Rodri Hernández: The Tactical Evolution



Rodri Tactical Evolution

Rodrigo Hernández, known as ‘Rodri,’ stands out as one of the best holding midfielders in the world today. His role with both the Spanish national team and Manchester City has proven him to be an indispensable figure. His contributions were crucial to Manchester City’s triumph as champions in Europe and England last season under the management of Pep Guardiola. Despite being overlooked for the recent FIFA The Best awards, his influence is pivotal in the play of both Manchester City and the Spanish national team. He is the type of player whose fundamental work in the development of the game may go unnoticed by many, which probably explains why he didn’t make it in the top 5 of The Best FIFA Football Awards. In this article, we will analyze Rodri’s tactical evolution in the recent years, as well as those aspects in which he continues to excel.

Rodri Tactical Evolution

Rodri Hernandez Attacking Profile 2021/22 vs 2023/24 4K

Rodri's evolution is clear when analyzing his attacking profile. His involvement in terms of ball carrying, dribbling and finishing have noticeably increased since 2021/22 season.

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Perception Skills

Firstly, it’s important to highlight his exceptional level of perception, a unique quality in his style of play. Rodri stands out for his constant search for information on the field, which allows him to anticipate situations and make informed decisions at all times. His ability to assess the environment before receiving the ball is particularly notable, executing actions with precision by identifying the position of opponents, teammates, and open spaces.

He doesn’t limit this information gathering to moments where he is close to the ball; even when the ball is in distant zones, he remains attentive to provide useful information to his teammates or to be prepared when the ball comes near his position. This sharp perception undoubtedly places him among the world’s most intelligent players.

Rodri Tactical Evolution

Perception 2

Rodri scans information before receiving the ball to identify Doku as the open player, and pass the ball quickly to him.

Rodri Tactical Evolution

Percepcion 2

Before receiving the pass from Foden, Rodri has already scanned the pitch and found the free space for De Bruyne's run.

Right Space Occupation

Another key aspect of the Spanish player’s game is his ability to venture into areas close to the opposing goal, despite his primary role as a holding midfielder. The system implemented by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, which often includes the addition of a central defender — typically John Stones — into the midfield, affords Rodri greater freedom to advance forward. His judgment on when and how to push up is crucial, as he remains aware of the need to preserve balance on the field when abandoning his usual defensive position. This is surely, the most significant aspect of Rodri’s tactical evolution.

His presence in the penalty area is not merely for show. It poses a consistent threat to the opposing team, whether through his precise passes to assist teammates or by taking shots at goal. This was exemplified when he scored the decisive goal in last season’s Champions League final to provide Manchester City their first European trophy.

Rodri Tactical Evolution

Space occupation 1

A clear example of Rodri's tactical evolution. In the UCL Final against Inter Milano, he often occupied positions near the box, which led him to score the winning goal.

Rodri Tactical Evolution

Space Occupation 2

In this action, Rodri positions himself to receive the ball in the pockets, offering a clear passing line. Once he receives, he scores one of the best goals of last season's Champions League.

Counterpressing after losing the ball

Lastly, his ability to execute excellent pressing after losing possession allows him to press and recover the ball exceptionally when his team loses it. Rodri shows outstanding tactical intelligence in anticipating ball loss situations. Firstly, if he is near the ball, he quickly reaches the possessor to apply intense pressure and prevent the possessor’s progression. On the other hand, in situations where another teammate exerts intense pressure on the opponent recovering the ball, Rodri shows his intelligence by identifying and marking the opposing team’s link players who can counterattack.

In this way, he identifies nearby passing lines to block and prevent the connection with these players. This actions effectively interrupts the opposing team’s progression, showcasing his ability to read the game and make real-time tactical decisions to benefit his team. This makes him an excellent ball recoverer. His intuition in these situations makes him a role model in defensive transitions.

Rodri Tactical Evolution

Pressing 2

In this example, Rodri aggressively presses the opponent after losing the ball. This fast reaction, helps avoid any potential counterattack and allows him to recover the ball..

Rodri Tactical Evolution


In the other example, Rodri helps his team not by pressing directly the ball possessor but by cutting potential passing lines to other players and intercepts the ball.


In summary, Rodri is an exceptional player who has proven to be one of the best in the world in his position. His role is fundamental to the current success of Manchester City, the reigning champions of Europe and the world. As we’ve seen in this analysis, Rodri’s tactical evolution powered by Guardiola’s adjustments provided the Spanish central midfielder the freedom to occupy positions near the box, which led to an increase in his goal contribution.

In addition, Rodri keeps excelling at those aspects that already made him a unique holding midfielder, which are his outstanding perception skills and his ability to read and anticipate sequences during the counterpressing phase.

Learn more about the individual fundamentals by position for the Midfielder in our ‘Individual Secrets’ included in all our membership plans. Check our membership plans.

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