Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho has the personality and experience to solve their injury crisis in defence, manager Pep Guardiola has said.
The Brazilian was deployed as a makeshift central defender in yesterday morning’s (Singapore time) 3-0 Champions League Group C win at Shakhtar Donetsk, with John Stones out for five weeks due to a muscle injury and Aymeric Laporte recovering from knee surgery.
Partnering City’s only other fit senior centre back Nicolas Otamendi, the 34-year-old Fernandinho looked comfortable in the role with the additional responsibility of captaincy in his first start of the season.
Said Guardiola: “I didn’t have doubts that he would (look comfortable in the back four). That’s why he’s so important for us.
“We don’t have many choices… he’s the only one I have. Other players can play in that position but Fernandinho is a clever player, so intelligent – an incredible guy.
“He has a lot of experience and personality and what he says the people follow him in the locker room, so it’s important.”
A tough tackler with natural passing ability, Fernandinho is the ideal player to slot into defence in Guardiola’s system and has emerged as a potential replacement for former club captain Vincent Kompany, who departed at the end of last season.
“I’ve been training in this position since the start of the season,” said Fernandinho, who made two interceptions and had a passing accuracy of 90 per cent against Shakhtar.
“Today was my opportunity, I hope I can improve. It was a quiet night at the back but the team have made a very good game… because we played as a team.”
However, ex-City and England defender Danny Mills said on Sky Sports: “It’s not ideal. It’s not about ability, it’s just about positional sense at times.
“Occasionally you just get caught out because your automatic instincts are to be further forward.”– REUTERS