Rico Lewis And The News Manchester City Might Have A Successor To Kyle Walker

According to their manager Pep Guardiola, many of the good things about Manchester City’s play since their return to action following the World Cup have been possible thanks to an 18-year-old full-back from Bury named Rico Lewis.

Lewis only made his Premier League debut as recently as August 2022 (then aged 17) coming off the bench to replace Kyle Walker late in the game.

It was quite apt seeing as the teenager modelled parts of his game on Walker—the 32-year-old England international who was first-choice in the position for his country at the recent World Cup.

“As I grew up watching football more, and becoming more of a full-back, I’d say definitely Kyle Walker,” Lewis said when asked which players he looked up to during his time in the City youth team.

“I’d also say Dani Alves when he was playing at Barcelona. I loved watching him as well.

“I don’t really have to go and ask him [Walker] for much but he just gives me little tips when he can see that he could improve me in some way. It goes a long way really.”

Playing full-back for City under Guardiola is not the same as playing the position at most other clubs.

The Catalan coach will regularly ask his full-backs to slot into midfield positions as the team are building the play in possession.

This has become a feature of City’s game in recent years, and it gives the wide forwards more freedom to remain in wide attacking areas, in this case on the right touchline.

In turn, this then gives the two attacking midfielders, one of whom is usually Kevin De Bruyne, the space to move forward and attack the box between the winger and the central striker, either by threading a pass to someone like Erling Haaland or making a run themselves.

Lewis has comfortably slotted into such a demanding system, showing he has the technical ability to take the ball and pass the ball in tight areas in midfield, as well as the athleticism required of an attacking full-back.

He started both Man City’s games post-World-Cup as Walker has been given a rest following England duty. He was part of the impressive victory against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup, following it up by playing his part in a more routine win against Leeds United in the league.

“He will be an absolutely incredible player for Manchester City in the coming years because he is so intelligent, so humble,” Guardiola said after the Liverpool game.

“He understands everything in just one second and applies everything.”

At this rate, Walker will struggle to get back into the side, so impressive have been the performances of Lewis.

Guardiola has regularly recognised these performances, and has high hopes for the young player as revealed in his comments above.

He also mentioned the importance of Lewis and defensive midfielder Rodri in a post-match interview with Amazon after the Leeds game.

“All the process we can do is thanks to Rico and Rodri,” he said.

“Without him, what we could do would be more difficult. It’s not easy to play that position.

“Defensively, he understands the game. He’s so clever and that’s why he helps our team dynamics.

“Against Chelsea and Liverpool in the Carabao Cup, and today at Elland Road, wow. He played really, really well.”

Lewis has played a few positions during his time in the City academy, including right-back, left-back, and in midfield.

Experience in all three of these roles has helped him adapt seamlessly to the requirements at first team level. The inverted full-back role on the right for the senior side is something between a right-back and a midfielder—more like an old-fashioned half-back role. He has also been keeping an eye on how one of the best full-backs in the league, João Cancelo, plays his role in training.

It’s a role he has played on occasion in the youth teams, but it is more the time spent playing in each different position, especially in midfield, that will have prepared him to hit the ground running in the first team. This schooling in preparation for specific roles might eventually make him more effective in the position than Walker.

From the outside, it might seem like a specialist position, but Lewis has been prepared for it from a young age.

Having already scored his first goal from the club—on his first Champions League start, against Sevilla, no less—and shown that he is not just an backup option for the first team, but can bring something of his own to it, it appears City have found their long-term replacement for Walker within their own youth academy.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesnalton/2022/12/31/rico-lewis-and-the-news-manchester-city-might-have-their-successor-to-kyle-walker/