In the space of one season, Tottenham Hotspur defensive midfielder Sandro went from being an exciting young player with great potential to the established first team starter alongside Luka Modric. His rise was rapid, ascending the White Hart Lane pecking order with disconcerting ease, but how did it happen?
At the beginning of the 2010/2011 season, Tom Huddlestone was Modric’s preferred partner. The fans love Huddlestone for his superb technique and his range of passing but he frustrates them with a lack of speed and urgency. He was however, established, and captained the side against Inter Milan in November. Shortly after this he suffered an ankle injury that was to rule him out for the next 3 months and open up the central midfield role to auditions.
Wilson Palacios was the logical replacement, at this point Sandro had barely featured for the first team, making his league debut against Fulham in October. Palacios did not convince Redknapp in Huddlestone’s absence and several displays of terrible passing could not be atoned for with his trademark aggression. Previously such a reliable, dynamic player for Spurs, Palacios suffered a loss of form last term and Sandro was the beneficiary.
Sandro’s biggest chance to establish himself came against A.C. Milan at the San Siro on the 15th February. He was partnered with Wilson Palacios as Redknapp attempted to nullify Milan’s attacking options by playing two, hard working, hard tackling defensive midfielders. The plan worked as Spurs came out with a memorable 1-0 victory and after the game Redknapp singled the Brazilian out for praise. ‘He is powerful, strong and aggressive with good feet and he can pass the ball.’ Encouraging words to hear from such a notoriously blunt manager. It was this performance that announced Sandro’s arrival to the Spurs faithful. From this point on he was handed the responsibility of breaking up play in front of the back four. In typical Brazilian fashion, he likes to wander forward and was harshly rebuked for doing so by Redknapp after scoring a 35 yard volley against Chelsea.
The Tottenham midfield is bloated and Sandro’s rapid ascension will not have aided the sleep of Jermaine Jenas and Wilson Palacios one bit. It does however offer the exciting prospect of watching Huddlestone and Sandro competing for that central role or just watching them playing together. Let’s hope he continues to improve.
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