The long-running problem of who plays at left back has been a recurring theme this season. Over the past few days, we’ve been linked with a number of replacements, but two have caught the eye, Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Pereira.
Yesterday I looked at who should get the nod for the remainder of this season, either Benoit Assou-Ekotto or Kyle Naughton? Today, I’m going to run the rule over Coentrao and Pereira as possible candidates for the role and if either one of them should be a favourite.
Fabio Coentrao vs Alvaro Pereira defensively
Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Pereira play for two teams with contrasting styles and fortunes this season in two very different leagues, so comparing them statistically is difficult. If we do take a look at some numbers, what we can see a bit more about each player’s style.
|Mins on pitch
|Aerial duel success
Fabio Coentrao is a more of a tackling full back than one who intercepts the ball. This is due in part to the way in which Real Madrid play – they like to press and engage opponents – but also due to his personal style. At last year’s Euro 2012, Portugal as a team averaged more interceptions than they did tackles per match. However, Coentrao still averaged more ground tackles than he did interceptions in the tournament.
For a player that likes to win the ball with a challenge, he fouls very infrequently and rarely gets booked, having been cautioned just twice in his 14 La Liga appearances this term.
Alvaro Pereira on the other hand plays for a slightly less aggressive Inter side that sees less of the ball in their Serie A matches than Real Madrid do in La Liga.
The Uruguayan is a lot more balanced in his defensive work, with greater stability between his tackling and interceptions. This is due to the more reactive counter attacking football that Inter play, but also due to his personal style of getting in to passing lanes, as well as being involved in ground challenges. He doesn’t really have a preference for one over the other and is comfortable making a challenge as he is playing to steal a pass.
As a result he does foul, but has only picked up 5 yellow cards in 23 appearances for Inter in Serie A.
Fabio Coentrao vs Alvaro Pereira going forward
Again it’s difficult to compare each player’s statistics here. Fabio Coentrao often plays behind Cristiano Ronaldo, whereas Alvaro Pereira is one of Inter’s main attacking outlets that can play full back or wingback.
Fabio Coentrao is not really required to cross, just deliver the ball forward to Ronaldo or Angel Di Maria to go to work. Pereira on the other hand is relied upon to be an attacking option that delivers both crosses and through passes as he overlaps.
This really shows up in their attacking stats. Coentrao is more of an accurate passer due to him delivering the ball to Ronaldo. Pereira puts in a vastly greater number of crosses, completes them at a higher rate and creates more chances.
|MIns on pitch
|Avg passes per game
If we take a look at some recent matches on Stats Zone we can see more.
The attacking play of Fabio Coentrao
Fabio Coentrao has been in and out of the line-up this season, but in his last two matches home and away we can see how he gets forward, but doesn’t deliver through passes or crosses.
At home to Mallorca, he gets a lot of the ball, as you would expect at the Santiago Bernabeu against a lesser opposition. He takes a large number of passes that are played out square to him in the zone across halfway to midway inside the Mallorca half. He then receives several vertically played aggressive passes in to the final third behind the opposition full back.
When in possession, the ball often goes inside through short passes, but only occasionally does he cross or play a vertical ball in behind, but all are incomplete.
His job is to get the ball to Ronaldo and his fellow Portuguese team mate is his top target for passes. As is Ronaldo’s style, he receives the ball to him in front of the Mallorca defence so he can dribble. Thus Coentrao’s passes to him are short and not in to the zone behind the opposition full back.
Away at Granada we can see a similar pattern, as Fabio Coentrao again receives a number of directly squared passes played out to him wide on the left. He once more takes a the majority of them midway in the opposition’s half, with a couple played vertically in to deeper areas in behind the full back.
Once in possession, a lot of his passing is either backwards or square inside, but all are short. Anything put in behind or crossed fails to find its target.
Ronaldo moved around in this game and Di Maria played for a large part in front of him. Coentrao only really found the Argentinean with short passes in to less aggressive areas.
The attacking play of Alvaro Pereira
Alvaro Pereira has been playing as a wingback in Inter’s last few games in Serie A. His last outing at left back at home was against Bologna, where he saw plenty of the ball.
One thing that is instantly noticeable is how quickly Inter move the ball out to him by the length of passing lines. Periera is much more of an attacking weapon for the Nerazzurri than Coentrao is at Madrid. The passes are also slightly more diagonally forward out to him, indicating more of an attacking intent.
The bulk of the passes he receives, like Coentrao, are midway inside the opposition half, with a few played even more vertically in to the final third. Pereira is a good dribbler with the ball at his feet, so he can create from further out, as well as receive passes higher up to also whip a ball in to the box. We can see that from the number of crosses and through passes he attempts. Several come from an area just off the corner of the 18-yard box, but he also delivers some from further up.
His job is not just to get forward and cross. He is also tasked with playing balls in behind the opposition to team mates on the run and we can see how he does this for Rodrigo Palacio.
Away from the San Siro, we can also see how he does this on the road when Inter travelled to Catania.
The quick passes from the centre delivered on an attacking diagonal out to Pereira are in evidence once again. He receives a large number midway through the opponents half allowing him to dribble, whilst a couple are in behind the Catania full back.
Once in possession, we can see how he delivers the ball from both high and low areas out on the flank, as he crosses and plays through balls.
Again, he finds Rodrigo Palacio with passes played vertically up the pitch as the Argentinean gets in behind and also on the end of a cross.
Who should we sign: Fabio Coentrao or Alvaro Pereira?
We looked yesterday at what Andre Villas-Boas requires from his left back whether it be Benoit Assou-Ekotto or Kyle Naughton this season.
Without the ball, they have to be able to press and engage the opposition, being more of a tackler than interceptor of the ball.
Fabio Coentrao would fit this mould with his preference for a ground challenge, but Alvaro Pereira is almost as frequent in his successful tackles whilst also being an active interceptor. Given the difference between Real Madrid and Inter’s leagues, styles of play and the varying degrees that they dominate their matches, we can’t really read too much in to these stats other than to recognise each player’s style. Both players would seem a good fit here though.
When in possession, Andre Villas-Boas likes his full back to get forward. From here they can deliver passes played in-behind to their wider forwards on the run or to overlap themselves and cross.
Alvaro Pereira would seem to be the more likely candidate here, given his more attacking nature with Inter. Fabio Coentrao has the job of moving the ball forward, but isn’t as active in playing passes to get his team mates in behind or crossing the ball like Pereira. This would most definitely make the Uruguayan the choice here.
Fabio Coentrao is 25 and with his contract expiring in 2017, comes with a hefty £16 million price tag. Alvaro Pereira is slightly older at 27 and has a lower £11 million valuation due to his deal expiring a year earlier. The Uruguayan has also worked with Andre Villas-Boas before when the two were at Porto together, so also knows his style.
Given a choice of the two, Alvaro Periera would seem like the better option over Fabio Coentrao, both financially and for his suitability within our system.