Fernandinho: Man City's buy of the summer

Posted by David Mooney

The side of the right foot. Onto the left shin pad. Ricocheted back onto the right ankle. Deflected back onto the left shin again. And from there, the ball bobbled around the now outstretched right foot (which has completed its original swing for the ball) and harmlessly out of play. Then a rather embarrassed Brazilian hides his face by wiping his sleeve across his frown, probably accepting his fate that Manchester City have a brand new Nigel de Jong.

And you have absolutely no idea how uneasy I am in making that comparison. However, it's one I make fairly lightly, given Fernandinho seems to be the type of player who isn't going to bag many goals. In fact, given the chance seven yards from goal, he ended up playing his own private game of pinball rather than sticking the ball past Hugo Lloris and into the Tottenham net.

Don't get me wrong here, De Jong was a great player for City -- but he was very limited. He left wanting more first-team football, something that then manager Roberto Mancini was unable to offer; there was little room in his side for a defensive midfielder who simply tackled. What playing time De Jong got was usually coming off the bench in the second half to tweak the formation.

Fernandinho joined City with a hefty price tag and some raised eyebrows given the not-so-spring-chicken status of the 28-year-old, and, therefore, he had a lot to prove. Naturally, there would be eyes on him from the start and there would be little time for him to settle when under the pressure of the watching world.

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As we've established, goal scoring doesn't really seem to be his forte -- quite how he managed 31 in 184 appearances for Shakhtar Donetsk beggars belief, given he's been troubling the corner flags more than the opposition goalkeepers since he transferred to the drizzle capital of England. The shooting, though, is where the similarities with De Jong come to a conclusion.

When Manuel Pellegrini allowed Gareth Barry to move to Merseyside on loan, fans weren't happy. Understandable, given how the England midfielder had been an instrumental part of the Blues' 2011 FA Cup win and 2012 Premier League title. Early-season midfield form -- during which the club were less than convincing in their defeat at Cardiff, win over Hull, and draw with Stoke -- was hit-and-miss, leading to calls that the decision had been a disaster.

By the end of November, though, it's clear that swapping him for Fernandinho was excellent business. Barry, while a great servant during his four seasons at City, had reached a point where his performances were beginning to wane, and the club have upgraded to a model four years younger.

The Brazilian has made only 15 appearances so far this campaign, but has quickly settled into his role in the team and shown how much of a step up from both De Jong and Barry he is. His position is much more of a box-to-box midfielder than his predecessors, but that's largely down to the manager changing the team's style of play and formation.

Both De Jong and Barry were tasked with linking the back four with the front four, winning the ball and presenting the more creative players with the opportunity to attack. Meanwhile, Yaya Toure roamed, looking for opportunities to break with pace and power, or offering extra protection when necessary.

This season, however, Toure is doing the same, but his midfield partner is no longer just offering support to allow the Ivorian to break. He's just as influential on the game, bursting forward when needed, or keeping possession in tight areas, or tracking opposition runs from deep, or playing cute one-twos to create space. Look at his exchange of passes with Toure before City's fourth against Spurs.

He just doesn't really do shooting.

When he and Toure start together -- which will be most games this season, barring injury and suspension -- the two players have a deep understanding of not just their own job in the team, but their central-midfield colleague's too. Toure powers forward, so Fernandinho minds the shop. And vice versa.

This, after just 15 appearances, is more than encouraging.

The Brazilian also has shown vision akin to the Ivorian's to dink delicate through-balls into Sergio Aguero or Alvaro Negredo. He has demonstrated excellent stamina, performing at his peak for the entire hour and a half of game time. He's got strength, intelligence and pace on top of all of that, too.

While the pundits and columnists will shower Samir Nasri and Aguero and Negredo with praise for their parts in the 6-0 demolition of Tottenham, the work of Fernandinho in that game will go missed, under the radar. Yet it is he who was head and shoulders above everybody else on that pitch on Sunday lunchtime.

The Premier League season may be only 12 games old, but he's already repaying that price tag and already looks worth every penny. In fact, he may turn out to be the best bit of business the Blues conducted over the summer.


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