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Fernando - Manchester City's Unsung Hero

Analysis of the Brazilian’s underrated impact.

Manchester City v Arsenal  - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Manchester City have finally picked up some form as they have beaten Watford and Arsenal at the Etihad last week. The Sky Blues defense has been shaky as of late, so it is rather surprising that they only found themselves picking the ball out of their own net once at the hands of Gunners forward Theo Walcott. Although the back line was still unconvincing, a slight glimmer of improvement can be seen.

City supporters have been calling for Pep Guardiola to switch to a back four rather than having an extra man further forward and he has taken this route. Against the Hornets, Pep fielded Gaël Clichy, Aleksandar Kolarov, Nicolas Otamendi, and Pablo Zabaleta. This defensive line was able to thwart Watford’s attacking effort, but a substantial factor in City’s clean sheet that night was the performance of unsung hero Fernando.

This may be the only silver lining of Ilkay Gundogan’s long-term injury. Coming on for the German in the 42nd minute, Fernando gave defensive cover, cancelling out the efforts from the likes of the dangerous Isaac Success. If it were not for the Brazilian, his side surely would have conceded. This could have changed the outcome of the entire match, hurting City’s title challenge.

The supporters were given a sense of “here we go again” after watching their side concede early to Arsenal. The entire first half was awfully tense as the away side looked like scoring on every breakaway opportunity they received. It was shocking that City only conceded once. The back line defended as if they were afraid of the Arsenal attackers, backing off and not cutting out danger. And that's where Fernando was absolutely crucial, cutting out the Arsenal’s efforts from the midfield which took the pressure off of Otamendi and Kolarov.

Pep Guardiola stated that he trained his men to win the second ball, and this was the biggest reason why his side won. City went from four tackles and interceptions in the first half to 15 tackles and 9 interceptions in the second half. Fernando, alongside midfield partner Yaya Touré, put fantastic pressure on the ball, surrounding and cornering Arsenal players. This gave the London side no opportunities to hit the net again. They were forced to make major mistakes which cost them three points.

Fernando could prove to be one of Manchester City’s most important players during this period of defensive struggles. His performances will win him more playing time under Guardiola and in turn, fans will be treated to more clean sheets.