Fresh from a starring role in the Superclásico, we analyze Boca Juniors’ midfield lynchpin using Wyscout data

Look across Europe and you can find Argentinians flourishing at a number of top clubs, none more so than Alexis Mac Allister, who may yet be a key figure in a Premier League winning campaign. It’s a well trodden path and one which shows no sign of easing and when the Liverpool star midfielder was asked one year ago who might be next, there was one only one name.

“There is a player I really like, and that is Equi Fernández. He’s a player who has all the conditions to reach Europe. He understands the game, he is always prepared to receive the ball, plays off both feet, can play as a ‘cinco’ (holding midfielder), as a box-to-box, a player with very good characteristics.”

A Boca Juniors academy product, this glowing endorsement came fresh off a breakthrough loan spell at Tigre in 2022. Not that Equi wasn’t valued at La Bombonera but rather his talent demanded minutes.

2023 proved more of a challenge and there is no getting away from the fact that it was one to forget for Boca. The increased competition meant the youngster beginning the year in and out of the starting eleven and, although eventually forcing his way into those plans, it was a collective failure for the Xeneize missing out on a place in the CONMEBOL Libertadores. 

Such a drop below the standards of the club forced change and for Equi meant a reunion with former Tigre manager Diego Martínez. Understandably this has been a process but Boca find themselves in the Copa de la Liga semifinals after dumping out fierce rivals River Plate.

With a romping Superclásico win, the chance of silverware under a new boss and Equi tied down to a new deal until 2028 complete with $20 million release clause, there are plenty of reasons for the Boca fanbase to be positive.

Fernández's Passes and Duels map vs River Plate - Wyscout Player Match Report

If Fernández wasn’t on the radar before, a display such as the one produced under the spotlight of the Superclásico might just be a watershed moment. After a shaky start which saw the midfielder caught too high up the pitch allowing River to bypass the press, break and score, Fernández put on a masterclass - flawless in possession (100% pass accuracy) and winning the most duels across both sides.

These numbers aren’t out of the ordinary. At the base of Diego Martínez’s midfield, as he was in 2022 at Tigre when the newly promoted club went all the way to the final of the Copa de la Liga, Fernández is the starting point. Dropping to receive the ball and always be available, Fernández dictates tempo and has no issue doing so under pressure.

Fernández's passing in key areas - Wyscout Player Report

Averaging 54.7 passes per 90, only three players in the competition average more (none under 23 years of age) and his accuracy of 92.07% is also among the league’s best. 

A high percentage of those might be sideways passes and relatively low risk but that isn’t an indication of any lack of technical ability. When required Fernández is able to break lines and filter the ball forward to Boca’s more offensive minded players. 16.7 forward passes and 8.69 passes to the final third again compare favourably across the league.

Fernández's Ball Progression - Wyscout Player Report

The role of a defensive midfielder may often see certain aspects overlooked but there is real quality on the ball. Fernández’s awareness combined with an excellent first touch, good balance and strong physique enables him to turn out of tight situations and initiate attacks. 8.14 progressive passes per 90 and 1.09 progressive runs hint at the positional versatility which Mac Allister referred to.

There is a sense that Fernández could push higher up the pitch with the right central midfield partner but at present as either a sole holding midfielder or as a double-pivot, it’s his defensive responsibilities which are paramount. 

Fernández's Recoveries - Wyscout Player Report

That awareness and physicality again help Fernández in this regard as he is quick to spot potential danger and aggressive to the challenge. At times a recklessness earlier in his game, which produced two red cards on loan at Tigre in 2022, but which has already matured and seen a reduction in yellow card offences. 

Equi’s 12.35 recoveries per 90 and 7.47 counterpressing recoveries spread across the pitch speak to his work rate and capabilities to become a top holding midfielder. 

Fernández's Defensive Duels in his own third - Wyscout Player Report

As his recoveries show, Fernández carries out defensive duties all over the pitch and tries to win possession back as soon as possible but is equally effective sitting just in front of the back four. 8.96 defensive duels per 90 with a competitive 65.15% win rate, puts the 21-year-old among the best U23 midfielders in Argentina’s top flight. 

Fernández is by no means the finished product and yet European clubs might want to look at the last Boca academy number five to leave the club. Alan Varela departed for Porto for a little over $12 million and less than one year on could be worth four times that amount. An argument could be made that Fernández is the more gifted technician and could prove a bargain for European club even after signing that new deal.

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