Of the expensive summer arrivals to move to Eastlands, one in particular has shone above the rest even though his impact may have been overlooked.
£30 million midfielder Fernandinho who switched from Shakthar Donetsk is the aforesaid player, his impression on the side has been crudely understated despite several delightful performances of which the pinnacle was in their 6-0 humiliation of Tottenham Hostpur.
Fernandinho has been utilised as a central box-to-box midfielder under his present Chilean manager and consequently he has largely been effective in that the only noticeable weakness to his all-inclusive style of play is his below par finishing ability. Nevertheless with just 10 league appearances to his name, he has begun to justify a price tag which came under extensive scrutiny due to being adjudged as “past his prime”. Many assumed that the 28-year-old would soon be debilitated and decrepit but his performances have soon overruled his critics.
His partnership with Yaya Toure has given City an added dimension in midfield and the Brazilian seems to have instantly registered a connection with the Ivorian powerhouse. Their innate understanding enables them to cover each other’s roles with ease. Toure is predominantly deployed as an attacking central midfielder within Manuel Pelligrini's rigid 4-4-2 system, and his midfield counterpart will subsequently cover him during an attack. In spite of this the pair have shown they are equally capable at compensating for each other’s roles, Toure will deputise defensively should the Brazilian opt to join in City's attack.
Whilst Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo will understandably receive a significant majority of the plaudits due to the sublime outcomings of their impeccable partnership, Fernandinho’s creditable statistics should not go unnoticed. In an efficient collaboration with Yaya Toure, his safeguarding abilities have been essential as the Brazilian has made 34 tackles averaging 3.4 per game and has also made a total of 27 interceptions, averaging 2.7 across his 10 league appearances, helping City to amass their impregnable unbeaten home record.
In addition, despite his compact stature he has won 96% of his (24 of 25) aerial duels this season – impressive given he is only 176cm in height. Nonetheless his all-round midfield duties have been equally pleasing to City fans. 520 of his 598 attempted passes have been successful providing him with a pass success rate of 87% and a median of 59.8 passes per game. Fairly adequate given the usual teething problems accompanied with having to get accustomed to the infamously fast paced and tenacious style of English football. Of the City squad, only Yaya Toure has attempted more passes and only the Ivorian and Samir Nasri have made more successful passes than the defensively minded midfielder.
There cannot be an argument advocated that Fernandinho's passing accuracy is only impressive due to him passing backwards frequently, as 68.3% of his passes have been forwards in direction. In fact such is his form that there are only several noteworthy flaws to his current game. Besides his wayward shooting, he is susceptible to committing fouls and he has attempted a great number of tackles to no avail. A huge 61% of his tackles have been unsuccessful and he has perpetrated 26 fouls leading to three yellow cards. Nevertheless, his advantages far outweight the negatives to his game.
The multifaceted Fernandinho’s role is not solely to provide defensive support for 30-year-old Toure on the break. He's just as influential offensively, occasionally bursting forward, or retaining possession in key areas. He is adept at the aesthetically pleasing “one-two” passes to create space, such as the swift passing exchange with Toure before his burst forward to assist City's fourth against Spurs which is a perfect example of his personal flair and the link the two have developed. Furthermore his inexhaustible levels of stamina allow him to play at his peak for an entire game matched with strength, intelligence and also pace.
Fernandinho is quite simply, the essential link between defence and attack, his role is vital in transitioning a tackle or interception and turning it into an attack. He has been dexterous in the aforementioned role, providing 14 key passes, an average of 1.4 per game in the league and and assisting two goals despite primarily allowing Yaya Toure to attack. Evidence for Toure's advanced and more involved role can be seen in his tremendous tally of 860 successful passes from an attempted 963, far and away the most passes attempted by a City player in the current campaign.
"Little Fernando" as he is known in his homeland role has earned comparisons to Gareth Barry and Nigel De Jong, despite their differing functions. Barry and De Jong were similarly challenged with interlinking City's defence to their attack, but they arguably had less capability to create changes simultaneously, instead relying on David Silva and other forwards to do that job instead. The advantage with Fernandinho is that he possess the paramount capabilities to do both jobs concurrently. The fast and fluid football Pelligrini is integrating at the Etihad requires the "box-to-box" midfielder to be capable with and without the ball going forward but yet also adding the necessary strength in front of the Sky Blues' defence. His presence allows Yaya more freedom in front and it allows the likes of Silva and Nasri to stay further up the field. In turn the strikers then have more support and can begin to stretch the defence through energetic movement and runs off of each other due to the boost of several extra players fully committed to the attack.
As previously established, the role in which Fernandinho operates is often crucially underestimated and belittled, as fans and tabloid newspapers label the attacking wingers and forwards who often provide the winning goals as the protagonists of victory. That is why the exemplar defensive midfielder and his archetypal attributes should receive much more praise than the inherent underestimations he has received until now.
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