I feared for us when we lost Florian Lejeune to a cruciate knee ligament injury in pre-season, but his absence has been – Federico Fernandez.
The Argentinian has barely put a foot wrong since making his debut in August’s unfortunate home defeat to Chelsea and is already forming a formidable partnership with Jamaal Lascelles.
He was key to our clean sheet and hard earned point at Palace on Saturday and was our stand out player in recent defeats to Arsenal and Man City.
With Fabian Schar likely to take time to settle into English football and doubts existing around Ciaran Clark at this level, it’s a real good job we signed him – however the reality is that we very nearly didn’t.
Rafa clearly wanted another centre-back after Mbemba’s sale and Lejeune’s long-term injury, but you always got the feeling Ashley was reluctant to give him one – especially when the man Rafa wanted was nearing his 30’s.
In the end, we got him in the final few moments of deadline day and thank goodness we did. I don’t think we’d have got a point on Saturday if we didn’t have Fernandez.
Lejeune’s loss threatened to be a huge one, but Fernandez has filled the void expertly. He looks a fierce competitor, he reads the game well and he leads by example, whilst also showing that composure on the ball that Lejeune gave us.
With Rondon and Muto yet to hit their stride, Kenedy struggling, Ki and Schar on the fringes, it’s fair to say Fernandez is competing with Dubravka for our signing of the summer so far.