Updated: Wednesday, 19th September 2018 @ 4:17pm

Stat Attack: MM looks at Fernandinho vs. Matic ahead of the Manchester Derby

Stat Attack: MM looks at Fernandinho vs. Matic ahead of the Manchester Derby

| By Dane Massey

When Manchester City host Manchester United tomorrow evening, eyes will be fixated on the wealth of attacking talent both sides have – but little attention will be on the roles of Fernandinho and Nemanja Matic.

Defensive midfielders are a key component of all great teams in the modern era, and for both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho a traditional midfield anchor has been important at each club they have managed.

It’s no different in Manchester, as Fernandinho (main picture, right) and Matic are both integral players in City and United’s systems and two of the finest number sixes in world football.

Guardiola has praised Fernandinho this season for his ability to play in ‘ten different positions,’ and his impressive form under his new boss has earnt a contract extension in January, keeping him at the Etihad Stadium until 2020.

Just as Fernandinho has been a key figure for the champions elects this season, Matic played a similar role for Chelsea in the Blues’ title wins of 2015 and 2017, and his qualities have been instrumental in the Red Devils’ improvement this term.

If United manage to pick up a point tomorrow, they will match their points tally for the whole of last season with six games to spare, while a win will see them rack up their best points tally since 2012/13. A City win, meanwhile, will see the Citizens win the league for the third time in seven years.

Here, MM assesses the role of the unsung heroes from both Manchester teams, comparing their key statistics of 2017/18.

Profile

  • Fernandinho Luiz Roza, age 32 (Manchester City and Brazil)
  • Nemanja Matic, age 29 (Manchester United and Serbia)

Goals & assists

It’s not normally something we would associate with defensive midfielders, but in the goals and assists department Fernandinho has more than weighed in for his team – the Brazilian has three goals and three assists for his team this season.

Matic is less impressive with just a single goal and assist to his name. It took until March for the Serb to net his first goal, but it was well worth the wait – a left-footed pile-driver against Crystal Palace flew into the top corner as he completed United’s amazing second half comeback at Selhurst Park.

Tackles and interceptions

The strong point of holding midfielders is breaking up the play. Fernandinho and Matic are masters at this – the pair are their sides chief tacklers.

Matic has made 61 tackles, and his 56 interceptions accompany this statistic well. This season, he has continued doing what he did for Chelsea so well for three-and-a-half seasons – winning the ball back for his side.

Fernandinho came out on top in the offensive department, but in the defensive side of the game his contribution has been less than Matic in terms of numbers. Still an outstanding contribution, Fernandinho has made 52 tackles and intercepted the ball 41 times.

When one takes into consideration that City have the ball much more frequently than United, Fernandinho is less liable than Matic to recover the ball which means that the defensive contribution of each player is equally as brilliant.

Passing

We must take into account that City average 71.5 percent possession this campaign, more than any other team in Europe. United, meanwhile, average just 54 percent of the ball.

Fernandinho has been a major beneficiary of City’s keep ball game. Just as Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso protected Barcelona and Bayern’s back fours to an exemplary standard for Guardiola in Spain and Germany, Fernandinho is doing the same in England.

Against Everton last weekend, Fernandino had a pass accuracy of 96 percent, completing 167 passes – a Premier League record this campaign. The Brazil international had 14.5 percent possession alone, while Everton as a team had just 18 percent!

Under Manuel Pellegrini, Fernandinho was solid, but under Guardiola his game has reached a new level due to his ability to keep the ball so well for his team. Fernandinho has made 2,519 passes this season, averaging 87 passes per game – completing on average 90.2 percent of his passes.

While Matic has made fewer passes, his pass completion still stands at 87 percent. The former Chelsea midfielder has completed 2,215 passes this season. Despite not being quite as impressive with the ball as his opposite number, Matic is still very comfortable and assured in possession and a reliable Mourinho player.

Aerial duels

It is unsurprising that Matic comes out on top in this one as the six foot four inch Serb is five inches taller than Fernandinho.

Matic has won 55 of his 80 aerial duels he has contested this season in the Premier League, meaning he has won 68.8 percent of his headers – using his height to his advantage.

Fernandinho has contested far more. Out of his 145 aerial duels, he has won 80 of them. He has won more aerial duels than United’s number, but he has won just 52.2 percent of his duels.

Conclusion

This season, Fernandinho and Matic have been the two best defensive midfielders in the Premier League for the teams who occupy the top two positions in the league standings.

On the ball, Fernandinho has been magnificent and his ball recovery has been equally as impressive. The Brazilian has also been a useful source of goals and assists for his side, directly contributing to six of the 88 goals his side have scored.

Meanwhile, Matic, in his first season at United, has filled the void Michael Carrick occupied at the club for over a decade to such a high standard. Carrick hasn’t had much game time this season, but he hasn’t been needed due to Matic’s excellent form in the United engine room.

As these statistics show, both Fernandinho and Matic play an integral role for their sides as they have been instrumental in protecting the two best defences in the league this term.

Tomorrow’s midfield battle will certainly be intriguing, and the holding midfielders of both Manchester teams will no doubt play their part in it.