This player report is part of the Scouting in South America series. After completing the search for talented players in Ecuador, I will continue the search for talented players in South America in Paraguay. There are multiple players in Paraguay that have showcased their talent in recent years and in the end, I chose four of them. The first part will be about Guarani player Roberto Fernandez.
Let’s start off by discussing Guarani’s tactics in possession. Guarani usually maintains a possession-based style against the weaker sides, as the opponent forces them to build up patiently and try to find gaps in the opposition’s defence. One of Guarani’s central midfielders, José Florentin or Rodrigo Fernandez, drop deep between the two central defenders. This means that they are playing with three central defenders in possession, with Roberto Fernandez playing as the left central defender.
In the matches against sides like Cerro Porteño, Club Libertad and Club Olimpia, Guarani have a more defensive approach in the match. This is when they play with a more direct approach and don’t build up often with three central defenders. However, when they get time on the ball they still try to go for this approach.
Together with his partner in defence Marcós Caceres, Roberto Fernandez has an important role in the build-up for Guarani. They have played the most passes for Guarani in the league this season and spend time on the ball the most. Roberto Fernandez often gets time and space on the ball to play a powerful pass towards one of the two strikers, especially in a situation with three central defenders.
It happens sometimes that Roberto Fernandez does not get a lot of time on the ball. He does not panic when this happens and is capable of dribbling past his opponent. Fernandez, with his 1.88m, has long legs which restrict him from turning quickly. However, for his build, he is quite agile and very mobile. Fernandez also does well to put his body between the ball and opponent when he gets closed down by his opponent. He manages to turn the right way almost every time.
Even though he is good at getting past his opponent and playing powerful passes over the ground to one of the strikers, he prefers to play long passes. This was also understood by right-back Rodi Ferreira, who makes a lot of runs in behind. Roberto Fernandez plays multiple long passes every match and is quite good at it. His good kicking technique and vision help him to pick out the right pass. Fernandez his passing range is really good, he can play accurate long passes over 20m, but also over 80m.
However, occasionally Fernandez is too quick with playing the long pass. He sometimes rushes the long pass which leads to an inaccurate pass.
Defensively, Roberto Fernandez prefers to defend far from his own goal. On his own half, he still makes a few (trainable) errors which lead to chances for the opponent at times. Only Sportivo Luqueño and River Plate have more expected goals against in the Paraguayan league, which is simply not good enough for one of the best clubs in Paraguay.
First of all, Fernandez sometimes fails to scan before making a decision. Opponents making a blindside run often find success as Roberto Fernandez does not scan enough around his own box. Moreover, it sometimes happens that Fernandez fails to cut the passing lane towards the opponent’s player who makes a run in behind. His small errors in his defensive positioning near his box can lead to chances for the opponent at times.
In the image down below, you can see that Roberto Fernandez isn’t in the ideal position after moving too far to the (from his point of view) left. He gets wrong-footed by the Cerro Porteño attacker (on the ball) and needs to turn to the opposite side first. Fernandez is out of position, does not spot the run of the Cerro Porteño player and fails to cut the passing line because of that. This action did not result in a goal for Cerro Porteño, but this mistake can not be made in a more demanding league.
Roberto Fernandez had more moments in which he stepped out of the defensive line without scanning. Because he does not scan that much, he fails to cut the passing line too after making the wrong decision and he is sometimes completely out of position. It helps Fernandez that he has a good pace over a long distance and that he is relatively quick on the first meters, considering his build.
The Paraguayan defender showed good determination and perseverance as he always tried to get back into duels. He even had a heroic moment against Club Olimpia after saving the ball of the line after an Olimpia player managed to get past Gasper Servio. In the decisive match for the title, however, it seemed that his determination to win let him down as he got sent off after talking to the referee in what I assume was a disrespectful manner after goalkeeper Servio also got sent off. Mainly because of this whole situation Guarani miraculously lost the title in the last minutes of the game.
When dealing with crosses, Roberto Fernandez sometimes seemed to lose sight of his opponent. It happened quite a few times that an opponent could sneak away from Fernandez’s blindside. This also lead to a few chances for the opponent, but it must be said that these situations could have been defended better by Guarani. Fernandez’s back was insufficiently covered by either Rodi Ferreira (right-back) or Marcos Caceres (right central defender).
During the times that Fernandez’s opponent made a run in front of Fernandez, the Paraguayan defender managed to come out on top nearly every time. The 21-year-old managed to hold off his opponent well and used his long legs to clear the ball. His defensive headers were also very good. In the aerial duels, it showed that Roberto Fernandez is tall and that he can jump quite high. He timed the duels well and seemed to win most of his aerial duels.
Roberto Fernandez, as mentioned before, prefers to defend far from his own goal. This is where small mistakes can be recovered and where he looks more confident. Fernandez likes to step up on the opposition’s half and wins most of these duels. He is positively aggressive and times his interception really well. Fernandez often positions himself well when defending far from his own half. Intercepting passes far from his own half allows Guarani to keep the pressure on the opponent, which often helped Guarani to create more chances and eventually score goals.
When he knows that he can’t win a duel and that he made a small mistake, Roberto Fernandez is good at making small fouls that don’t get him a yellow card. However, making a lot of these smaller fouls still lead to yellow cards for Fernandez. In 33 matches this season he received 9 yellow cards.
The young defender often gets dragged wide when defending far from his own goal. Even when he comes up against quick wingers he can keep up with them to eventually tackle them or make a foul. When there is a 50/50 duel on the wing, Roberto Fernandez does not take any risks and he often kicks the ball over the touchline. In the 1v1 duels with a winger, he is obviously not the most agile but it rarely happens that Roberto Fernandez gets dribbled past. He keeps looking at the ball and does not react that much when an opponent tries to do quick feints.
The central defender scores high for defensive duels won in % and interceptions, which are because of the above-mentioned reasons. The only duels he struggles in are the ones closer to goal when the striker puts his body between the ball and Fernandez. He should always stay behind the ball in these situations and definitely not step up, like he did in the image down below.
Concluding, I think there are a lot of improvements to be made still, but Roberto Fernandez possesses some characteristics that a good central defender has. He is good with the ball at his feet, has a good passing range, is strong, is tall, is quite quick and is mobile. For this reason, I think that a good manager could make a very good defender out of Roberto Fernandez.
However, for now, Fernandez needs to work on his scanning near his own box and cutting passing lines after spotting the run, defensive positioning in the box when dealing with crosses, decision-making in his long passes and the defensive duels where he allows opponents to put their body between the ball and Fernandez.
I think he should be able to step up to a possession-based team in the MLS who play a high defensive line. I am confident that he can work on his weaknesses in the MLS and that he can eventually step up to a good team outside the top 5 leagues.