Even a few weeks ago, if someone would have told me that Bernardo might leave, i would have laughed my head off. It was an impossible scenario. After all, why would Bernardo want to leave after a stellar season where he has established himself as the best box to box midfielder in the world. I am still hopeful that Bernardo can stay with us, but the hallmark of a great club is that they are always prepared for the worst case scenario. It would be quite intriguing to pick Pep’s brains and understand what he would come up with in order to replace Bernardo
Grealish in the Bernardo role
When Grealish was bought 2 season back, the rumors of Bernardo leaving were even more stronger. At that time, most of the talk around City was that Pep had brought in Grealish to play in that box to box role. The resurgence of Bernardo Silva this season meant that Grealish could not even have a sniff at that midfield role.
In terms of pure technique and ability on the ball, Grealish is not that far away from Bernardo, but work rate is the biggest problem. The amount of running Bernardo does and the way he leads the press is impeccable. Those are the qualities that would be very hard to replicate. Also, Grealish has never played that box to box role in his life and doing it in a Pep’s system could be even more challenging. The reason is that the box to box midfielder in a Pep’s team is the first line of defense when turnover of possession happens and the opposition is in a quick transition.
Foden in the midfield
Foden is a very interesting one for me. We have seen Foden play in that deep role a couple of times in the FA cup games and he provided some sumptuous balls which were almost comparable to Pirlo. Pep was also speaking about how Foden needs to learn things like controlling the Tempo of the games in order to start in midfield. All this points to the fact that Pep sees the future of Foden in the midfield more than on the left flank.
Also, with Foden we do not have issues like Work rate and defensive know how like Grealish. Also, we have to remember that Foden had played in a variety of positions including left back under Pep and knows the positional system like the back of his hand.
Also, with Foden playing in the deep role, we will have a player who can play those Pirlo – esque passes. If you remember Pep wanted to but Jorginho all those years ago for these sort of passes from deep and now if Foden plays in that Midfield role, he will have someone who can do exactly that. This will open up a new dimension in the way we can attack teams.
Kalvin Phillips in the Bernardo role
Personally, i am not sure of Kalvin Phillips having the technical ability to be press resistant and play in tight spaces like Bernardo does. The central midfield role of Pep demands that you are technically at the absolute top and are able to receive the ball under immense pressure. I do not think that Kalvin Phillips is ready to take on such a responsibility. Specially, with the fact that he is new to the system i doubt Pep will put this responsibility on his shoulders just yet.
Maybe down the line, Pep might look at Kalvin Phillips to play the deep lying mid fielder role, but as of now i feel that Pep would be more inclined towards playing either Foden or Grealish in that role for this season.
Everybody available as alternatives to Pep have their flaws in playing the Bernardo role, but we should remember that Bernardo is the best in the world in his position and who ever you compare him with will come up short. I feel that Foden might be the ideal replacement for Bernardo if the worst case scenario happens and he ends up leaving