Welcome to the latest in a new series here at B/R, where we pick up a single player's performance from the weekend and analyse its effectiveness.
This week, step forward Fernandinho; a Brazilian defensive midfielder signed by Manchester City this summer for a whopping £30 million.
The "Right" Signing?
People questioned the signing of Fernandinho because of two understandable facts: First, that's quite the sum of money for a man who is playing in Ukraine; and second, is he really the disciplined outlet Manuel Pellegrini needs?
Balance in midfield was a clear requirement, as Yaya Toure's surges forward were too often leaving the team open to counterattacks. Fernandinho was to be the man who brought that balance, but anyone who'd seen him play at Shakhtar Donetsk knew he simply loves an energetic burst forward.
Can he be trusted to hold the fort?
The short answer, after an inconsistent first few months, appears to be yes. His performance against Newcastle United on the opening weekend was excellent, but the one put in against Tottenham Hotspur this weekend was the cream of his season so far.
He's been studious enough to identify where to be on the pitch at all times, and that's not an easy feat given the free-flowing approach Pellegrini has adopted. He is the one constant in an ever-changing system, and he's performing his role remarkably well.
It's arguable that Spurs made it a little easy for City—and Fernandinho—at times given their lack of movement and slowness in moving the ball between the lines.
It gave the home side more time to set themselves in a medium-low "block," and this helps the defensive midfielders more than anyone else.
With that said, Fernandinho was still excellent, displaying great instincts (a criticism sometimes levied at converted ballplayers such as Mikel Arteta) and great opportunism to break things up.
With two speedy wingers on each side of the pitch, the Brazilian was dragged from sideline to sideline to deal with them, and on each trip, he was usually successful in nullifying attacks.
Take this sequence below:
He takes up a good position in the heart of midfield, dropping off when Toure steams forward to press the man in possession. It's important to note every Spurs player on the screen is covered man-for-man and that Fernandinho recognises this and feels no urge to make a drastic move.
Spurs attacked down the right numerous times during this match, and this is just one of many early occasions where they tried to move the ball through Kyle Walker. At this point in the marking scheme, Gael Clichy has Walker, Matija Nastasic has Roberto Soldado and Toure has Paulinho.
What of Fernandinho? This phase illustrates how hard it can be to get things right as a defensive midfielder, as he needs to mark zonally to both cut off the supply to Lewis Holtby and close the gap between himself and the ballplayer.
Get it right and you receive little adulation, get it wrong and you've allowed Holtby in on goal with acres to steady himself for a shot. It's a tough life.
Fernandinho gets this one right, as he holds his ground perfectly and waits for Spurs to move the ball inside. He immediately pounces, makes a clean but firm tackle and sparks a counterattack.
A mention for Samir Nasri is due, as he worked hard to try and get goalside of the No. 10 all game.
The above example illustrates how well Fernandinho played when under pressure to make a quick decision at a crucial time, but it's important to note that he was brilliant in his positioning and decision-making for the entire 90 minutes.
Here, he identifies (within a second) that Pablo Zabaleta will track the runner. He has a man in Paulinho to his left dropping in, and Nasri will be left to take on a roaming Erik Lamela.
That's a nightmare situation for City, as despite Nasri's hard work, he's no match for his Argentine opponent. Fernandinho identifies the space in which Lamela wants to attack, breaks into it before the Spurs man makes his move and initiates pressure 40 yards from goal.
Lamela's quick feet get the better of him initially, but he set his line of engagement so high that he's got room for a little error. The Argentine is forced to dump it off to Paulinho on the right, and he subsequently crashes a woeful strike high and wide.
Sometimes, it's the little things that can make a defensive midfielder great. Sometimes, they have an eye-opening game. Fernandinho is putting together an excellent season in the heart of City's midfield, and at the moment, he looks worth the gargantuan fee they paid.