Alex Sandro has enjoyed a largely successful campaign this season, starting in all of Juventus’ games so far. During which his match experience and skills have been greatly appreciated by his teammates and fans alike. Featuring in a transitional side with several new young faces such as Matthijs de Ligt and Merih Demiral, Sandro’s presence both on and off the pitch has never been more important.
Furthermore, with a new manager this season in Maurizio Sarri, Juventus could not have strayed further away from the tactics employed by Massimiliano Allegri during his five-year tenure at the club. That being said, with Sandro being one of the best-attacking full-backs in the world, he was able to perfectly fit into Juventus’ new mold under Sarri. Even so, with Juventus being unable to reach full throttle for large amounts of times in Serie A this season, Sarri has been forced to blame the below-par performances on his player’s inability to “understand the importance of moving the ball quickly”. Yet Sandro has still been able to shine through this criticism and set the example for his compatriots, even when under increasing pressure.
Sandro has played in every game this season under Sarri completing the full 90 minutes on 31 occasions in all competitions. Illuminating the importance of the Brazilian towards this Juventus team as we will reiterate later on in this scout report.
This season Sandro has been given free rein to run from box to box; getting fully engaged with the defensive and attacking responsibilities required for a full-back playing in a prestigious league such as Serie A. Over the season so far, Sandro has been able to make 225 passes into the final third as well as 103 progressive runs, demonstrating the attacking nature of the full-back at Juventus and how he is able to influence the game on a consistent basis. In the image above we can see the typical position of Sandro during an attack, in which he along with the other full-back (Danilo) are positioned slightly ahead of the two midfielders. This position means that either Miralem Pjanić or Aaron Ramsey will have a much easier pass to their full-backs as they won’t have to adjust their body positions too much when executing this. For example, if they were to pass to someone behind them, they would have to twist their whole body towards the direction of the payer. During this, the opponents would gain valuable time to press the ball carrier. Thus, by having both Sandro and Danilo positioned in front of the midfield the pass made is both safer and more efficient.
Sandro’s ability to cross the ball is one of his most notable attacking traits. The full-back is capable of beating a player with both his speed and close-quarter dribbling technique to get into these positions where dangerous crosses can be played in. This combined with his varying crossing positions and angles helps to make the Brazilian unpredictable and flexible with his matchday approach.
Sandro’s crossing quality is a trait that is evident in every game that he plays no matter the opposition. This is due to his excellent technical capabilities and tenacity to move forward with the ball at his feet. With 57 received passes in this particular fixture, the team’s dependency on him to support during the attack is very clear. The first image here was taken from a game earlier this season in which Sandro was able to display his excellent crossing ability despite his side’s eventual loss. In the example we see him maintain his position out wide where he can stay unnoticed by the Napoli defence, allowing him to receive the ball with no pressure. This ultimately means that when he receives the ball he will be able to beat his opponent on the outside due to the space available and as a result, he can now get closer to the edge of the box where a more simple cross can be played into a dangerous area.
Furthermore, in this scenario, there is no overlapping or underlapping player to help Sandro which makes his cross all the more impressive. For instance, if he was too lose the ball here, it is highly likely that Juventus would be exposed during the transition especially with one of their full-backs out of position. And with a side like Napoli with quick forwards such as Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens, this problem becomes all the more threatening. Here we can see Sandro show off his dynamic runs as highlighted earlier by beating players on the outside to create crossing opportunities. In this case, by staying near the byline it means that he is able to maintain his momentum when making the initial dribble down the line, so that when its time to make the cross the distance between him and the defenders is such that the cross can be put in without any challenges.
In terms of the execution of the cross and in this instance against Napoli Sandro played the ball in with too much height and not enough pace. Meaning during the time that the ball was in the air Napoli’s defenders were given time to regroup and head the ball clear. Yet if Sandro opted to play a ball in with more pace the probability of it reaching the late run of Cristiano Ronaldo would have increased significantly, as too would the chances of Napoli failing to provide an effective clearance thanks to the lack of time they would have to adjust their body positions. As we can now see, Sandro is again in plenty of space on the left where one of his crosses can be played in.
Unlike the game at Napoli this time Sandro is able to play the ball in with more pace combined with the necessary height needed to prevent the defenders from making an interception. More specifically in this example, Sandro makes the initial contact with the ball a little bit deeper when compared to his previous cross against Napoli. This is important because by executing the cross at a deeper position not only does it open up more crossing angles, it also allows Sandro to apply more curve on the ball due to the added distance towards his target. As a result, the trajectory of the cross is now more unpredictable for the opponents to read.
The specific technique used by Sandro when playing the ball in is both effective and simple, meaning whether you are a player or a coach his technique can be easily incorporated into your game’s and training sessions. When striking the ball with his left foot, he plants his right foot firmly into the ground to give himself stability as well as a strong anchor point, in which he will be able to carry his body weight plus the momentum created from his striking foot. This ensures that when the initial contact is made is body position and angle of his shooting boot can remain in place throughout the whole action. Also, this initial contact will be made on the outside of the ball so that curve can be applied, meaning any player attacking the ball will have an easier chance of meeting the cross and contrastingly any defending player will have a more challenging task of clearing the ball.
Because of Sandro’s high positioning in attack whenever the ball is lost the opposition are able to exploit the space in behind regularly as can be seen below. As a result of this, during transitions, Juventus become vulnerable to getting caught out on the counter or through long balls. Interestingly we can see that there is space in behind on both sides of the pitch, pointing towards the fact that Sandro may not be at fault here and it may simply be a tactical issue under Sarri’s system. Even so, with the ball past Sandro, he has to rely heavily on his pace to make a challenge on the attacker and get back into position.
Luckily for him, he is able to do just that, as he blocks the once available space from the attacker causing the phase of play to come to a halt. During which the players from Juventus can re-organise and get into a more compact shape where the majority of the dangers can now be averted. Later on, in the same game, the opponents play in behind Sandro again, however, this time he is unable to recover, gifting the opponents with a chance to cross the ball into the box. To prevent this from happening again, Sandro needs to either position himself a bit deeper or follow the runner. By following the runner, not only will he prevent the ball from being played in behind, but if he was to make an interception, he could take advantage of the transition and start Juventus on the attack. Additionally, with four recoveries in this particular fixture, the idea of following the runner becomes all the more compelling for Sandro due to his successes in this area.
Yet again Sandro is out of position, however this time the opponents are Inter.
As mention previously because Sandro has enough pace, he is able to comfortably get back into position without Inter’s attack progressing too far. And thanks to a misplaced pass on Inter’s behalf, Juventus can now gather the ball and diffuse the situation.
Despite, Sandro being slightly out of position in this phase of play, he is still able to make a positive influence for his team. For instance, by tracking back at the speed at which he did, he was able to put pressure on the ball carrier; Lautaro Martínez who then rushed his pass towards Ashley Young which ended up being inaccurate. Therefore without Sandro’s ability to quickly adjust and react to the situation, Inter’s attack could have progressed even further, where the danger towards Juventus’ goal would have been much more considerable.
To conclude this analysis, Sandro has certainly impressed during the 2019/20 season in various games across Serie A, however, there have still been some flashes of inconsistency especially with his positioning during defensive phases. Despite this, the Brazilian international has showcased his exceptional attacking talent more often than not, which has helped to overshadow some of his defensive limitations. Finally, with a lack of competition at left-back in Turin, Sarri may need to consider signing a player of similar ability to Sandro to keep the Brazilian motivated and make sure his side can remain fit throughout the whole stretch of the Serie A season.