Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Santos is reckless going forward but is learning from his mistakes

On New to The Arsenal we'll look at the signings Arsene Wenger made during the Summer transfer window and look at each individual player's performance and analyse their input into the season so far. Today Joss Bennett looks how Andre Santos has developed in the short time since joining the Gunners.

As with the majority of Arsenal’s deals this summer, the signing of Brazilian full-back André Santos was completed late on the window and kept under wraps pretty well. As a result, the time for Arsenal fans to waste precious “revision” time looking through various YouTube compilations was limited, and few people knew what to expect from the ex-Fenerbahce man.

The truth is that ‘left-back’ would have been a very loose term to describe Santos, whose 13 goals in just 17 appearances for Brazilian side Corinthians in the 2008/09 season suggest he has always preferred the other half of the pitch.

Saying this though, I have to point out at this early stage that I feel much of the criticism directed at Arsenal’s first senior (20+) left-back signing since Danny Karbassiyoon* arrived at the club in 2004 has been overly harsh.

Looking at his statistics for the season, we can see that André Santos is the highest average tackler and interceptor of all players to have made at least five appearances; making 4.4 tackles and 3.2 interceptions per game so far this season**.

But of course these statistics cannot account for what the Brazilian has received most criticism for; an apparent recklessness when going forward and refusal (or inability) to track back. Santos’ aggressive and attacking style may also be a reason for his high averages – naturally, if a player pushes up and looks to win the ball back in the opposition half he a) has more work to do and would have to make more tackles when tracking back and b) is bound to make more challenges to avoid exposing the whole left side of Arsenal’s defence.

But then even if this is true, credit must go where it’s due to Santos for putting in that effort – even if it’s too risky for many Gooners. But further statistical research shows that supporters needn’t worry so much; Arsenal have conceded only 15% of chances from their left (with 61% coming through the middle and the other 24% coming from the right side of the defence)**.

André Santos also appears to be learning from his mistakes and improving all the time – in the Chelsea game alone, we saw two completely different players. Santos was poor in the first half; making eight challenges and winning four but losing all three challenges he attempted on the edge of his own box and also pushing far too high up into the Chelsea half (attempting 42% of his passes there)***.

In the second half however, Santos was more reserved and improved dramatically. In addition to his goal, Santos attempted five tackles in the defensive third (winning three), three interceptions and one crucial block to deny Juan Mata a second equaliser***.

 by Guardian Chalkboards

Away from the defensive side of the game, Andre Santos has been an important player going forward – his two goals so far this season (against Olympiacos in the Champions League and Chelsea in the 5-3 victory) have both come at crucial points in the matches. Furthermore, as Arsene Wenger has already pointed out, it’s an important part of any attacking team that everyone is able to create and Santos has been no exception to the rule – creating the sixth most chances per game this season with an average 1.4 key passes**.

But as an attacking full-back, it’s not just important that he creates chances himself, but that he allows others to do so. The Brazilian and Gervinho have built up an excellent rapport and the two of them excelled in particular against Chelsea where, despite conceding three goals, Santos had his best game in an Arsenal shirt. While the left-back largely stuck to the touchline (where he made 87% of his passes from**), either dragging the defender (or winger) towards him or finding space himself, Gervinho was able to take advantage of the extra man; cutting inside to be more involved in the build-up and create chances himself.

 by Guardian Chalkboards

Santos will inevitably face tougher tests than a Chelsea side that defended even worse than Arsenal and various mid to lower-league table sides. But if he can build on his already solid performances and continue to work on his game there’s no reason why he can’t really assert himself in the Premier League and help get Arsenal back to winning ways.

Joss Bennett is co-editor and head writer of Arsenal blog Arsenal Report - a site for all Gooners interested in tactics, stats and the inner workings of the club. You can follow him on twitter and read his work at Arsenal Report.

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