Why Julian Alvarez is perfect for Manchester City

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Anyone who’s read our work over the past few years knows that we have always been high on City’s desire to play without an out-and-out striker. But there’s no denying that a natural centre forward would be a massive help to City’s quest to continuously evolve their tactics and find ways to break low-block opposition teams down, when nothing seems to be going their way. So with that, here is why the young Julian Alvarez is the perfect fit for Manchester City.

CITY’S STRIKING NEEDS

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It’s no secret that City don’t have a focal point up top. Their false nine tactics are partially down to their own desired style of play and mechanisms for achieving success, but also down to the lack of having a real centre-forward that could play in a Sergio Aguero, or even an Erling Haaland type of way. Having an actual striker is not essential in helping City achieve greater success, but it could certainly help if they want to find different ways of breaking their opposition down. Pep Guardiola loves to have options in his squad, and Alvarez is the type of player who could come in and out of the squad depending on the magnitude of the match and City’s evolving game-plan on a match by match basis. He could also offer a ‘Plan B’ when things aren’t going his way, and/or Guardiola recognizes the many passes into the penalty area they’re creating aren’t being followed up.

With that, enter Julian Alvarez.

JULIAN ALVAREZ’S KEY CHARACTERISTICS

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We recently explored Julian Alvarez’s potential fit for Liverpool in our Finding the next Roberto Firmino – Tactical Analysis, but we always felt like he would be a better fit for the dynamism of Manchester City’s fluid attack. Alvarez is a lightning quick centre-forward, with intelligent dribbling and running power that can get a team up the pitch in quick attacking transitions. Exceptional at timing his runs in behind an opposition’s back-line, Alvarez would add goals galore and a striking option that can be more than just a false nine. The River Plate man scored 18 goals with 6 assists in 21 matches last season, while leading the team’s press with his energetic running style. 

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Watching him play, Julian Alvarez is a man who clearly loves playing football, and Pep Guardiola will love having a forward who is so passionate about the game, and relishes any challenge.

While Alvarez’s possession statistics could improve, he’s excellent at holding onto the ball under pressure. A key chance creator in the final third, the River Plate man is often making riskier passes rather than backwards safe ones. At 5’7, he’s also much more of an Aguero type than some of the other forwards the Citizens have been linked with – like Haaland. He’s not brilliant in the air, but could easily drop into false nine positions, play with his back to goal and then sprint in behind. That’s exactly why we pegged him as a potential Roberto Firmino replacement. But unlike Liverpool, Pep Guardiola’s team already have plenty of forwards who can play the false nine role. So in signing Alvarez, they want someone who can take players on 1v1, and then get into the right positions to score goals. They correctly identified that man to be the 21-year-old, and signed him for a reported steal of £14 million.

PLAYER COMPARISONS

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When looking at Julian Alvarez’s key characteristics and Manchester City’s need for a new striker, it’s a match made in heaven. But City needed to be confident that they would be signing a player who could not only play as a ‘Plan B’ of sorts, but transform their attack. With that, we take a look at Alvarez’s attacking statistics up against Manchester City’s current false nine options. Here is how the 21-year-old compares.

Whether it’s because Julian Alvarez plays in Argentina, is actually a striker, or is simply supremely talented in many aspects, the River Plate man compares extraordinarily well to Manchester City’s current false nine options. We analyzed Alvarez up against Sterling, Foden, Bernardo Silva, and Gabriel Jesus, due to the number of matches they have played this season in the striker role, and their potential to continue doing so in the future as opposed to some of City’s other players like Jack Grealish or Riyad Mahrez. Alvarez, unsurprisingly, contributed more goals + assists in the Argentine Primera Division’s 2021 season than all of the City false nines have across 2021-22 so far, and also wins out on dribbling percentage and key passes. An incredibly effective finisher, the 5’7 centre forward also stands out when it comes to efficiency in front of goal on categories like goals per shot and shot on target percentage. His aerial duels won also beats several of City’s players, with Bernardo Silva coming out as a surprise table topper in that regard.

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As already noted, the one aspect of Alvarez’s game that needs to improve at City is his ability on the ball when making passes to his teammates. There’s no doubting that Alvarez was a risky, long passer of the ball at River Plate, and that will likely change at City. But when it comes to on-the-ball presence, Alvarez’s dribbling percentage is incredibly encouraging. He even ranks higher than the silky smooth Bernardo Silva in this regard, which seems like an impossible feat for someone with such dazzling twinkle toes. This shows that Alvarez does have the potential to grow into a possession-based player, and that Pep Guardiola should have the ability to hone in the striker’s risky long passing and use it to best serve the team in specific moments.

On statistics alone, the signing of Alvarez looks like an absolute bargain, and one that will indeed transform Manchester City. The Citizens are still chasing down that Champions League crown, and Alvarez could be an essential piece to the puzzle in realizing that dream.

conclusion

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Julian Alvarez is perfect for Manchester City. His first season in England’s top flight could be a difficult one as he adjusts, and Pep Guardiola eases him into the team. But you can expect the 21-year-old to bloom at City, under the influence of one of the best coaches in the modern game. City need a striker to provide them more fruitful options, and in Julian Alvarez, they’ve found their man.


So there it is! A tactical analysis of why Julian Alvarez is the perfect fit for Manchester City. Be sure to check out more of our Player and Data Analyses, and subscribe to our email list below. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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