In the month of August in 2008, the Abu Dhabi United Group took ownership of Manchester City Football Club, buying out then owner Thaksin Shinawatra.
Though signing a Brazilian – Robinho – was their landmark moment, few people could’ve foreseen that the signing of a £34m-rated Brazilian midfielder who was born in Londrina, Paraná would be the signing to take the club another step up the footballing ladder. Step forward, Fernando Luiz Rosa – Fernandinho.
Assuming that City keep all of their current options for their double pivot in midfield, Fernandinho’s competition for the spot as Toure Yaya’s midfield partner would be Gareth Barry, Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia. I’d fully expect Fernandinho to start ahead of all three of those players.
While Jack Rodwell could possibly have a key role to play in the future, he is too injury prone for Manuel Pellegrini to count on right from the start of his managerial reign. Javi Garcia played well enough at Benfica to earn a move to Manchester, but put simply, he has not given City their money’s worth.
Though the Spaniard will be useful to Manuel Pellegrini with his ability to play in defence and midfield, he is not THE player that City need to give their midfield engine room a much-needed boost, when facing stubbornly defensive opposition, albeit without sacrificing any defensive solidity.
Gareth Barry has been a solid performer for City since signing from Aston Villa but his limitations both physically and in the attacking areas are crucial elements that will see Fernandinho displace him in City’s double pivot in central midfield.
(The statistics used are from WhoScored and based on the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League)
As with any midfielder, passing is one of, if not the most, important tools of the trade. Fernandinho has an 86.2% pass success rate from 8 appearances. That compares extremely fairly to his expected competitors at Man City – Barry has 86.4% from four appearances, Toure 86.1% from five, Garcia 90% from five.
While Barry and Garcia have better pass success rates than Fernandinho and Toure, the former duo spend most of their games away from the final third. Barry and Garcia do not often have to attempt a penetrative pass further forward, while Fernandinho and Toure do, hence it is only logical that it would be much easier for Barry and Garcia to log higher passing rates – most of their passes are “safe passes” just to keep the ball moving along when City have possession .
In terms of “key passes”, Fernandinho averaged 1.3 per match. While Barry averaged 0.8, Toure 1, and Javi Garcia 0.2. This is in line with the aforementioned point of passing rates, though they have their uses, not being the be all and end of studying any midfielder.
While Fernandinho does have the ability to start attacks with his passing ability, he is also able to use his athleticism to dribble forward as well. With 3.9 successful dribbles per game, Fernandinho’s stats in this aspect dwarfs those of Toure (1), Barry (0.3) and Garcia (-). In fact, in the 2012/13 Champions League Group Stage, the Brazilian was ranked 3rd in WhoScored’s list of “Players with the most successful dribbles per game”.
Where direct tackling is concerned, Fernandinho made 3.3 successful tackles per game while Toure made 1.4, Barry 2.3 and Garcia 1.4.
The Brazilian’s tackling stats put him ahead of the likes of Ramires (3.2), FC Porto stalwart Lucho Gonzalez (3.2), Nemanja Matic (3) and Michael Carrick (2.7). Now on to defending, where Fernandinho has shown his ability to intercept the ball, with his 3.5 interceptions per game being on par with the likes of Nigel de Jong and slightly better than the likes of Blaise Matuidi (3.3), Ignacio Camacho (3.3) and Benfica’s impressive Nemanja Matic (3). For comparison’s sake, Toure made 2.4 interceptions per game, Barry 1.3 and Garcia 1.2.
Whilst tackling is frequently perceived to be the key to whether a player is truly able to defend, I’d strongly disagree. For example, it has been said that Alex Ferguson’s decision to sanction the sale of a then 29-year-old Dutch centre-half Jaap Stam in 2000 was partly aided by statistics – Stam’s tackling stats had declined after an Achilles injury.
In actuality, Stam’s interception stats had improved, showing that he had become more mature and hence the Dutchman did not need to make as many tackles as before as his game-reading ability and positioning nous had improved. Thus, Stam had in actual fact improved, contrary to Ferguson’s thinking.
With the Jaap Stam anecdote in mind, Fernandinho most certainly is a reliable player to have when his team is forced to defend.
On the whole, Fernandinho has shown that he has the ability to not only be a threat going forward, but also more than holding his own when defending.