“I think Fernandinho can play in 10 different positions, because he has the quality to play wherever. He is quick, aggressive, intelligent and strong in the air. He has the quality to create good build-up play and can play a forward pass.”
This was an assessment from Pep Guardiola ahead of the start of the new season, with the Brazilian ultimately being the Swiss Army knife of the Manchester City squad.
Such versatility is a vital commodity for managers in the current Premier League, with the constant shuffling of formations and tactics. Players who are inflexible and limited to a solitary position in a particular tactical set-up are much harder to make use of.
In City’s first Premier League game with Sunderland, Fernandinho was stationed the deepest of the three midfield players, often dropping back between his central defenders to allow the full-backs to progress up the pitch.
This allowed him to dictate play from deep when receiving possession from his defence, while being an extra body behind the ball should possession be turned over and a counter-attack launched.
The problem for Fernandinho is that this is the role that has surely been earmarked for summer signing Ilkay Gundogan when he returns from injury, who is much more expansive in possession and a closer likeness to Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets. This duo have filled this role for Guardiola previously at Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
So what does that mean for Fernandinho?
A move to central defence has been touted, with Guardiola having previous for reinventing Javier Mascherano in this position at Barca. He also played Javi Martinez and David Alaba at centre half for Bayern despite this being neither’s natural position.
However, it is hard not anticipating Vincent Kompany and John Stones being first choice centre halves when both are fit, even if Fernandinho is more accomplished with the ball at his feet than the former.
Although a few games at the heart of the defence are likely throughout the season, it would be no surprise if the 31-year-old didn’t eventually find his calling under Guardiola at right-back.
Against Sunderland, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy were utilised as inverted full-backs, pushing into narrow, advanced central positions when the ball was on the opposite side of the pitch.
This boosted City’s dominance of central areas and also posed the Sunderland midfield problems over who to mark. If they pressed Sagna or Clichy, there was a risk of leaving dangerous playmakers David Silva or Kevin de Bruyne free.
Fernandinho would be an upgrade on Sagna in this type of role and there is nobody else in the current squad who appears better equipped to play it.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.