The evolution of football has seen several tactical modifications as well as changes in player roles and how they perform in different situations. One of the most major developments has been the introduction of the modern-day full-back, who is tasked with a high level of attacking output, and must offer a creative flair to the team.
This change occurred with Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, and the Premier League has since been home to several superb offensive full-backs, like 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 of the Man City squad since then and is a regular starter for them. Cancelo has displaced Oleksandr Zinchenko at the left-back position, with the Portuguese being arguably the best left-back in the Premier League. The former Juventus man has been one of the most influential people in the Skyblues setup, especially with his attacking prowess and dribbling ability coming into play.
Predominantly signed as a right-back from Juventus, Cancelo failed to make his way into the team on the right side of defense by 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. The heatmap indicates that Cancelo has played in a more advanced position in the opposition half. He has featured at the right-back position in the past few weeks and has also excelled in that position. At times, he has even drifted towards the middle and right of the pitch. With a very high work rate, the Portuguese has been dynamic throughout the pitch.
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. The Portuguese is a good runner off the ball as well, ranking 92nd percentile in progressive runs per 90 while also having a higher rank of 98th 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.
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 77.59 passes per 90 minutes. From the above image, we can see that he has generated a very high xT from the passes he has made to the attacking players of City. The Portuguese has recorded four assists so far in the Premier League.
Cancelo has found himself in good goal-scoring positions both inside and outside the box on both flanks. He has had 38.24% of his shots on target and has also generated a decent xG from his shots. The 27-year-old has got himself on the score sheet for Manchester City twice in the Premier League as he scored his second goal of the season recently against Newcastle United.
Cancelo has engaged himself in 121 duels in the league, winning 34. Most of his duel locations have been on the left and right 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 won 51.85% 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. The 27-year-old has won 37.5% of his attempted loose ball duels.
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 going around.