Why Marc Cucurella is perfect for Manchester City

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Out of all the names to be linked with Manchester City, Marc Cucurella would have been an obscure choice beyond belief this time last year. But after a successful first season in the Premier League with Brighton & Hove Albion, the versatile Spaniard may now be a few weeks away from securing a dream move to the Champions. Cucurella is one of the most versatile players on the planet, making him an ideal candidate to be City’s next rising star. Here is our analysis of the 23-year-old, and his potential fit for Manchester City.

manchester city’s left-back need

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Manchester City’s supposed need for a left-back has been highlighted over and over by the media and footballing community for years. Benjamin Mendy was brought in to be that man a few years ago, but after succumbing to an early injury, the Frenchman fell off a cliff never to be found again (and then got into legal trouble). I’ve always maintained that left-back is far from City’s greatest need, as they already have the phenomenal Oleksandr Zinchenko – easily (but underratedly) one of the best in the position. Zinchenko can dovetail as a central midfielder or even higher up the left-hand-side, as he does for Ukraine. Joao Cancelo can also fulfill the left-back slot, as he did for the majority of the 2021-22 season – playing more minutes than any other outfield player. Cancelo is incredible at what he provides, simultaneously offering the Citizens a ‘Wing-Back’ and ‘Inverted-Fullback’ all wrapped up in one. But he is not the most two-footed full-back out there, preferring his right foot 87% of the time with his touches. Similarly, the left-footed Oleksandr Zinchenko prioritizes his strong foot 91% of the time.

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Enter Marc Cucurella – a left-footed, in fact two-footed wizard, who excels in possession of the ball. Cucurella’s left-footed dominance and superiority will naturally allow more passing angles to open, helping City keep the ball ticking and moving along. But simultaneously, Brighton’s left-back remains an impressive two-footed option (77% left), taking advantage of his vast skillset in 1v1 situations to beat opponents. This makes him an attractive option for the Citizens.

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So while it may not be the most desperate position of need, providing cover to one of their weaker areas improves the Sky Blues across the board. When you consider that Cancelo is likely to ease Kyle Walker out of the team as his years dwindle down, City will eventually need a second top quality left-back to support their team. Signing one ahead of the 2022-23 season, who will be just 24 years old this season, gives Guardiola years to grow a player of quality into his team in preparation for future departures. Zinchenko and Cucurella can now battle it out for a place on the left, particularly if they don’t already have to battle with Joao Cancelo as he’s moved to the right. Walker made just 20 Premier League appearances last season, whilst Oleksandr Zinchenko made 15. Guardiola loves to rotate his team around, and the more options, the better.

MARC CUCURELLA’S KEY CHARACTERISTICS

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Beyond being a two-footed wizard, Marc Cucurella is an extraordinarily versatile player. The frilly-haired full-back featured 35 times for Brighton last campaign in the league, amounting 18 appearances as a left-back in a back-four, 9 appearances as a left-sided-centre-back in a back-three, and 8 as a left-wing-back.

While it’s true that all of these positions are fairly similar by trade, Cucurella’s uniqueness extends to the way he fulfills each of his roles. As a centre-back, Cucurella utilized his possession-based superiority to become a Ball-Playing-Centre-Half. As a full-back, he was more of ‘Wide Warrior‘ that could transcend into an attack-minded ‘Wing-Back‘. Then as a wing-back, Cucurella would be more of a true ‘Wing-Back’, getting up and down the line and frequently contributing to the attack. With his brilliance in possession and ability to pick up pockets of space to receive, Cucurella would even make for a fantastic ‘Inverted-Fullback’. In fact, we even considered classifying him under the player type in our recent analysis, but chose not to due to his lack of frequent inversions into central channels. But due to his ability to excel with the ball at his feet, we suggested that the Spaniard may be re-classified next season, even without a move to another club. Essentially, Cucurella could play as a full-back for City in any type of system, and in any type of role. Hypothetically, he’d even have the quality to play as a central midfielder. That’s just the beauty of the man.

STATISTICAL COMPARISONS

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Anyone who’s managed to catch their eyes on a Cucurella game will not be surprised to hear that City remain interested in signing the Spaniard. But just looking at his statistics alone, you may be COMPLETELY ENAMOURED too. Cucurella is not the most exciting, attack-minded of full-backs. But he still contributes a fair amount in the final third, and showcases moments of entertainment and excitement. Where he really excels is in possession of the ball, and in the defensive sides of the game. With that, let’s first compare how Cucurella might fit in to one of most efficient possession-based systems in the world.

IN POSSESSION

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Before adding to their ranks, Guardiola and co. must be sure of a player’s quality in possession of the ball. For full-backs, it becomes even more imperative that they’re capable of contributing to build-up phases, and fulfilling an inverted full-back role where much of the play will be funnelled into their path.

PlayerProg. PProg. CPass. 1/3Pass PressTarget #TouchesAtt. PenDrib %Megs
Marc Cucurella5.066.073.848.2252.978.51.9753.30.23
Joao Cancelo7.6310.17.419.5178.9103.53.3150.50.33
Oleksandr Zinchenko8.459.667.847.8477.299.41.9054.50.09
Kyle Walker4.414.678.976.0571.790.71.1357.10.05

Unsurprisingly, Joao Cancelo comes out on top in the majority of attacking stats in question. Not only is he the most active on the ball, he’s also the top carrier, and even the most skillful – on 0.33 nutmegs per 90. But Cucurella can’t be ignored when it comes to skill, having pulled off 53.3% of his dribbles this season. Cool as a cucumber under threat, the Spaniard’s even pulled through with 8.22 passes under pressure this season, which ranks in the top 1% of players in his position. City’s possession stats will always be heightened, as illustrated by their vast outperformance in touches and passes into the final third. But Cucurella’s stats still boast well for his ability to fit in, transferring from one dominant, control-oriented team to another.

OUT OF POSSESSION

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Marc Cucurella excels at the defensive side of the game. That much is clear, without even looking at the stats. We must remind ourselves here that City’s defensive stats will always be lower than a club like Brighton, due to the low percentage of time that they stay without the ball (about a 14% difference). That’s where utilizing not only sheer volume numbers but percentages can become so crucial. To prove our point…

PlayerTkl + Int.Tkl %Drb PastPressPress %Aerial %BlksFlsRecov.
Marc Cucurella4.7162.30.8415.537.854.02.081.0110.2
Joao Cancelo3.5142.21.349.6734.352.11.251.039.72
Oleksandr Zinchenko3.2730.80.788.1033.051.51.550.959.83
Kyle Walker2.4650.00.568.4134.155.31.030.367.95

As you can see, Cucurella expectantly comes out on top on every sheer volume defensive stat (other than fouls). But encouragingly, his percentage points also rank consistently high, in fact blowing the competition out of the water on tackle percentage (62.3%). He’s in the top 6% of left-backs for that category across the last 365 days, the top 3% for recoveries, and the top 1% on successful pressure percentage. That last one is particularly imperative for a team like City, that press in short bursts and spells immediately after losing possession. Pressing relentlessly is one of the key ways in which the Citizens maintain their dominance from start to finish. Cucurella perfectly exemplifies the warrior mentality needed to succeed at the club, and would be a fantastic addition all ends up in improving City’s ability to defend the wide areas.

attacking contribution

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When it comes to contributing to the attack, Cucurella serves as a happy medium between the electric and dazzling creation of Cancelo and Zinchenko, and the more defensively-minded Kyle Walker. As a true ‘Wide Warrior’, Walker typically focuses more of his ‘in possession’ positioning toward rest-defense, rather than galloping forward. Cucurella performs similarly, but looks for more moments to advance into the attack, either out wide or in the half-spaces, where he can periodically contribute to overloading specific areas of the field.

PlayerG + AxG + xAShotsKPPPACrsPACrs.SCAPP Rec.
Marc Cucurella0.060.100.551.271.500.662.752.372.02
Joao Cancelo0.220.262.261.092.650.362.872.873.54
Oleksandr Zinchenko0.340.211.031.381.980.262.413.613.62
Kyle Walker0.100.100.410.671.030.261.441.851.54

Cucurella only leads one of our categories here (each on a per 90 basis), which just so happens to be his number of completed crosses into the penalty area. When considering the deeper, inverted role of City’s full-backs, this adds up. Cucurella is far more likely to be pushing the limit down the line in promoting attacking play within Brighton’s system. He also ranks second in total crosses, behind the adventurous Joao Cancelo, and in key-passes, behind only the wizarding world of Oleksandr Zinchenko. You can expect these stats to change within City’s attacking structures, as some elements of his game become prioritized, and others fall to the way-side. So while not remarkable, the Spaniard’s attacking stats provide a high level of promise for a City team, and showcase why he could offer a different edge to Guardiola’s line-up.

CONCLUSION

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Marc Cucurella would be a phenomenal addition to Manchester City, and the Sky Blues should do everything in their power to sign the versatile full-back. Cucurella can play in a variety of roles, whilst fulfilling responsibilities across the pitch in ways City’s current options can’t provide. Not only is he a two-footed extraordinaire, he’s also a gifted defender capable of timing his tackles to perfection, and speeding down the line to limit wide penetration. Pep Guardiola and co. need to make this signing happen before someone like Barcelona swoop in for the Spaniard, and Cucurella should recognize the stylistic fit on his own accord. One thing is for sure – Marc Cucurella would be a perfect fit for Manchester City.


So there it is! Why Marc Cucurella is perfect fit for Manchester City. Be sure to check out more from this series, and follow on social media below! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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-> Why Nick Pope is perfect for Newcastle United
-> Why Darwin Núñez is perfect for Liverpool

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