Table 3 below looks at how the players compare in the tackling stakes.
Santos is behind Evra and Assou-Ekotto but still better than Gibbs and Clichy. Once again, he makes tackles with much more regularity than any of the others. He has also made a successful last man tackle more than once.
As Santos is seen to be quite adventurous going forward, Table 4 compares possession stats to see whether he gives the ball away more.
Andre’s pass completion rate is better than any of the others. Crossing does not seem to be his forte though, with a low number of crossed balls and average crossing accuracy. This is visibly borne out by his constant desire to cut inside when running down the flank.
With the statistics above, we have established that in comparison to the other top-four left-backs, Andre Santos is more involved in defensive play, he wins a higher percentage of duels than most of his peers, is pretty decent at winning tackles and retains the ball much better. The numbers seem to not only dispel the theory that the Brazilian can’t defend, they actually suggests he’s quite good at it.
There is one other table that may give us some idea why he’s accumulated this negative reputation.
Santos has made a couple of defensive errors and seems to lose possession with more regularity than at least three of his peers. This last statistic is probably the one alluded to by fans who claim Andre loses the ball and then does not break his neck to get back.
There are three other factors I believe must be considered to put things in perspective. The first is the low number of games he’s started because a longer set of matches makes for a more consistent appraisal. The second is the quality of attacks faced by the Brazilian; only 3 of his 8 starts have been against top-half opposition with only 1 of those against a top-four side. It means the left-back has yet to be tested by a majority of the Premier League’s best wingers. Lastly, it’s his first season in England and oppositions haven’t worked out his weak spots yet.
If he can play consistently next season, a comparison of his performance in a year’s time will give us a better idea of just how good or otherwise he is.
In my opinion, I think he’s very solid when behind the ball. His anticipates well and knows just when to put a foot in. He keeps the ball with confidence but does invite occasional pressure by not passing it quickly enough. His problems begin when he allows players to get in behind him. His lack of pace means he’s reliant on a team-mate to bail him out. He is also prone to bundling people over when he can’t get to the ball, as seen in the City match last weekend when he fouled Balotelli as the Italian went past him.
More than anything else, I believe it’s his mannerisms that shape the viewers opinion about him. The lazy manner in which he jogs around, the heavy breathing from around the 5th minute, the getting-the-ball-while-falling-on-my-ass moves, the throwing of hands in the air at the edge of the opposition defense instead of tracking back when the ball is lost – these contribute to a persona that he’s a defensive liability.
At this point in time however, the statistics clearly indicate that Andre Santos is defensively one of the league’s best left-backs.
After all this analysis, there may yet be one very simple fact to explain his cool, nonchalant, laid-back manner – the nationality on his passport.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) See Demo’s and videos about the Stats Centre & read about new additions to the stats centre.