Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City arguably have the best squad in the world. It may come as a surprise to many that they are, albeit smoothly, in a transition of sorts. As they approach the end of another successful season, they will be considering long-term replacements for the ever-so-important Fernandinho.
The Brazilian has been City’s backbone for 8 seasons now, making over 200 appearances for the club in the Premier League. And while Rodri has managed to accomplish parts of what prime Fernandinho could, he is more of a metronomic number 6 whereas the Brazilian’s defensive output is unparalleled.
This scout report provides a tactical analysis of 3 players that Man City should sign to develop into the Fernandinho role and fit into Guardiola’s tactics. Our analysis considers statistical similarities, market value, and the likelihood of the move happening.
1. Ismael Bennacer (AC Milan)
While his colleagues may receive more media attention, Bennacer has heavily improved AC Milan‘s solidity this season. The 23-year-old Algerian is especially adept at the ball on his feet and makes important tackles and interceptions at the right moment. Bennacer averages 2 tackles and 1 interception per game.
In addition, Bennacer engages is more offensive and defensive duels per 90 and has a respectable success rate for the same.
The above radar chart compares the defensive actions of both players. And though it may appear that Bennacer’s output matches that of Fernandinho, it is noteworthy that Man City are a team that likes to defend through Interceptions and winning key Aerial Duels.
The French midfielder’s ability in the air is one that he will need to improve in his theoretical transition to Manchester.
2. Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax)
This 19-year-old Dutch youngster is destined to play at the highest level. Ryan Gravenberch has had an excellent season at Ajax as a ball-playing, box-to-box midfielder. The dutchman averages an impressive 3 tackles and 3 interceptions per 90, and has a pass success percentage of 88.35%.
The above radar chart comparison indicates that both players are of a similar mould. The key metric where they differ is one that can be learnt on the job. Knowing when to make a longer pass in a Pep Guardiola team partly comes with experience and partly depends on subtle in-game tactics.
Defensively, while the above radar chart comparison may appear like the one above involving Bennacer, there are a few key differences. First, Gravenberch’s interceptions per 90 are closer to Fernandino. Moreover, he plays in a team that plays free-flowing football making a defensive transition easier.
Second, despite engaging in fewer aerial duels, Gravenberch has a higher aerial duel success rate. The Dutch youngster is 190cm tall and would be able to impose himself physically, much like Liverpool‘s Fabinho.
3. Denis Zakaria (Borrusia M’galbach)
Denis Zakaria is one of Gladbach’s most versatile midfielders, having played 5 different positions across defence, midfield and attack. The Swiss 24-year-old is well-balanced offensively and defensively. Zakaria averages a top-end pass success rate of 89.53% and has won 57.89% of defensive duels.
The Swiss player’s ability to be in the right position at the right time is the reason why he has recently been linked with Man City. In other words, his output should be measured in terms of accuracy instead of volume.
As introduced above, the above radar chart comparison shows that despite engaging in far fewer passes, Zakaria has a higher Fwd. pass accuracy, final 3rd pass accuracy and total pass accuracy than Fernandinho.
All in all, the players discussed above would value to an already world-class squad in the long-run.