Manchester City have taken English football by storm in 2017/18. Having lifted the League Cup in February, they will claim a third Premier League crown with victory over closest rivals United on Saturday, and face Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-finals in their quest for a treble.
And the Citizens have done it all playing a breathtaking brand of attacking football that produced similar levels of success when Guardiola was the head coach of Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
The Catalan demands that his players pass the ball out from defence – a philosophy that has helped City score more league goals than anyone else this season (88) and also concede the fewest (21).
While usually a midfield dynamo, Fernandinho’s ball-playing prowess has been put to use in the centre of City’s defence on several occasions under Guardiola, and the Brazilian believes the requirements of the role make it the hardest in football.
Speaking in the May 2018 issue of FourFourTwo, he says: “I think being a defender in a Guardiola team is one of the toughest things you can do. You’ve got to be able to see openings, have excellent passing ability and act fast, as there’s a massive space behind you for the other team to score on the break.
“It’s been cool watching our defenders participating in offensive plays, creating chances and starting off team attacks from our penalty area. But it’s important that we all remember our defensive duties. It’s tough being a defender under Pep, so our defenders deserve to be congratulated this season.”
The 32-year-old former Shakhtar Donetsk man is also quick to dispel suggestions that perfectionist Pep overloads his players with complicated instructions, insisting that the manager merely wants to see the game played simply and at full speed.
“A lot of people think that, because of the way his teams played at Barcelona, Bayern and now City, he must ask some extraordinary things of his players – but he doesn’t,” he says. “Pep just wants the game to be played as simply as possible.
“Our game is based on two touches, and all you need to understand is that he doesn’t want his players to run 15 or 20 metres – he wants us to move three or four metres.
“Then we can open up space and find some passing lines to receive the ball, play a quick one-two and speed up the game. In Brazil, and other European countries, players touch the ball many times before making their pass, but at City we try to touch it as little as possible so the ball moves fast.”
Read the full interview with Fernandinho in the May 2018 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. A World Cup icons special, we hail the heroes and headline moments from all 20 tournaments since 1930, and hear from Ronaldo about how he turned his France 98 heartbreak into Golden Boot glory four years later. Plus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan says he wants to write his name in Arsenal history, Arjen Robben answers your questions, 1860 Munich fans reveal why they’re loving life back at their old ground in the German fourth tier, and we run down the top 50 players in the Football League. Order a copy, then subscribe!
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Gregg Davies is the Chief Sub Editor of FourFourTwo magazine, joining the team in January 2008 and spending seven years working on the website. He supports non-league behemoths Hereford and commentates on Bulls matches for Radio Hereford FC. His passions include chocolate hobnobs and attempting to shoehorn Ronnie Radford into any office conversation.