Manchester United’s failure to beat any of the so-called ‘big six’ sides in the Premier League this season could be partly down to Bruno Fernandes, according to The Athletic.
The Portuguese playmaker has transformed this United side since his arrival from Sporting Lisbon 13 months ago, but an analysis from Michael Cox and Mark Carey shows that he has been notably less productive against the top sides than against the rest of the league.
Fernandes’ stats for goals, expected goals, shots, assists, expected assists, chances created and touches in the opposition box are all lower against Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs than against other teams.
The reporters note that ‘of course, it’s only natural to create fewer chances against better opponents. But if we compare Fernandes to Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City’s equivalent, we can observe a much more consistent output, with less drop-off against the top clubs. If anything, De Bruyne’s numbers are slightly better in the bigger games.
‘Against City’s nominal rivals, De Bruyne records more shots, more goals, and a higher xG. On this basis, De Bruyne is a big-game player, Fernandes isn’t — at least, not yet.’
It’s an interesting analysis from The Athletic, but it could be argued that it is putting two and two together to make five. The fact it that if manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sets out his stall to play more defensively against these sides, Fernandes will simply get fewer chances to be creative.
Pep Guardiola at Manchester City has a more established side that can afford to play their normal game against better opposition, allowing De Bruyne to flourish.