It’s difficult for a player to be underrated when they’re playing for the best team in the country. But it is possible. Manchester City have a player in their team who is continuously taken for granted in Fernandinho.
Pep Guardiola’s men are the Premier League’s runaway leaders this season, 16 points clear of Manchester United with just 11 matches remaining. Barring a collapse of epic proportions, the blue half of Manchester will be celebrating their side being crowned champions in April.
Kevin De Bruyne looks a shoo-in to win the Player of the Year accolade. David Silva might be a close second after a sensational season when many expected him to start slowing down. Sergio Agüero is still in with a chance of the Golden Boot award; he’s just two goals behind Harry Kane in the race.
Then there’s Ederson. The world’s most expensive goalkeeper is now spoken about in the same breath as David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois. And not just because of his goalkeeping ability, but his distribution too. Many consider him to be one of the most effective keepers in the Premier League.
Fernandino, despite being a key cog in the Guardiola machine, is often overlooked when praise is being dished out. He’s not a match winner. He’s no game changer and the 32-year-old isn’t an obvious difference maker. But he’s the facilitator. The player who allows everybody else to perform their tasks.
The former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder is taken for granted. People just expected him to adapt to Guardiola’s new system. Fortunately for City he did.
This season he’s averaging a career high 90 passes per 90 minutes, up from 71 last season. No player in the City team is averaging more showing he’s the metronome in the middle third keeping things moving. Furthermore, of those 90 passes he plays 67 per cent of them forward. He’s progressive in his play and is forever prying – something the Premier League leaders need when they’re forever coming up against low blocks.
It’s quite the vote of confidence for Guardiola to put so much faith in Fernandinho. The system City use hinges on retaining possession. The Brazilian midfielder is trusted to be the man to ensure there’s not a high turnover of possession, so City are able to suffocate the opposition, and he executes his role perfectly.
Furthermore, his ability on the ball is undervalued. His long-range passing is often utilised to quickly switch the play to the wingers which then helps City stretch the opposition.
When viewing defensive stats he could appear to be underperforming when compared to last season. But that’s far from the truth.
He’s averaging fewer tackles and interceptions this season but that shouldn’t be viewed as a negative. The Citizens average 66 per cent possession this season, a six per cent increase on last season. They’re also playing 130 passes more per 90 minutes – 727 up from 597. To put it simply, Fernandinho is attempting fewer tackles and interceptions because the opposition are seeing a lot less of the ball.
The Brazilian can’t play on forever so reports Julian Weigl and Fred are Manchester City transfer targets make a lot of sense. But those thinking it will be a seamless transition might be in for a surprise. The 32-year-old is one of the best in the business at what he does and perfect for Guardiola.