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The truth about Bruno Fernandes
He has supposedly reinvigorated Manchester United. But is there more than meets the eye?
Bruno Fernandes is obviously a good player. It’s clear he has great technique and can produce something spectacular from virtually nothing. He’s already been voted the BBC’s greatest Premier League January signing and is the odds-on favourite to win the PFA Player of the Year. But whisper it quietly...is everybody getting a bit carried away?
Something of a late bloomer, Fernandes only burst onto the European scene a couple of years ago. He was one of several Sporting players who rescinded their contract in the wake of an attack on their training ground by fans in 2018. A host of players including William Carvalho, Rui Patricio and Gelson Martins all secured free moves to other clubs but with few suitors, Bruno agreed a fresh deal to stay at Sporting.
The Portuguese exploded that season and only 18 months after testing the market to no avail, he finally secured a dream move to a major European club, Manchester United.
With 25 goal contributions, he has firmly placed himself as the betting favourite to win the PFA Player of the Year award over Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan and Ruben Dias. He’s already been hailed as the best player in the Premier League and one of the best in the world. But is there more than meets the eye when it comes to Bruno Fernandes? Let’s dig a little deeper..
Bruno Fernandes: Player Analysis
*all stats quoted are from performances in the league in the last 365 days and all percentiles quotes are in comparison to other positional peers in Europe’s top 5 leagues (via FBref).
Bruno Fernandes is a very high risk/reward player. His pass completion rate stands at a measly 71.9% and consequently he ranks amongst the bottom percentiles for passes that are either: blocked (1%), intercepted (1%) or out of bounds (7%). That tells us that his passing is often predictable and uninspiring.
The Portuguese is also in the highest 5% of long-distance shooters across Europe meaning he enjoys taking a pot shot or two. Fortunately for him though, his 0.68 goals per 90 mins is amongst the best when compared to players in his position across Europe’s top 5 leagues.
Whilst that number looks unreal on the surface, it is worth noting that when you consider non-penalty goals, that number drastically falls to 0.36 per 90 - although, that is still relatively healthy. But is it sustainable? His 0.27 non-penalty xG (expected goals) per 90 suggests it is not.
All those statistics and metrics lead me to believe that his goals will eventually dry up as Manchester United have been extremely lucky with the amount of penalties they have been awarded while Fernandes’ shots have been flying in fortuitously too.
Fernandes’ biggest concern however is that he doesn’t seem to have much in his locker besides popping up in spaces to take high-risk passes/shots. His own technical game leaves a lot to be desired and doesn’t read like that of your typical attacking midfielder. The Portuguese completes a lowly 0.75 dribbles per 90 - the bottom 5 percentile - and carries the ball into the box just 0.43 times per 90; a stat which puts him amongst the worst 13% of his positional peers across Europe.
He might be good at pressing defences and wins a relatively high number of tackles in the middle and final third of the pitch but he gets dribbled past a lot - 1.93 per 90 (in the bottom 5 percentile, once again) - and only succeeds in tackling dribblers who took him on just 20% of the time.
Stats aside though, United might be the perfect foil for him. Fernandes enjoys the privilege of having a free role with limited defensive responsibilities in a system that funnels its attacks directly through him. I’m just not sure he’d work in a slower-tempo side like City’s or Chelsea’s where intricate passing and ball security is paramount. The fact that he’s always been on the periphery for Portugal is proof of this.
There’s a lot to say about Bruno Fernandes but for me, the questions about how good he really is are still abound.