When Bruno Fernandes suggested he might have to adjust his game because of the appointment of Erik ten Hag as Manchester United manager, the Portuguese turned defensive.
“What do you mean by ‘tweak’?” he asks. “He wanted me to give assists anyway, so I had to give it a try. I don’t understand what kind of question keep the ball or something.
“I keep the ball when I think I have to keep it. I try to pass the ball when I think I have to. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it goes wrong.
“When it goes wrong, I know it shouldn’t happen, but sometimes when you’re playing as a No 10 you just have a few seconds to think, control the ball and make the pass.
“I understand that someone has their own opinion, but when I arrived in 2020, I lost the same amount of ball in those six months.
”The next year I lost the same amount of balls, but I scored 28 goals, so people don’t complain.
“Last season, because I only scored 10 points, people started complaining. I’m fine with that. I give my best. I always try to help my teammates. Obviously I will have to do what I can. Coach requested.”
The question is easy to understand. Fernandes has been known to be a looser of possession. As he points out, the desire to work for the team with the ambition to use the ball is celebrated when it comes to fruition. To be fair to the Portugal international, it worked a lot.
Since Fernandes made his Premier League debut in February 2020, only Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne has created more playing opportunities. The Belgian midfielder created 218 chances for Fernandes to have 214. No one else came close.
But it is also true that Fernandes serves the most. In fact, since that Premier League debut, only Trent Alexander-Arnold has lost the ball more times.
In the event that Alexander-Arnold and others top the list – his fellow Liverpool full-back Andy Robertson, Burnley’s Dwight McNeil and Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse – it makes sense that they have the responsibility. make crosses into the penalty area.
Perhaps that’s more conspicuous with Fernandes, whose decision-making shows him trying to make lots of passes and cute passes from central areas. Sometimes it can appear as if he is trying to make a spectacular pass that simply doesn’t come in.
But the stats also support the player’s argument that his approach to the game hasn’t changed since day one.
His passing accuracy in his first half-season at Manchester United, as his impact helped close the 14-point gap with Leicester City and put the club in Champions League places, was 75.7. %. It’s actually higher than last season’s 78.3%.
Indeed, the statistics show that Fernandes is losing the ball more often with each passing season. This has dropped from 22.9 times/90 minutes in his first season to 21.0 times in his second and 19.1 times in the most recent period.
Simply put, Fernandes does not lose more than before.
What has changed is the output. However, even here there is a caveat. His ability to create chances has not diminished markedly. He created 2.26 chances every 90 minutes in his first season. That number rose to 2.75 in the second season and still rises to 2.56 in the 2021/22 season.
One of the differences that highlights the perceived decline in creativity is the ability of teammates to seize opportunities. For example, he provided seven assists in his first season, but his expected number of assists has dropped to just 2.34.
Fortunately, his colleagues continuously put the ball into the net.
In the 2020/21 season, when Man United finished second, Fernandes had 12 assists. Once again, his teammates outperformed themselves thanks to the quality of the openings. His expected tectonic number is 9.67.
Last season, his total assists dropped to six but the projected number of assists for those chances was actually higher at 6.93. Still down from last season but nothing like the difference the bald support numbers suggest.
Maybe that’s why Fernandes sounds so defiant and upbeat that he doesn’t need to adjust his game. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Sports sky, he noted the greater movement of strikers so far in pre-season. That will benefit him.
It is still suspected that Ten Hag might want him to take more care of the ball. Donny van de Beek’s example feels appropriate. In his final season under Ten Hag at Ajax, his pass accuracy was 82.2% while playing as a No 10 in Amsterdam.
But the stats also show that Van de Beek creates fewer chances from that position than Fernandes continues to make for Manchester United. It’s risk and reward. Fernandes, there doesn’t seem to be any sign that he needs to adjust anything.