5 Options New Signing Fernando Gives Manchester City
The Brazilian midfielder has finally signed, ending a six-month chase to bring him to Manchester from Porto.
A deal was nearly struck in January for both Fernando and teammate Eliaquim Mangala, but a last-minute collapse meant City had to wait to land their man.
His arrival should allow for more flexibility in Manuel Pellegrini's system, and here we look at some of the options available to the City boss with his new midfielder now signed and delivered.
1. Fernando's Arrival Means More Rest for Toure and Fernandinho
The first benefit of Fernando's move is the rotation now available to Pellegrini in midfield.
Yaya Toure and Fernandinho were relied on too heavily last season. Fernando's arrival will allow them to rest more often, which will provide a huge boost to City's chances of successfully juggling the demands of four competitions.
Javi Garcia was City's only real replacement for their first-choice midfield pair last year. He performed admirably, particularly in the second half of the campaign, but doubts remain over his long-term suitability to English football.
His mobility is lacking, and with pace in midfield now almost a prerequisite for playing in the Premier League, he has failed to convince everyone he has the necessary quality to be part of a successful City side on a long-term basis.
Fernando solves the issue. He has everything needed to cope with the demands of English football and should provide sterner competition in City's midfield.
2. Yaya Toure Can Be Pushed Further Forward
It was one of Roberto Mancini's simpler tactics, but it was undeniably effective.
When a game was tight and City were in need of an attacking spark, Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong would enter the game, offering protection to the back four and allowing Yaya Toure to push right up behind the strikers.
Opposing defenders hated it, and it was a tactic which helped City win the league in 2012 from a desperate position, trailing Manchester United by eight points with just six matches remaining.
De Jong's exit meant it was a tactic no longer available, but Pellegrini's decision to bring in Fernando resurrects it.
Like De Jong, he is an out-and-out defensive midfielder. With the extra protection he can bring, Toure can be freed further when the time is right.
3. A 3-Man Midfield
In matches against the very best Premier League and Champions League sides, extra midfield protection is sometimes needed. Bayern Munich's destruction of City at the Etihad in October was a perfect example of this, as was the defeat at Anfield in April that threatened City's title hopes.
A midfield of Toure and Fernandinho, with Fernando sat behind to offer protection, is now a possibility. Rather than using two strikers, this would mean one would be sacrificed for the extra midfielder.
Pellegrini, who is anything but a cautious manager, would be well-advised to employ this system in the biggest games against possession-based sides looking to dominate the midfield battle.
4. Fernando Can Play Alongside Either in Pellegrini's Preferred System
Pellegrini's preferred system when everyone is fit is the 4-2-2-2 formation he used for much of the season just gone.
It's a very attacking approach, one that saw City go on a 20-game unbeaten run during December and January while playing some exhilarating football.
Fernando can certainly slot into this formation.
If it's alongside Toure, he will play Fernandinho's role—i.e. the one who tends to sit and play a disciplined defensive game, allowing the Ivorian to maraud forward.
However, in an all-Brazilian midfield two with Fernando and Fernandinho in tandem, the latter will be able to show off his attacking abilities more so than last season.
5. But Will He Be First Choice?
The question remains: When everyone is fit and Pellegrini is playing his preferred two-man midfield, will his new signing be a starter?
The answer is probably no, but with City set to chase four trophies again, Fernando will get plenty of chances to impress.
What's more, with Yaya Toure currently making some strange noises and hinting at an exit, Fernando may well find himself moving up the pecking order.
What's clear, though, is that City are looking to add strength in depth to their side, which is exactly what they need to remain on course for both domestic and European success.