Having recently attracted the attention of Premier League fans, the Alex Grimaldo vs Alex Telles debate has grown greater than ever before. Both have stood out in their teams, being key players in the title battle. This scout report will explore both of their strengths and weaknesses, and assess which is better at certain aspects of play, and which would be better suited to a Premier League move.
To start this analysis, the main statistics we will use will be placed in radars for both players, which allows for an easy yet effective initial comparison. From here, we will compare Grimaldo and Telles in terms of ball progression, defensive output and offensive output.
Here are the radars:
At times, a full back may be tasked with progressing the ball from a wide midfield or defensive position. This is mainly done through either passing the ball forward or by dribbling forward, but this can sometimes be dictated by the tactics of the manager. A look at the statistics shows that Grimaldo is the more frequent progressor of the two. Whilst this may be due to Benfica’s wide build-up prioritisation, it also shows that Grimaldo is more than capable of threading neat passes through to his teammates, and also making bursting runs. One factor which aids his progressive runs figure is his body shape. He is a short and lean player, which gives him a low centre of gravity. This also gives him boosted acceleration, which is key in making bursting runs. This is displayed in the following diagrams.
Here we see Grimaldo against RB Leipzig in the Champions League this season. He is faced by an intense press, and when he receives the ball at his feet, he has no viable passing option nearby. He decides to attempt to dance his way through the press. Immediately, he is faced by Mukiele, who is the first to engage Grimaldo in a one-on-one duel.
Grimaldo feathers the ball around the corner, and uses the agility we spoke about earlier to keep the ball close to him and navigate himself into the space which we identified in the first image. From here, he still has two more players to bypass.
He then goes on to use his quick acceleration to skip away from Nkunku, and eventually gets taken down, giving Benfica a dead-ball opportunity of the edge of the midfield third.
Looking at Telles, his body structure favours his upper body disproportionately. What this often means is that his acceleration is not as good as Grimaldo. However, he can still complete dribbles forward, as he can somewhat wrestle his way through opposition players, as shown in the diagram below.
Telles in shown receiving possession above, and is faced with a one-on-one opportunity to move the ball up around 30 to 40 yards. Telles takes the ball in his stride, but as well discussed earlier, he does not have the raw pace to breeze past the Leverkusen defender, and so he initiates a physical duel.
As also discussed , Telles uses his upper body to attempt to hold off the defender for as long as possible.
The circled area shows Telles using his bigger upper body to hold off his man, before being pulled down by the defender and earning his team a free-kick around 20 yards further up the field than he received the ball.
Despite this though, neither are particularly strong players and would both have to adapt physically to the Premier League, as will be discussed later. Overall, in regards to progressing the ball, Grimaldo seems to be better at picking out passes, particularly in tight spaces, and helping build-up play whilst Telles seems to favour relying on his teammates for progression, and mainly focusing on his final third output. In regards to the Premier League, Grimaldo would be a more favourable option, as building out from the back is a key style which most teams, especially the larger ones, abide by.
The defensive level of a full-back seems to have dropped in regard to desirability, with teams favouring more offensive fullbacks, but defending is still an important part of being a fullback, especially when tasked with covering spaces and having awareness in a defensive block. Here we see a weakness of Grimaldo. The biggest issue with his defending is his height and weight (or rather, lack of both). This gives offensive players a psychological edge as they feel they have the beating of him, although he has proven to be somewhat competent in the air, with a 51.5 aerial duel success rate. However, the psychological advantage of the attackers, along with his shorter legs, disadvantage him in a defensive aspect. His defensive frailties are also shown in the diagrams below.
In this situation, Grimaldo is faced one-on-one against the Shakhtar Donetsk right-winger. The winger makes the run inwards, forcing Grimaldo to turn and lose sight of the winger for a moment. This is the first mistake we see, as preferably Grimaldo would have shown the winger down the line to nullify the threat.
Despite this, Grimaldo gets back into position and seems to be the favourite to win the ball here. However, we see another one of his physical flaws take effect. Due to his short leg length, he cannot slide it, nor can he poke the ball away from the winger to a nearby teammate. This then leads to the final stage of his defensive play.
Finally, he ends up alongside the winger, but he is unable to unsettle the winger, and in actual fact, he is the one unsettled. Grimaldo’s flimsy weight ultimately means he cannot physically contest with the winger, leaving him space to cut the ball back to the Shakhtar player on the edge of the box in acres of space.
Telles on the other hand seems to be better at reading the play and covering larger spaces, as indicated by his 8.6 interceptions per oppo 30. This implies that he is more suited to being part of a defensive block. However, he is very poor in 1v1 challenges. The statistics back up this assertion, as he concedes 1.72 fouls per 90 (vs 0.7 for Grimaldo) and only makes 0.3 tackles per 90 (vs 0.4 for Grimaldo). As discussed earlier, Telles does not have a good burst of acceleration, which is key in staying with players as they dribble. This along with his lack of agility and unwillingness to go 1v1 with attackers have been key reasons for him not being that great defensively.
Below, we look at his spacial awareness, and why he makes such a high level of interceptions.
Above, we see Telles’ stand-out ability; reading the game. In this instance against Benfica, he recognises that the winger Pizzi has dropped deep, and there are no potential runs to be made in behind him, so he steps up towards the free Benfica man. When Pizzi does receive the ball, Telles jumps out and immediately goes towards the Benfica man, recognising he is the target.
This then leads to Telles regaining possession, giving him the opportunity to launch an attack. For comparison, Grimaldo would more than likely have stayed in his defensive shape, and waited for a teammate to deal with that and maintain his position.
Offensively is where we see these two shine brightest. Due to the both Porto and Benfica being dominant teams both in regards to possession and territory in the majority of their games, the full-backs of Grimaldo and Telles usually find themselves in the final third, or trying to create just behind the left winger. The main roles they are tasked with are crossing, providing width, switching the play, providing an outlet, maintaining spatial awareness, and making incisive passes. In regards to preference, Grimaldo will often tend to play an angles pass through the lines, or make a cutback to the edge of the box for former Tottenham player Taarabt, although he certainly does not shy away from crossing the ball when suitable. Telles, on the other hand, prefers to cross the ball more often, or recycle possession. The stats also back up these assertions, with Grimaldo averaging 1.9 smart passes per 90 (which is the best figure out of all full-backs in the league) against Telles’ 0.33, whilst Telles averages 4.11 crosses per game against the 3.65 of Grimaldo.
Firstly looking at Grimaldo, we can observe his final third positioning and his choices on the ball through the following diagrams.
In this image, Grimaldo is making a bursting run in behind as he notices the space and the angle of his teammates body being opened up and ready to supply a pass. This allows Grimaldo time and space which will be seen in the next image. Ultimately, we want to see his preferences offensively, whether he will cross, hit the by-line and cutback, or slow down play.
Here we see the situation Grimaldo is in when he controls the ball. He has two choices: cross the ball into the box and hope his teammate Vinicius reaches the ball first, or keep running in hope of teammates providing movement to open themselves up as a passing option. As we will explore later in this segment, Telles in this situation would have more likely than not crosses the ball in. Grimaldo on the other hand, chooses to continue carrying the ball, showing a key difference in the mindsets of the two left-backs.
To end his contribution, Grimaldo fizzes a perfectly weighted and angles pass right into the box, on his teammates (Taarabt’s) foot. This series of decisions epitomises Grimaldo, in that he prefers the neater way, rather than simply crossing and hoping for the best
As we said earlier, Telles approaches these situations in the final third on the wide left differently. He tends to prefer to open his body at the earliest opportunity and deliver an out-swinging cross into the six-yard box. The following annotated diagrams will show this.
From here, Telles finds himself in a similar situation to Grimaldo before, albeit under more pressure. Telles has the same option as Grimaldo did though. Cross into the box, or hit the by-line and await movement from your forwards. Telles decides to go with the cross.
Having opened up his body and crossed the ball, we see his preferred crossing technique being with his deep instep. On this occasion, Telles put the ball into the wrong area and eventually the ball was collected by another Porto player on the right-hand-side. Despite this, we get a good feeling for the offensive preferences of the two players.
Across this tactical analysis, we have seen the numerous strengths and weaknesses of Grimaldo and Telles. Both have been great for their respective teams this season, however, in regards to transferability of skills, Grimaldo would most likely be a better signing for a Premier League club. His quickness, technique, and offensive output, in general, make him one of the best available left-backs on the market. However, this does not disregard Telles’ ability, as he is also undoubtedly a good player. Overall, both would be great signings for any club in need of a left-back, and both have proven their quality multiple times this season.