Even though he has yet to score or provide an assist, Mateo Kovacic has quietly made a remarkable start to life at Manchester City.
The pass that enables both of those things to occur as naturally as possible is more significant than either the goal or the assist in a typical Manchester City goal under Pep Guardiola.
Although the concept of a “pre-assist” is frequently mocked, it does underline the importance of a player making a decisive forward pass, removing several defenders from the action, and performing the trickiest element of a move.
Under Guardiola, City has been scoring goals of this nature for years. In the half of the opponent, they pass the ball back and forth while they wait for a gap to open up. A midfielder will play the ball forward when the time is appropriate rather than sideways into the path of a winger or fullback who is making a dash to the byline or into the box.
That player knows to cut the ball back for at least one player waiting in the middle rather than shooting. Erling Haaland is the player in question most frequently, but there have been countless additional instances in the past. The player who made it all happen is frequently forgotten while the scorer receives praise and the assister increases their stats.
Man City has allayed Pep Guardiola’s major concern, as seen by the meeting with Kyle Walker and the pursuit of Phil Foden.
Ilkay Gundogan had a flair for timing his runs into the box such that he could score, thus it might be a touch oversimplified to state that he was more of a pre-assister than a scorer in these circumstances. He was still able to spark a teammate’s entry into the area, such as Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, or Bernardo Silva.