What to Expect from Manchester City New Boy Fernando in Premier League

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IAugust 5, 2014

Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho (10), left, challenges Manchester City midfielder Fernando (6) in the first half of a Guinness International Champions Cup soccer tournament match, Wednesday, July 30, 2014, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Manchester City finished the 2013-14 Premier League season as champions but never truly convinced in the role until the action came to a close in May. Deserving they were, but there was plentiful room for improvement for a side with grand ambitions of conquering the football world in seasons ahead.

Thus, manager Manuel Pellegrini has looked to further advance his squad already this summer with the knowledge that several of his rivals will not surrender quite so meekly this time around. Chelsea are a vastly improved outfit, Liverpool have greater depth, Arsenal are aiming high, and Manchester United and Tottenham can only improve.

Pellegrini has moved quickly in the market to secure midfielders Bruno Zuculini and Fernando, goalkeeper Willy Caballero, and, more than likely, defender Eliaquim Mangala, if the Daily Mail's Simon Jones is to be believed.

Given the Financial Fair Play restrictions imposed upon the club this summer, they have moved efficiently to add depth to their already powerful squad. Of the recruits, Mangala and Fernando look set to add real quality to the starting lineup in areas where City were most in need of reinforcement.

In particular, Fernando will offer Pellegrini variation in his approach for the season ahead. While namesake Fernandinho filled in well as the deepest midfielder last campaign, it was prohibitive to his natural inclination to push forward and support the attack. He played the role well, but it appeared a considerable waste of resources at times.

The other consequence of a Fernandinho and Yaya Toure midfield combination was that City were often more open defensively than their manager would have liked, particularly in big games. While Javi Garcia could have been brought in to strengthen the midfield and Martin Demichelis at times was, neither solution proved ideal.

In Fernando, though, City now have a defensive midfielder of considerable quality and experience at their disposal.

Nicknamed "The Octopus" for his ability to get a foot in everywhere, Fernando is a destroyer. He will keep running throughout the 90 minutes, protecting his back four by breaking up opposition attacks as and when they develop.

Likely to be used at the base of a midfield three that will allow Fernandinho and Yaya Toure more attacking freedom, his unerring ability to spot developing attacks and hassle opponents will be a great asset to City as a defensive unit.

However, Fernando has become more than simply a defensive asset, learning to distribute the ball effectively from the back and help spring his side forward in attack.

Writing for ESPNFC.com, Portuguese football expert Andy Brassell wrote of the Brazilian:

Manuel Pellegrini...knows he can get more out of his key midfielders, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, by providing some protection behind them. 

Javi Garcia's improved form was useful in the closing part of last season and backed this point of view, but Fernando is simply on a different level to the former Benfica midfielder.

His development under Villas-Boas made him so, and his ability to bring the ball out will be crucial in maintaining City's attacking rhythm.

It is that development into a well-rounded midfielder that has brought Fernando to the attention of sides at the very top of the European game. Learning to help control the tempo of his side's play was key to him becoming an elite defensive midfielder, and he has consistently proved himself for Porto.

Indeed, City would be hard-pushed to find another 26-year-old with anywhere near the Brazilian's wealth of Champions League experience (over 30 games) from outside of their likely rivals for that title next season. In total, he has made nearly 60 appearances in UEFA competition.

Having moved to Europe at 19, he is a now very different player from the unknown who left his homeland at that time, and City fans can rest assured that his relative anonymity in Brazil is not due to lack of talent.

The South Americans have been notoriously slow at picking up on the development of those who depart for foreign shores early in recent years, with Luiz Gustavo and Hulk among those whose international bows came well after they perhaps should have. Rafael Firmino, meanwhile, would look to be in a similar position.

With that in mind, following the failure of his attempt to represent Portugal at this summer's World Cup, Fernando will not lack ambition.

As his teammate Fernandinho has shown, City offer an excellent platform to push for international recognition, and with a new manager in place, there is no reason he cannot do so ahead of next summer's Copa America.

There will be considerable challenges ahead in adapting to a new country, team and system, but there are few players better equipped to do so than the Porto man.

Pellegrini attempted to bring in Fernando in January before settling for a summer move in a clear indication of his faith in the Brazilian's abilities. The transfer may have been delayed, but City now have their man.

For the English champions, it has been a summer of incremental improvements to their already loaded squad. With the purchase of Fernando, they may just be taking a major step forward toward their dream of a European challenge.


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