When thinking of Sandro this season, his swashbuckling defensive displays come instantly to mind as he sniffs out and shuts down opposition attacks.
The Brazilian has been nothing short of superb, as his 3.6 ground tackles and 3.3 interceptions per game highlight.
But Sandro has not just been content with patrolling the area in front of his back four; he also instigates counter attacks that result in chances and goals.
Spurs lead the Premier League in goals scored from counter attacks with three. They also head the table when it comes to shots from counter attacks with 16 and are second in possession won in their own defensive third.
Sandro is not just making tackles and intercepting the ball to mop up in front of defence, he is also getting forward and generating opportunities for others.
So far this season, he has made 10 chance-creating key passes, only Gareth Bale (20), Aaron Lennon (19) and Kyle Walker (11) have more for Spurs.
As the stats above show, Spurs are playing a quick transition game when they can this season. Sandro has been instigating a large number of these from deep, which don’t show up on the stats sheet.
His tackle on Robin van Persie started the attack from which Gareth Bale torched Rio Ferdinand to make it 2-0 at Old Trafford. His quick pass to a streaking Jan Vertonghen started the break for Jermain Defoe’s winner against QPR. He was first to Steven Caulker’s headed clearance of Brad Guzan’s kick, to start the counter for Aaron Lennon’s goal to make it 2-0 against Aston Villa.
Not just content with starting counter attacks from deep, Sandro has also has been getting up the field to create goal scoring opportunities which do show up on the stats sheet. His 10 chances created are only bettered by one defensive midfielder in the Premier League, Mark Noble of West Ham.
As his cross for Jermain Defoe to fire over in the first half against Aston Villa at the weekend highlighted. Sandro has been getting in to advanced positions as part of a fluid midfield three with Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey.
Sandro creates chances against Aston Villa
Sandro had a very typical defensive game by his standards against Aston Villa, making one of his two attempted tackles, but an awesome 7 interceptions.
He did have a very attacking day with the ball though as his Stats Zone chart shows.
In his own half, Sandro moved the ball square out to his full backs. When in the opposition side of the field, his passing becomes much more aggressive in nature, as he plays diagonal balls to move possession quickly wide.
He also attempts to put several passes in to the box from the right flank, including the aforementioned one to Defoe who fired over.
Sandro helps extinguish the Red Devils
Although we spent most of the second half without the ball, Sandro was responsible for starting the attack which lead to Clint Dempsey’s goal to make it 3-1. He also created another chance for Aaron Lennon to cut inside from the right flank and get a shot away that was saved by David de Gea.
His passing chart is much less attacking due to the fact that we only had 24% possession in this game. However, his two aggressive long passes in to the final third generated the chance for Lennon to the right and the start of Dempsey’s goal to the left.
Sandro creates against QPR
In another game of two halves prior to the Man Utd match, Sandro was also getting forward and creating chances for others.
He started the break out which lead to Jermain Defoe’s winning goal, by passing to a streaking Jan Vertonghen, but he was also looking to get Aaron Lennon in.
Sandro attempted one of his 6 crosses this season, which was unsuccessful, but he also managed to create chances for Lennon. The Brazilian played several diagonals out to the nippy winger out on the right in the final third, two of which set up opportunities for Lennon to score.
Sandro gets offensive at Reading
Sandro only created one chance against the Royals, but he got in to advanced areas often.
His intent to move the ball out to Aaron Lennon on the right flank once more is clear once he gets towards the final third. He is also looking to slide a pass through the middle to Jermain Defoe, which is where he generates a scoring chance.
Sandro has been getting great credit this season for wining the ball back and being a defensive force in front of the back four.
While his defensive displays have been applauded, what has gone slightly under the radar is his ability to start quick transition attacks once he has gained possession. This has helped us lead the Premier League in shots taken from counter attacks, as well as goals scored from them.
What has gone largely unnoticed is that he is also getting up the pitch and generating scoring chances for our more attacking players from his defensive position.
Ten chances created so far in seven Premier League matches, see him as the second highest defensive midfielder in manufacturing opportunities for his team.
While he is yet to register an assist this season, one is surely on the way to reward his efforts. Sandro is most definitely more than just a defensive machine.