Manchester City v Chelsea: Fernandinho finds his feet to give City added power in race for the Premier League title

Midfielder is loving life in Manchester, he tells Ian Herbert, where he’s desperate to win the battle of the Brazilians in tonight’s Chelsea match that may decide who are champions

Some of the acclimatisation stories about Manchester City’s Brazilians are purely apocryphal. A good one about the £160,000-a-week Robinho regularly hailing a bus to make a two-mile trip across town to the Trafford Shopping Centre proved to be untrue, demonstrating that all that glittered about the playmaker was not gold.

Fernandinho is a different matter, however. You only have to compare the quality of his English now with six months ago to know that this individual is cemented into Manchester and the impression extends to his enthusiastic response to the story that he has taken to listening to local radio to help the language along.

“Yes, BBC Manchester, you are right,” he says. “I listen to the Manchester news on local radio. It has helped me learn English. I have it on when I am driving to training in the morning. I like the radio because it makes you listen. When you are talking to me in a room like this, I look at your lips and try to learn – but when you are listening on the radio you can’t see but you can hear...” Carlos Tevez he ain’t. It is no calamity that there’s no translator to help him navigate through this discussion of his team and their match against Chelsea on Monday night.

The difficult part of interpreting what Fernandinho  has to say belongs to us, not him, because he speaks rather faintly, though that is not a metaphor for his football. As a 28-year-old who had spent five years playing in the inconspicuous surrounds of Ukraine and won a mere five Brazil caps, Fernandinho seemed an improbable individual to add a more imposing quality to a City midfield which the club’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, rapidly concluded was in need of it. Yet there were hints of what City had signed in the 4-1 Manchester derby victory last autumn and then his two-goal match-winning display in City’s magisterial 6-3 victory over Arsenal in December which signalled his full arrival.

Manchester City v Chelsea: Jose Mourinho talks down Chelsea title hopes  

That Arsenal game revealed him to be a more imposing presence than Gareth Barry with more muscular strength to marshal the midfield and then drive forward beyond it. The challenge is to balance the defensive and attacking roles. “I get some chances to score but I do my job. When I go to sleep I put my head on the pillow and have a clear conscience,” he says.

On Sunday Gary Neville described the City system to which Fernadinho is integral as “energetic, high-intensity football with a twist of subtlety akin to what Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund delivered last season.” Though 4-4-2 football is seen as outdated these days, Fernandinho and Yaya Touré in central midfield were allowing Manuel Pellegrini to use that system, Neville argued.

These are midfield players “with power in their body strength and legs driving forward. It’s the job Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javier Martinez did for Bayern last season and Ilkay Gündogan and Sven Bender did at times for Dortmund,” he said.

There is no false modesty about this from Fernadinho. He knows he is delivering for Pellegrini and he wants Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari to see it for himself. With the knee injury sustained by Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva likely to keep him out until April, there is a feeling that the City player will be in the squad for Brazil’s friendly against South Africa in Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium next month, with Scolari’s 23-man World Cup squad to be announced only 63 days later.

“A lot of my rivals [for a Brazil place] are playing in the [Chelsea] game,” Fernadinho says, with his great friend and former Shakhtar Donetsk team-mate Willian in mind, as well as Ramires. “There is also Lucas and [Tottenham’s] Paulinho but those [Chelsea players] are the main guys in the frame for Scolari. He needs to watch this game!”

Monday night’s match-up with Ramires has the potential to be especially revealing. The two possess the same build, stamina levels and potential to enforce the midfield and connect it through sudden, rapid bursts into offensive areas. They first came up against each other when Shakhtar and Chelsea clashed in last season’s Champions League. As an integral performer in the October 2012 game at the Donbass Arena, Fernandinho emerged with the spoils in that one-to-one battle, as well as a 2-1 win, which partially explains Chelsea’s interest in him last  summer.

“There was some contact between Chelsea and Shakhtar but nobody from Shakhtar told me about it,” he says. “I was a little bit surprised because they already have Ramires.”

He takes issue with the notion that City play football with a Brazilian style. “I don’t think so,” he says. “I think it is more Spanish the way we play here.” The most successful Brazilian sides are more typically English because when Brazil try to keep the ball like Spain, it seems they do not play so well, he argues.

“You think about past World Cups… in 2006 it was a fantastic Brazil team, but we did not do so well that year. Quarter-finals. In 2010 the same, it did not go far either. Only the quarter-finals. But in 1994 and 2002 Brazil did not play the best football but they won the World Cup. Even though they did not play the best football they found a way to win.

“Back in Brazil they talk about the great teams they had in ’82 and ’86 – fantastic teams to watch, great players. But they didn’t win. You think about those players – Zico, Falcao. You could say they were the best team.  But they didn’t win.”

Which could conceivably be the danger for City: that Jose Mourinho’s more attritional team take the title, rather than Pellegrini’s – who are indisputably the best, man for man. “We pray that it won’t be. I don’t think so,” Fernandinho says. He cites City’s 2-0 win at Newcastle United last month. “It was a real battle. We had to fight – but we showed we can do that as well.” We are about to learn if the confidence of Brazil’s new Mancunian is built on solid foundations.

Battling Brazilian: Fernandinho's tackles

Fernandinho has taken little time to adapt to the abrasive nature of the Premier League. The Brazilian averages 3.3 successful tackles per match – only four players have more this season.

Average tackles:

M Schneiderlin (Southampton) 3.9

E Pieters (Stoke) 3.7

J Ward (Crystal Palace) 3.5

M Debuchy (Newcastle) 3.4

M Jedinak (Crystal Palace) 3.3

Fernandinho (Man City) 3.3

(Minimum 20 Prem starts)

The midfielder has scored three goals in 30 games for City – two in the 6-3 win over Arsenal in December and the opening goal in last month’s 3-2 win at Swansea. He has also been booked six times.

 

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border