The evolution of football has seen a lot of changes tactically and in players roles on how they operate under new circumstances. One of the significant changes have been of a modern-day full-back where they are assigned with a lot of attacking output and need to bring a creative flair in the team.
The contrasting change came holding the hands of Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, since then the Premier League has become home to a lot of such great attacking full-backs over time namely, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ricardo Pereira and others.
One such player has been Manchester City full-back Joao Cancelo signed from Juventus in 2019. The player has been an extremely important part in the Man City squad since then and is a regular starter for them.
The Cityzens currently sit in third position in the league with 14 points and boast the best defence with just three goals conceded. Cancelo has been a vital part of this impenetrable City defence but we will look at his attacking game here.
We look at his stats down below.
Predominantly signed as a right-back from Juventus, Cancelo failed to make his way into the team on the right side of defence replacing Kyle Walker. But with their ongoing left-back crisis, Pep Guardiola slotted him on the left side of the back four and since then the 27-year-old has cemented his place in the team and has announced himself as one of the best left-backs in the league. He has spent the majority of his time on the left flank mostly hugging the touchline. The red and orange areas in the above viz that his average position has been on either side of the centre line in midfield while he has covered ground from one penalty area to other. At times he has even drifted towards the middle and right of the pitch. With a very high work rate, the Portuguese has been really dynamic throughout the pitch.
Manchester City love to dominate possession in their matches and Cancelo is very comfortable with the ball in his feet. He is a sensible passer of the ball averaging 101 touches per 90 playing 75 passes. With an accuracy of 85%, he has completed a total of 526 passes, one of the most among the ranks. From the above image, we can see that most of his passes have been played near the left flank but his attacking mindset is very clear from the number of forward progressive passes played in comparison with lateral and back passes. Cancelo has played a lot of through balls into the penalty area accumulating one assist from passes with xT as high as 0.3700.
Being a very intelligent and creative player on the ball, Cancelo has an extremely good vision and passing range to deliver threatening balls to find other City players. He ranks 100th percentile among the defenders in the league in smart passes and through passes per 90. His precision has been real solid with the rank of 99th percentile in accurate attacking third passes per 90. The Portuguese is a good runner off the ball as well ranking 91st percentile in progressive runs per 90 while also having a higher rank of 94th percentile in forward passes played per 90. Overall, the above stats quite easily prove that he has been one of the most creative full-backs in the league.
Despite failing to score yet in the Premier League he has found himself in good goal scoring positions both inside and outside the box. With 17% shot accuracy, he has failed to make the most of it but his positioning has been better than a lot of defenders. The 27-year-old has got himself on the score sheet for Manchester City in the Champions League though.
Cancelo has engaged himself in 83 duels in the league winning 53% of them. Most of his duel locations have been on the left flank in the defensive third. He also won a lot of duels higher up the pitch helping City to start quick attacks in transition. Even after not being a very tall defender, he has 52% of his aerial duels which is quite impressive.
Being a left-back, his primary job is to stop opposition wingers and Cancelo has done his job perfectly so far. He has intercepted the balls mostly near the touchline on the left flank. Quite a clean tackler, the 27-year-old has won 69% of his tackles attempted without committing any fouls. He also has nine clearances while giving away only six fouls in seven matches.
Cancelo has proved himself as one of the best full-backs in the league even while playing out of his preferred position. He dropped a nearly flawless man of the match performance against Chelsea a few weeks back and showed why he is considered as one of the best currently.