Pep Guardiola does not need an invitation to talk up the importance of his squad.
Manchester City ordered extra Carabao Cup medals after their Wembley win to ensure that every single player that had been a part of the first team or represented the club on a matchday in the competition had that token of recognition, and the manager rotates his team more than most.
However, there are some players that are more important to the side than others – either because competition is not as strong in that position or because they are so integral to the manager’s plan.
A look at the players most used in the Premier League – the No.1 priority for the campaign – helps to give an idea of the most important figures to Guardiola over the last nine months as well as pointing towards the overall success of the season and the areas where consistency hasn’t been as strong.
City XI based on most minutes
Three players – Ederson, Kevin De Bruyne, and Raheem Sterling in that order – have clocked up more than 2,000 minutes (the equivalent of 22 full games) this season in the league, with Fernandinho and Rodri not far behind that marker.
Just two natural defenders – Kyle Walker (6th highest) and Nicolas Otamendi (9th) – make the top 11, suggesting either the lack of a reliable figure or good competition at centre-back and left-back.
To fashion a formation out of the XI, it seems best to move Rodri back into defence – something he managed confidently in an impressive away win at Crystal Palace earlier in the season before being struck down with injury.
With Walker and Sterling covering the wings, Bernardo Silva can sit deep alongside Ilkay Gundogan and De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez can sit ahead of them behind Sergio Aguero in a 3-4-2-1 shape that can quickly become 3-2-4-1 on the ball.
City XI based on most starts
The pictures shifts slightly if you measure the players in starts over minutes, which is an important difference. Every moment of a game may be important, but Guardiola’s decision to put a player into the XI that will start he match should not be dismissed.
Here, David Silva the significant change. In his final year at the Etihad, the midfielder may not have clocked up as many minutes as 11 of his teammates but has been named to start 16 of City’s 28 league games – more than Mahrez or Otamendi.
Those two have both started 15 games, but including Mahrez for his superior appearance total (23 to 19) bumps Otamendi out of the team.
That leaves Walker as the sole defender in the XI with the most starts, making it even harder to construct a side.
Using the same 3-4-2-1 formation as previous, Walker has to join Rodri and Fernandinho at the back shielding Ederson. Mahrez and Bernardo then serve as the wide players with Gundogan, Bernardo, De Bruyne and Silva the four central midfielders serving Aguero up front.