Mid­fielder Fer­nand­inho the glue bind­ing surg­ing Man City to­gether

'Ferna would make any man­ager the hap­pi­est or luck­i­est in the world'

Gulf Times Sport - - FOOTBALL -

Among a daz­zling ar­ray of mid­field op­tions, it is the of­ten un­her­alded Fer­nand­inho who Manch­ester City man­ager Pep Guardiola has re­lied on most in an­other stun­ning start to the sea­son for the Premier League cham­pi­ons.

The Brazil­ian will face old club Shakhtar Donetsk to­day as City seek to make amends from the only blip of their cam­paign so far, a shock 2-1 de­feat to Lyon in their last Cham­pi­ons League home game. If any re­minder was needed over Guardiola’s in­flu­ence, he was banned from the touch­line that night.

Since his re­turn, City have won nine and drawn one, a 0-0 stale­mate away to Liver­pool, of their last 10 games, scor­ing 29 goals and con­ced­ing just two in the process. Al­though ful­some in his praise of the ma­tur­ing cen­tre-back pair­ing Aymeric La­porte and John Stones, Guardiola’s de­fen­sive phi­los­o­phy is de­pen­dent on a team ef­fort to keep the ball as far away from City’s goal as pos­si­ble.

“Al­ways we try to con­vince our play­ers as far away the ball is from our goal, we are safe. It’s much, much bet­ter. The mo­ment the ball is around our box, any­thing can hap­pen,” said Guardiola. “In 10 years I was al­ways con­cerned, al­ways fo­cused, maybe more than any other thing, in de­fend­ing well. The only dif­fer­ence is we do it far away from our goal.”

Cen­tral to that phi­los­o­phy is Fer­nand­inho’s abil­ity to not just read the game and quickly re­gain pos­ses­sion, but also use the ball soundly as a spring­board to City’s at­tack. “There is al­ways a re­la­tion. When you at­tack good, you de­fend well. When you de­fend well and are solid, you at­tack bet­ter,” added Guardiola. De­spite turn­ing 33 ear­lier this year, Fer­nand­inho has started all of City’s 14 Premier and Cham­pi­ons League matches this sea­son, while the more cre­ative talents of David Silva, Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Ster­ling have had to live with Guardiola’s ro­ta­tion pol­icy.

“Ferna would make any man­ager the hap­pi­est or luck­i­est in the world,” said Guardiola ahead of City’s 3-0 win in the Ukraine against Shakhtar two weeks ago. “He is a joy to have as a player — he is very spe­cial. He will al­ways be a spe­cial player for me to work along­side.”

Guardiola knows very well the dual de­mands of Fer­nand­inho’s role hav­ing won the Euro­pean Cup in his days as a player in the same po­si­tion for Barcelona. Fer­nand­inho re­ceived ar­guably the high­est praise from his man­ager when he claimed even Guardiola the player couldn’t force his way into the cur­rent City jug­ger­naut given his form.

So far City’s fail­ure to land Jorginho, who in­stead choose to fol­low Maurizio Sarri in the move from Napoli to Chelsea in July, to share the bur­den as the mid­field an­chor hasn’t proved costly. In­stead, Guardiola’s men show no sign of a slip in stan­dards from their record 100-point Premier League cam­paign last sea­son, as ev­i­denced by a 6-1 an­ni­hi­la­tion of Southamp­ton on Sun­day.

It is the Cham­pi­ons League that re­mains the holy grail for City’s own­ers, though, and de­spite the Lyon stum­ble, an­other win against Shakhtar will put them well on course to make the last 16 for a sixth straight sea­son.

(AFP)

Manch­ester City’s Danilo (left), Fer­nand­inho (cen­tre) and Bernardo Silva joke around dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion in Manch­ester yes­ter­day.

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