Last season, there was an apparent hint that Alex Sandro could no longer serve Juventus as their first-choice left-back. As a consequence, reports emerged with names of various top-rated left-backs from around the globe getting linked with a move to the Piedmontese club.
Alex Sandro was moderately inconsistent with his performances in the 2020/21 season and played a significant part in Juve’s topsy-turvy form in Serie A as well as in the Champions League. Neither did they become the champions of Italy for a tenth straight time, nor did they justify their Champions League standing by getting knocked out of the competition in the round of 16 to an average Porto side.
As a result of Juve’s poor run of results, Andrea Pirlo paid the price by losing his managerial status at Juventus.
With Massimiliano Allegri now returning to the throne, the Alex Sandro saga didn’t garner the attention it should have got. The situation was ignored, with the club hierarchy perhaps hopeful that a re-modification of managerial terms would see Juve flourish on Italian and subsequently on European soil once again, giving less emphasis on the fact that they would be relying on the same set of players that cost Pirlo his “dream job”.
What happened in the summer?
Going into the summer transfer window, Juventus had three natural left-backs registered under their senior rank. With Alex Sandro being the oldest, the initial consideration was that the Brazilian’s valuable experience would eventually help the likes of Gianluca Frabotta and Luca Pellegrini.
But at a certain point in the transfer market, Frabotta left Juventus on a season-long loan, with Hellas Verona being the recipient of his services. Pellegrini was reportedly a target for West Ham United. And had not the young full-back rejected (apparently) a deadline day move to the London outfit, Juventus would have been left with just one natural left-back in the 30-year-old Brazilian.
In a window that saw the return of Mattia De Sciglio from his one-year loan spell at Lyon, the Juventus management did not even consider pushing for the addition of another full-back. De Sciglio’s versatility and capacity to play down both flanks assured the club hierarchy that they had adequate cover.
How has Alex Sandro fared this season at Juventus?
Defying all expectations, Alex Sandro made a fine start to the 2021/22 season. The 30-year-old Brazilian was heavily involved in shot-creating actions for the Bianconeri during the first few weeks. And that’s why he still does possess an alluring number of 2.39, as per Fbref.com, when it comes to shot-creating actions per 90 minutes in Serie A.
It was once again the inconsistency that started creeping into Sandro’s individual characteristics as soon as the fixture list started getting congested for the Old Lady. The ageing legs of the Brazilian have appeared to be too fragile to stop an opposition attack at times. Out of the blue, the most horrific display from the South American came in Juve’s latest 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Chelsea in midweek.
Losing his starting place to Luca Pellegrini in the league game against Lazio at the weekend due to fatigue, Alex Sandro returned to Allegri’s XI for the away fixture at Stamford Bridge in midweek. Danilo’s injury meant it was a flat back four consisting of Juan Cuadrado on the right, the duo of Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci in the centre and our protagonist of this story at the left.
Allegri had already anticipated the omnipresent threat of Reece James down Chelsea’s right, assigning Federico Chiesa with the task of tracking the wing-back’s surges as much as he could to aid Sandro defensively. But even a player as agile as Chiesa could not cover the turmoil inflicted by Sandro’s ill-positioning as James dominated on the night.
Offensively, there was no penetration at all from the Brazilian. He looked too lethargic and suppressed to bring the ball forth for Juventus. On top of that, he got torn apart time and again by the ever-onrushing James. If anything, the performance against Chelsea added another chaotic chapter to Alex Sandro’s book of suffering.
Is it time for Allegri to move on from the services of the Brazilian?
Getting rid of Sandro right now or even in the upcoming January transfer window will be somewhat repulsive from a club of the Old Lady’s ilk. They need players or, if we phrase it correctly, they need bodies to play the role of a full-back. Therefore, it would be unreasonable to count Sandro as an outcast. Instead, Allegri could use the veteran’s availability to cruise through the hectic period of countless fixtures going forward.
In the meantime, Luca Pellegrini could make a significant step up and become the next Sandro for Juventus. This season, Pellegrini has made four appearances for the Bianconeri, with each of them coming in Serie A. He started the game against Lazio and played exceptionally well. It was a performance that suggested he deserves more playing time.
It is unlikely that Juventus will be looking to sign a left-back in the approaching January transfer window given their midfield priorities.
Given that De Sciglio will soon be fit to play that role occasionally, there should not be any hurry in bringing in a left-back specialist, either. As for Alex Sandro, Allegri must think twice before handing him a start in a game against opponents as frenzied as Chelsea. The Brazilian is notably past his prime and might never find the consistency on the field as he did a few years back.