With Spurs looking to replace the departing Modric with a deep lying playmaker (Regista), it seems likely, with the way the team has been playing in pre-season, that AVB’s new charges will be lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation come the start of the new season. A key area in this formation is the double pivot which is usually made up of one destroyer and one creator, for example at Real Madrid where AVB’s former boss Mourinho uses Khedira and Xabi Alonso as his midfield base. While questions remain as to who will be responsible for the creative role in the double pivot, Spurs currently have two options that are suited to playing as a destroyer. This article will attempt to answer who between Sandro or Parker should be the first choice when both are fit and available. Unfortunately neither will be appearing in the famous lilywhite shirt on the opening day of season as Sandro is recuperating from his Olympic exploits and Parker is also recovering from an injury.
The following is a definition of the role of defensive midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation taken from about.com
“It is imperative that the two players have positional sense in order to protect the back four properly. One of these two is generally more of a tackler, with the other concentrating on distribution. In that title-winning Valencia team, David Albelda and Ruben Baraja formed an excellent partnership. Albelda did much of the tackling, while Baraja was more offensive. The pair complimented eachother superbly. Having two players in front of the back four provides a platform on which the team’s more attacking players can create chances.”
The role of the destroyer in this formation will be very precise, his job will be to snuff out opponents attacks and cover the forays forward from the attacking fullbacks, which is a want in trade of AVB’s methodology alongside a high defensive block and intense pressing.
The manager noted that one key lesson he learnt at Chelsea was that, unlike in Portugal, in the Premier League you need at least one specialised defensive midfielder. Last season during Spurs’ electric rise into the title race, Harry Redknapp preferred to use Scott Parker ahead of Sandro, though Sandro did miss a large proportion of this time through injury. The experienced England midfielder finished the season with an average of 3.7 tackles per game, a key signal of the commitment and fullbloodedness of a player who is a throwback to a bygone era. He quickly established himself as a popular figure and the midfielder offers leadership and a good reading of the game with his average of 3.1 interceptions being a club high last season. The fact that he has over 1 more interception per game than his Brazilian counterpart suggests that he has a better footballing brain than the former Internacional player. Where Sandro trumps the former West Ham captain is that he is less likely to commit a foul, he is a cleaner tackler of the ball and all Spurs fans can relate to the feeling of Parker being a red card waiting to happen. His drive and determination are a positive attribute but he is always on edge stiffening every sinew to make tackles or blocks and his 1.6 fouls per game is worryingly high. With set pieces being an ever more important aspect in the game, giving away needless fouls can be a dangerous habit and could result in many needlessly dropped points.
The other advantage Sandro has defensively is that he gets dribbled past only 0.3 times per game compared to Parkers 1.3. Parker, whose face is always contorted into an expression that shows he is on the edge, can be a liability due to his lack of pace, something which the younger and more athletic Sandro does not suffer from despite accusations from the commentary team in the Olympic Mens Football Final. Sandro’s power and strength set him apart from the more diminutive Parker with the midfield likely to also consist of the likes of Lennon and VDV, this is another useful asset. Both have the necessary skill set and appetites to lead the charge in the manager’s high intensity pressing game. One of the iconic images of last season was Parker steaming out of the midfield zone to harry his opponent in the Bolton game, which resulted in a passage of play that ended up with Bolton being reduced to 10 men. At the current time Parker’s experience lends him to read the game better but with age on Sandro’s side, and his form improving dramatically at the end of last season. This included a performance against Blackburn where he seemed like drone on a search and destroy mission, stopping every attack dead in its tracks completing a monumental 11 tackles. With this in mind the Olympic silver medallist appears to be the better option based on his defensive contribution.
|Passes Per Game||Pass Completion %||Key Passes||Through Balls||Long Passes|
In the passing statistics the one time England Captain has an advantage in all departments except through balls and his distribution is currently far ahead of the Brazilian, despite what national stereotypes might lead you to believe. He completed 59.3 passes per game on average last year which was the third highest at the club and far higher than the 34.8 of Sandro. In percentile terms Sandro completed 0.58 passes to every one of Parkers. Sandro’s passing range is also far less developed than his team mate with less key passes and strikingly far less long passes. Based on their passing attributes Parker is currently far and away the more rounded player, and this shortfall in passes completed would lead to a worrying drop off if Sandro did pip Parker to being used as AVB’s preferred option.
Theoretically this could be made up largely by new centre back Jan Vertonghen who completed a mind blowing average of 85.2 passes in the Champions League last season.
Of course there is the option of playing both of them together though, as Zonal Marking pointed out last season, after the 1-0 defeat away at Everton “It’s not clear which of Parker and Sandro is meant to be sitting deeper, and which playing higher up. They’re entitled to take it in turns, of course, but that relies on a good understanding which is plainly not there – not yet, at least.” Even without a new signing to replace the want away Modric, the option of a returning Huddlestone should see one demoted to the bench. Based on his age, and his form at the end of last season, I would pick Sandro as my first choice in the role, this is despite Parker impressing with not just his play but his leadership and grit last season. He would still be an excellent option to come in when injuries and suspension start racking up. Sandro will need to continue his progress of last season and though his passing may not be as good, as long he plays the ball simply to his more talented team mates, this should not be a major issue. He is more of a goal threat than the Englishman and his power adds a fresh dimension to the Spurs team described by compatriot and club mate Gomes as the “new Dunga” this could be the season the beastly midfielder makes the rest of the League wake up and take notice of what a prodigious talent he really is. Whilst picking Sandro over Parker may be controversial in some quarters, all Spurs fans should be thankful that the club has 2 options for one role with the ability and talent that the two players examined in this article have.