Who should be starting, Sandro or Jake Livermore?

Who should be the holding player out of Sandro or Jake Livermore seems like a curious question to ask? In Andre Villas-Boas’ current 4-2-3-1 system, both players have been in from the start as the pairing at the base of our midfield.

It hasn’t really worked with the two of them in there so far, with both doing a similar job and lacking the creative impetus that is required from one of them. The arrival of Moussa Dembele should see him inserted in to the starting line-up, but alongside whom?

The question might seem as a bit of a foregone conclusion, with the majority of fans saying Sandro. However, Andre Villas-Boas has taken off the Brazilian in all three matches so far and given Jake Livermore the full 90 minutes.

So, is Sandro running out of gas in matches due to not having a proper pre-season and being at the Olympics? Or, is something else at work, which is why Jake Livermore is getting the majority of minutes?

It’s probably best to start at the beginning, so let’s take a look at both of their play in our three Premier League matches so far this season.

Sandro and Jake Livermore against Newcastle

What was evident in this game was the gap between Sandro and Jake Livermore at the base of midfield in our 4-2-3-1 formation and the three advanced midfielders. This was highlighted and talked about in my Newcastle 2 Spurs 1 match report.

The two also seemed to be getting in each other’s way, resulting in Sandro being forced out to the right side of the formation, whereas Jake Livermore stayed central.

We can see this on Stats Zone as Jake Livermore receives the ball in a smaller central area of the field. Whereas Sandro gets the ball more to the right of the formation and further up and down the pitch.


Jake Livermore dominating the centre forces Sandro wider against Newcastle.

The job of both players is to move the ball, usually sideways, to get it to one of the advanced midfielders or the full backs. We can see how both players do this with Sandro’s passing more limited due to the fact that he is forced more to the right by Livermore’s presence.


Jake Livermore and Sandro passes played against Newcastle.

Jake Livermore completes a slightly higher percentage of his passes and the majority of them are to move it to the right side of the field. It’s no surprise that Sandro was his top target, receiving 12 of his 51 total passes.

After Newcastle took the lead with a penalty after 81 minutes, Sandro was given the hook to be replaced by striker Harry Kane. An attacking substitution to go in search of a goal, but interesting that Andre Villas-Boas preferred to keep Jake Livermore on as the holding player to the Brazilian.

Sandro and Jake Livermore against West Brom

The match with West Brom saw the pair both start once again, but as at Newcastle, Sandro was taken off midway through the second half. This time we were again in search of a goal, but it was to break a 0-0 deadlock, rather than chasing a deficit.

In the game we can again see some similar things happening to the match with Newcastle. With both Sandro and Jake Livermore in the side, one becomes more dominant than the other and controls the centre, forcing the other player to move out wider.

That player once again was Sandro, as he again comes more to the right side of the formation, but he does get further up and down the pitch.

With Livermore staying central and holding, the Brazilian assumes a more attacking role. This would be more in keeping with to a player like Moussa Dembele who is comfrotable driving forward, but Sandro’s game is not suited to doing this.


Jake Livermore and Sandro passes received Spurs vs West Brom.

Jake Livermore receives the ball from wider areas of the pitch from Walker, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon and Bale playing the ball back in to him in central areas.

As for both players passes played, they again illustrate the role of the defensive player, whose job it is to move the ball sideways to a more attacking player.

Jake Livermore plays a slightly more aggressive passing game though, looking out to the right for Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon. He also looks to find Gareth Bale with some vertical passes down the inside channels.


Jake Livermore and Sandro passes played against West Brom.

Of the two players, Jake Livermore again completes a slightly higher percentage of his passes.

Sandro and Jake Livermore against Norwich

In our last Premier League match with Norwich, despite the signing of Moussa Dembele, both Sandro and Jake Livermore start once more.

Sandro was taken off at half time to introduce Dembele in to the game, but his first 45 minutes really show him covering the full length of the pitch. This is maybe as a result of him being told to, or once more assuming, the more attacking role of the two players in the double pivot. In contrast, Jake Livermore once again sticks to a smaller, more central area of the pitch to receive short sideways and backwards passes.


Jake livermore and Sandro passes received against Norwich.

This again has an effect on their passing maps. Jake Livermore acts as a central hub to move the ball around, being efficient when he passes it sideways, as is his role. When he tries more vertical, incisive passes this time though; only one pass finds its target.

Sandro moves the ball sideways and over short distances to it’s intended recipient, without playing any overly aggressive balls.


Jake Livermore and Sandro passes played against Norwich.

Haven’t we seen this before?

If the past is a teacher, then we just need to look back at last season to see that it didn’t work when Scott Parker was at the base of Harry Redknapp’s midfield with Sandro.

If we look at the 1-0 defeat to QPR at the backend of last season, we can see how Scott Parker assuming a more dominant central defensive midfielder role forces Sandro wide.


Scott Parker and Sandro passes received agaist QPR

On a slightly lesser scale, we can also see the same thing happening in the 0-0 draw with Sunderland. Scott Parker receives over twice as many passes as Sandro, with the Brazilian forced more to the right of the formation.


Cott Parker and Sandro passes recieved against Sunderland.

In the final match with Fulham, Sandro is the lone man in the holding role, with Luka Modric acting as the playmaker and distributor with him. Without another naturally defensive player like Parker playing alongside him, Sandro operates in more central areas this time from where he receives the ball.


Sandro passes received Spurs vs Fulham.

Sandro and Jake Livermore defensively

So far, I haven’t intended to, but Sandro may have come off in a bad light. He does look like he is a victim of circumstance though when he is put in to a side with another holding player.

Defensively he has performed much better than Jake Livermore, as we can see from looking at some top line defensive stats.

SandroJake Livermore
Mins on pitch205285
Pass accuracy87%88%
Tackles won10/12 (83%)6/16 (38%)
Mins per interception41 mins48 mins
Recovered balls1717
Shots blocked20
Aerial Duels2/9 (22%)1/6 (17%)

Sandro comes out much better in ground tackling than Jake Livermore where he wins 83% of his challenges, compared to Livermore’s 38%.

He also reads the game slightly better, as his interception every 41 minutes indicates. Also, he wins more aerial duels than the smaller Livermore.

Sandro or Jake Livermore?

The arrival of Moussa Dembele at Spurs should see him replace one of the two holding players.

Against Norwich he came on for Sandro, who has been substituted in each game so far, so could it be Jake Livermore who gets the start?

Sandro does have the better statistics defensively than Livermore though. He intercepts the ball more often, wins more challenges both in the air and on the ground and this is what you want from your holding player.

On the flip side, although Sandro is statistically the better player defensively, Jake Livermore has shown the better discipline so far. He’s operated in a smaller, more central and less advanced area of the pitch, whereas Sandro has been forced wider. This is not too dissimilar from when he played with Scott Parker last season in the middle of Harry Redknapp’s midfield.

Again, this could be that Sandro is a victim of circumstances as one of these two players at the base of midfield has to get forward more. With Luka Modric playing there it wasn’t a problem. Now with Moussa Dembele in the side it shouldn’t be a worry anymore, but who gets the nod as the more defensive player alongside him, Sandro or Jake Livermore?

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One Response to Who should be starting, Sandro or Jake Livermore?

  1. Alee 12th September 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    Sandro; no question about it. He needs to be given at least half a season of continuous first team action as our no. 1 DM. We need to see finally if he can really be this midfield monster everyone says he is, or whether he’ll fail to really adapt to EPL football after a stint of consistent football.