“I’m a risk player, I take risks. I want to take risks every time and I will take the risk every time,” said Bruno Fernandes, back in July.
Since then, the Portugal international’s reputation has only grown, as his influence has become only more intertwined with Manchester United’s results.
Indeed, of United’s 33 Premier League goals this season, the midfield maestro has scored or assisted 18 of them – more than half – while the Red Devils’ recent second-half comeback against West Ham after Fernandes had been subbed on at the interval was the perfect illustration of the chasm between how they fare with and without him.
But Fernandes isn’t simply a midfield playmaker to a world-class degree, perfecting the necessary techniques and then using them with routine precision like Toni Kroos or Kevin De Bruyne.
Rather, the 26-year-old’s self-proclaimed risk-taking style is what makes him such a formidable talent, and one only needs to watch him closely to notice that each ingenious pass is often sandwiched between two frankly disastrous ones that seem almost impossible to have been produced by a footballer of such clear pedigree.
Sometimes it’s ugly, sometimes it’s beautiful, and the statistics show just how truly unique that all-or-nothing approach is throughout European football.
Using data from Whoscored, we’ve looked the eleven players to have made at least 37 key passes in Europe’s top five leagues this season, prior to the weekend’s action. From those, Fernandes has the lowest passing accuracy of just 75.8%.
To give some comparison, the highest passing accuracy belongs to Chelsea’s Mason Mount at 86.6% – almost 11% superior to Fernandes’.
Of course, Mount and Fernandes play different midfield roles with the former lining up much deeper in the Blues’ midfield than the latter does for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
But what’s most interesting when we start to break things down into positions is how Fernandes’ only companions for passing accuracy below 80% are all forwards or strikers – Bayern’s Thomas Muller, Lyon’s Memphis Depay and Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas.
These players all tend to operate higher up the field in positions where risks need to be taken because they’re surrounded by defenders more often than not. Fernandes, on the other hand, has that option to turn back and drop into the engine room if there’s nothing on in front of him, but instead looks to try and force the issue.
If we were to compare him to De Bruyne, who plays in a similar position for Manchester City, his passing accuracy is almost 5% superior. While that may not seem like a particularly gargantuan margin, it does nonetheless highlight how both players approach the game very differently.
And while Fernandes’ style may be a little unorthodox, especially in an era where possession is often seen as everything for top clubs, it’s very tough to dispute the results.
During December alone, the Portuguese’s risk-taking saw him register three goals and four assists, making him responsible for the joint-most goal involvements of any Premier League player alongside Mohamed Salah.
That earned him a nomination for the GIVEMESPORT Fans’ Premier League Player of the Month award for December. You can vote for Fernandes in this month’s poll by clicking here.