BREAKING NEWS: “I love the way he played on the pitchhe is just 22 years and handles the ball like a Pro”–Mauricio Pochettino wants to start using 22-year-old Chelsea star in upcoming games.

He is better than Marc Cucurella.

As the power of Joelinton and trickery surprise of Lewis Miley carved and out-muscled Chelsea, battering them into indignent surrender at St James’ Park last week eyes rolled and swords were sharpened. Anchored by the all-round quality of Bruno Guimaraes but still missing last year’s matchwinner in this fixture, Joe Willock, and star summer shining Sandro Tonali, Newcastle did a job on Mauricio Pochettino’s men.

A competitive but struggle of a half for the Blues was the best it got as a suffocating pressing blanket saw them hardly get out of their own half following the break. For a team that cost much more to assemble than even Eddie Howe’s Saudi-backed starting XI – which was stronger than most imagined with the injury issues on hand – Chelsea didn’t look it.

At the centre of this was Enzo Fernandez. Not figuratively or particularly literally, he just sort of existed in the moment. The 22-year-old is approaching 12 months since he arrived in England as the most expensive player the league had ever seen at the time and many still aren’t sure what he is.

Most Chelsea fans might suggest he’s been one of the better performers over the disappointment of 2023. Given that he arrived into an entirely dysfunctional squad, a crumbling team and still played games under three managers before Pochettino came in is evidence of just how tricky things have been.

Regardless, Fernandez has been a bit of a gem. He is already up to 37 games having missed one due to illness this season but other than that featuring in every single match between January 31 and now. His senior top flight match tally has nearly doubled in that time, yet his transfer price still preceeds him.

“When Fernandez went to Chelsea, I thought it was madness,” Gary Neville said at the start of the season. For a player that commanded such a high fee, the base level numbers don’t paint a pretty image. His only goal since joining was in the Carabao Cup against League Two Wimbledon and even then got handed to him on a plate. His assist tally sits at just three for the same period.

Compared to the player that scored 12 and assisted ten for River Plate and curled in one of the best goals at the World Cup 12 months ago there has been little to light up the league. However, for Fernandez that is largely missing the point.

In the age of deep-lying midfielders he is seen as one of the best around and at 22 still has plenty of time to develop. Combining a remarkable passing range with possessional intelligence above his years and leadership beyond his age, there is plenty to work with.

“But when Declan Rice has gone for £100m, Bellingham has gone for £100m, the actual market has shifted unfortunately,” Neville concluded. Fernandez is a different type of player to them both and makes less darting runs with the ball, doesn’t crash the box or put himself about but does everything on the ball that a manager needs.

Go beneath the surface and his importance is clear. In the current Chelsea squad he ranks third for completed passes – behind only centre-back pair Thiago Silva and Axel Disasi – fourth for progressive distance (Rob Sanchez’s starting position skews this slightly) but most for through balls, switches and then stands head and shoulders above the rest for shot-creating actions.

He is in the top three for touches and has a solid enough tackles won outcome as well – though true tackles is less generous to him. When it comes to midfielders in the entire league he has the fifth most touches, eighth most shot-creating actions and fourth most open play passes.

The lack of output certainly works against the perception of him but in reality most of the good stuff Chelsea do comes through him. A graph produced by on Twitter demonstrates just how unique his skillset is as well.

When comparing through balls per90 and progressive passes per90 he is the top right corner, indicating the best blend of the two metrics. Nobody comes even close to his through ball figure whilst only Oliver Norwood and Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes beat him on progressive passes

For a player that is currently being discussed as underperforming this really does give a different message. Take Fernandez out of Chelsea and it dramatically changes the work that Moises Caicedo and Conor Gallagher have to do together as well as leaving more at the feet of Cole Palmer.

As for Palmer, he himself comes out very well from the graph too. He is the closest to Fernandez when it comes to balancing the skills and boasts the second most through balls per90, outdoing James Maddison. Although this doesn’t take into account the quality of the pass it does demonstrate just how effective the pair at moving the ball through the pitch.

This is certainly not something that could be said of Chelsea last year. Fernandez often looked like he needed another version of himself in front and behind him just to allow the ball to flow through the thirds. This term he has bodies around him to supplement his skills and also cover for his weaknesses.

Off the ball there are questions to be asked and one of Pochettino’s biggest tasks in the coming weeks is to find a way to best utilise his Swiss Army Knife of a player along with the rest of the team. Newcastle didn’t get the best out of him, but that game reflected very poorly on almost all of the squad in general.

What Fernandez does continues to go under the radar but for now he and Palmer and putting up some extremely promising numbers despite being five years younger than those close to them on the graph. Ultimately it’s a game played on the pitch, but Fernandez has already shown just how effective he can be.

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