Fernando: Break up the opposition’s attacks

Manchester City’s midfield spoiler shares his secrets on doing the dirty work with a sprinkle of Brazilian flair

Get the balance right
“A defensive midfielder must be in the right position all the time. Where’s that? It can depend on the situation but, crucially, you have to be able to read the game. Your main duties are without the ball – how you stop the opposition. When your team is attacking, be ready to support your team-mates, but you must also be aware of a possible counter-attack so you can be there to break it up. The balance of the team depends on you.”

Don’t let yourself be sucked out of position

Suss out your opponent
“It’s important to do your job before the game. You’ve got to know the playing style of your main opponent – it should influence the way you play. Do they like long or short passes? Do they move the ball quickly, or are they an astute passer? With a playmaker who likes to play short incisive passes, get close, so you can stop him playing one-twos. Stand side-on against tricky players so you can quickly turn in either direction.”

More after the break

Come up with a plan of attack

Listen to the manager
“I’m thankful to Jesualdo Ferreira, my coach at Porto, who helped develop my tactical knowledge of the game. I’ve been blessed with natural talent, but that’s not enough – you have to be willing to work hard, listen and improve all areas of your game. Football is a game you play with your brain and you must have the nous to use space better than your rival. It’s obvious, but many youngsters think they just need talent. Silly mistake.”

Get the most out of your talent

Fight speed with power
“Marking a fast player is a nightmare. If you can’t keep up with them, then you’d better make sure you turn it into a physical battle. The key to stopping them is anticipating the pass and closing them down before they touch the ball. In a one-vs-one situation, it’s tricky: if you get too tight then they will turn past you, but if you give them too much space then they will sprint past you. You have to use your body and your brain.”

Rough up a sprint king

Make the right choices
“Once you’ve broken up play and you’re in possession, try to move the ball away from danger – but don’t put a team-mate in trouble by passing to them when they’re marked. Clear the ball and alleviate the pressure. Some managers ask you to begin an attack when you get the ball; others want you to pass it quickly to the creative players. You must be confident that you’re going to either pick the right pass or carry the ball forward.” 

Clear your lines with a precise pass

Learn to love your work
“I was a playmaker at Vila Nova before I went to Porto and became a defensive midfielder. I thought: ‘This is not what I want’. I used to score goals, and suddenly 
I was there to break up play. As a defensive midfielder you think you’re doing a thankless job – but then you realise how important it is. Now I can see the beauty 
of it. You might score a couple of goals, but giving the right balance to your team will make you even happier.”

See the beauty in destruction

Fernando wears the new Lava/Fireball New Balance Visaro boots. To find out more, visit newbalance.com/football or follow @NBFootball

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