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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Over 70% forward passes, just the player Spurs need

While researching I came across a surprising statistic which questions whether we have let the right player in Sandro go.

He was deemed surplus to requirements because in theory Mauricio Pochettino wants us to move the ball forward quicker and presumably Sandro wasfelt to be weak in that area. I though it would be worth taking a look at a few statistics to see how our defensive midfield players shaped up last season passing forwards, the results may surprise a little.

First I took a look at pass success rates which are available through several stats based sites. Mousa Dembele has often been praised for having a highly successful pass success rate and he did again last season. He and Nabil Bentaleb were the two midfielders with defensive duties who recorded a success rate in excess of 85%. Dembele recorded over 90% but all five were healthy as you would expect.

Pass Success 2013/14 Season
Mousa Dembele 90.71%
Nabil Bentaleb 87.63%
Sandro 84.42%
Paulinho 84.37%
Etienne Capoue 83.70%

Naturally an important point is getting the ball from defence to attack quickly is passing forwards, so how did our five do last season? The result is somewhat surprising. Sandro is thought to be a player who wins the ball and plays a short pass to the playmaker to do his thing, win the ball pass, Modric when he was here. However he passed the forward significantly more than any of his four competitors.

Forward Passes 2013/14 Season
Sandro 70.13%
Etienne Capoue 64.48%
Paulinho 60.33%
Nabil Bentaleb 58.72%
Mousa Dembele 56.88%

Now those statistics don't tell us how fast the ball was passed forward of course but the central defensive midfielder who passed the ball forward more than any other has left and we have a problem passing the ball forward quickly. Does that seem logical?

It does rather add weight to the theory that Sandro didn't want to remain at Spurs and had significantly more than he was giving since his injury. I doubt, as some have suggested, he has been sold because he is Brazilian and Pochettino is an Argentinian.

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That will mean the backward passing statistics are surprisingly headed by Mousa Dembele, the man with the highest pass success rate, hardly surprising now we see the reason. It demonstrates that pass completion figures mean little if you don't know the purpose of the pass, offensive or defensive, although retaining the ball is not to be sniffed at. The forty eight passes and two and a half minutes goal against QPR testifies to that.

Backward Passes 2013/14 Season
Mousa Dembele 42.59%
Nabil Bentaleb 40.69%
Paulinho 38.88%
Etienne Capoue 34.97%
Sandro 29.44%

The difference between Sandro passing backwards and Dembele is significant, they play in slightly different roles granted but I don't think the difference should be that marked.

I just wonder if we have let the wrong player go?



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