Every football fan worth his salt will be well aware of the significant development that Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles played a key role towards heralding in modern day football. While modern-day football fans were quick to criticise the Frenchman for even the smallest of things during the last few years of his tenure, the game owes much of its current sheen to the exhilarating gameplay which Wenger encouraged despite resistance from the traditionalists.
In the 2003-04 season, Arsenal gave the footballing world a true glimpse into a team which was built on the back of a solid foundation with the defenders more than capable of snuffing out any attack and attackers who could conjure moments of brilliance singlehandedly. The side went on to finish unbeaten in the league throughout the season, emerging as the first outfit to threaten Manchester United’s hegemony.
Opponents openly confessed to battling sleepless nights when faced with the prospect of facing off against Arsenal with some going to the extent of labelling them as a “nightmare” to play against. One couldn’t help but agree with the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Denis Bergkamp playing truant with their tireless gameplay and matchless vision.
What enabled them to do so was the presence of a world-class midfield dynamo who could pull the strings from midfield as and when required in the form of Patrick Vieira. The importance of an extremely intelligent and competent tackler like Vieira hailed for his ability to pass the ball around efficiently while contributing with surging forward runs can never be understated. The box-to-box midfielder captured the hearts of the fans with his aggressive and highly competitive gameplay during a 9-year stint in the English Premier League, lifting 3 FA Cups and 3 league titles during this stage.
Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic who is well known for his condescending attitude hailed Patrick Vieira as one of the few footballers he truly respected. “We both had that winners’ mindset… If anyone knew that, it was Patrick Vieira. He’s the type who gives one hundred percent in every situation, and I saw how he boosted the entire team. There aren’t many football players I have that kind of respect for.”
Since Vieira’s retirement, there has been a sheer paucity of players deemed capable of delivering the same performances he ensured on a consistent basis. While some struggled to handle the limelight and pressure, others could not maintain the same tempo to their games. However, one midfielder whose name has been discussed frequently in recent times amongst the footballing circles as being in the same mould as the former Arsenal legend is none other than City midfielder Fernandinho.
The Brazilian signed for English outfit Manchester City on 6 June 2013 for a fee of £34 million from Ukranian club Shakhtar Donetsk. While his performances under former manager Manuel Pellegrini were certainly quite impressive in nature, he has truly announced himself as a world-class midfielder under the charge of ex-Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola. Manchester City enjoyed a record domestic campaign last season, emerging as the league champions with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero enjoying the lion’s share of plaudits from the fans and experts.
While the feat would have certainly been impossible without the significant contributions by the trio, it was Fernandinho, the silent unsung hero who ensured wins with his vision, energy, passing range and versatility. The Brazilian’s gameplay certainly draws parallels to Vieira with his ability to guard the back line effectively while dispatching inch-perfect passes to the front. His tactical intelligence is certainly evident as well from the subtle blocking manoeuvres he utilises in order to delay counter-attacks with street smartness a key element in the Arsenal legend’s armoury as well. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was effusive in his praise for the star midfielder highlighting him as a footballer with the perfect attributes for success.
“If a team has three Fernandinhos, they would be champions. We have one, but he is fast, he is intelligent, he is strong in the air, he can play several positions. When he sees the space he will run there immediately. When you need to make a correction, you just need one player to challenge, and he is there.”
Fernandinho‘s performances will go a long way in determining Manchester City’s trophy tally in the 2018/19 season. While a certain section of fans may disagree, the Brazilian midfielder can certainly be hailed as being in the same mould as Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira.
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