand was forced into playing Aymeric Laporte in an unnatural left back position due to the injuries to Mendy and Delph and unfortunately for him, he could not adapt well enough, leaving City unbalanced down their left side.
Delph has now returned to full fitness for City and with a Premier League winners medal now secured after Manchester United dismal defeat at the hands of West Brom last Sunday, the question is what next (after the hangover subsides, of course)?
Delph for England?
Delph will be keen to get back to the form he produced before his injury and will eye up the last five games of this season as a chance to prove to Gareth Southgate that he deserves a place in his summer world cup squad.
With Danny Rose finding it difficult to regain his place in Tottenham’s starting eleven and Luke Shaw out of favour with Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, England have somewhat of a problem in that position.
Southgate has tried out a back five in a couple of friendlies this season and Delph will be hopeful of fulfilling the role on the left-hand side with his club mate Kyle Walker on the opposite flank. It’s a system Guardiola has deployed frequently this season with Delph and Walker inverting themselves into the midfield when in possession.
Two things are certain. One – he cannot be ignored by Southgate based on club form over the course of this season as he has proven to be more than capable of doing a job should the England manager give him a chance. And two – should he add to the 9 caps he already has for the national side, he will adapt quickly, be tactically astute and fight until the end for his side.
Would you have Delph on the plane for England this summer? Let us know in the comments below.