After nearly a decade of effortless success, Fernandinho’s Manchester City career is finally drawing to a close.
His contract will expire at the end of the campaign and even if he concludes new terms, one more season is probably all City can ask for from the 35-year-old.
Despite his diminishing involvement, he remains an important member of Pep Guardiola’s squad. His absence from midfield last season was taken a hit and it was telling that he recently made his Manchester derby debut.
Replacing Fernandinho will not be an easy task. City have tried it once before, bringing Rodri more than £ 60million two summers ago, but with the Spaniard looking more and more like a different type of player he might be tempted to dive in again. the market.
Recent reports suggest that they are interested in Manuel Locatelli de Sassuolo. At just 23, he has already been selected several times for Italy – but is he really what the citizens are looking for? 90 mins analyzed all the relevant statistics to find out.
At his peak in the 2017/2018 season, Fernandinho was arguably the best defensive midfielder in the world.
Operating as City’s deepest midfielder in their famous 4-3-3, he balanced the roles of playmaker, destructive ball winner and anchor man to devastating effect.
If the city wants to return to their peak, discovering a player capable of doing all of this is necessary. Therefore, we are looking for a midfielder who can not only excel defensively but also has a significant playing capacity and position discipline.
Does Locatelli do the trick? We’ll take a look …
Following a rich tradition of deep Italian playmakers before him, Locatelli is a formidable passer of the ball.
Able to break lines with short and long passes, his playmaking ability has stood out particularly this season. During the 2019/2020 campaign, he averaged a progressive passing distance of 296.7 yards per 90 minutes, placing him 155th in the Serie A.
This term, its numbers have increased considerably. After 17 league games this season, he has averaged over 400 yards by 90, a number eerily close to what Fernandinho has posted during City’s Centurions campaign.
Locatelli makes changes of over 50 yards to Sassuolo’s wide men seem laughably easy and his ability to drill tough, low passes through an opponent’s midfield is also worth mentioning. Although he prefers to retire to deep positions, he is often involved in the final stages of the attack, racking up well over two strokes creating par 90 actions after 17 league appearances this season.
Of course, while Guardiola has somewhat Ditched his obsession with possession this season, playing in midfield for one of his teams won’t always consist of Hollywood assists. In order to move the opposition out of form, the Citizens’ deepest midfielder is often used as a rebound to recycle possession.
This is an area in which Locatelli could require some refinement. Last season, he managed 95.5% of his passes. An impressive statistic – until you realize Fernandinho averaged closer to 98% when he played in midfield during his recent career. It might seem like a marginal difference, but being sloppy in possession can have big ripple effects for a team like City.
Despite this small blemish on his record, Locatelli’s demise has come in leaps and bounds this season and a few years of Guardiola’s tutelage should be enough to level him up.
Few players are able to make the defense as sexy as Locatelli. His slippery tackles, in which he twists his legs at almost impossible angles, are a highlight, though his reading of the game is just as impressive.
After his first 16 Serie A games this season, he was leading the way for tackles + interceptions, registering 71 overall.
Even more impressive, especially for a central midfielder, is that he has tackled 50% of dribblers who recklessly choose to face him during this time. Locatelli was also in the top ten for blocks at the end of Week 17.
As with his progressive passing stats, his defense has improved dramatically this season, providing further proof of his exciting potential. If he approaches the same level of performance for the remainder of the campaign, Locatelli will not only match Fernadinho’s 2017/2018 numbers, he will easily surpass them.
The only area where there might be some question marks is his defensive discipline. Sometimes Locatelli plays like, well, a 23-year-old to prove himself, storming forward positions to try and inspire his team to victory.
The fact that he is much better than the majority of his teammates partly explains this, however, to fill Fernandinho’s shoes he will need to develop increased defensive discipline.
While it might not suit him well for an anchor man role, one of Locatelli’s other strengths is moving forward using his pace and strength.
Not only is he strong physically, but he also has a wide range of flicks and feints, as well as lightning-fast feet, which allows him to evade opposition midfielders up close. This box of tips makes him a real grip for the opposition and it’s no surprise that only three offside midfielders have carried the ball over more progressive yards than him after 17 Serie A games.
He has also shown an appetite for a catchy goal during his career so far, most notably when he pulled an unstoppable effort past Gianluigi Buffon at just 18 years old.
Both of these traits suggest that aside from being well prepared to step into the vacuum left by Fernandinho, Locatelli could also excel in a more advanced role at the Etihad stage. That makes him a snapshot for a reported £ 30million a no-brainer for Guardiola’s side.