After being promoted to La Liga in 2012 Celta Vigo produced three consecutive top 10 finishes since 2013 and the club seemed to be on the rise. However, since the departure of manager Eduardo Berizzo in 2016, the team seem to be in a slump and have been unable to scale the same heights they once hit.
Fast forward to the current day and Celta, on a run of five straight defeats in the league, faced falling into the bottom three last weekend having not won a La Liga game since early December. However, the Celticos beat Champions League-chasing Sevilla in what was the biggest surprise of matchday 22 in Spain.
What’s currently going right at Celta
Celta currently have a wealth of talent in its ranks such as Maxi Gomez, Brias Mendez, Pione Sisto and the evergreen Iago Aspas to name a few.
Aspas and Gomez, in particular, are regularly performing at a very high level in La Liga. Coming off the back of a successful 17/18 season this pair of lively strikers are both outperforming expected goals by 4.67 and 2.19 respectively. Between them they have 19 goals this term and are both sitting in the top 10 scorers in Spain, it’s no wonder there has been interest from large clubs in Spain and abroad for both of these lethal finishers.
Iago Aspas’ stats
Maxi Gomez’s stats
Celta keep the ball very well, in fact, they rank in the top five for possession in La Liga with an average of 53.2% and also have an average pass success rate of 82.7%. Combine that with the numerous chances per game they create through strong wing play, normally by the excellent Mendes who’s also in the top five for assists this season and it seems strange Celta sit a lowly 16th at this stage of the season.
Good attacking displays are undone by poor defending
Defensively is where the problem lies with Celta. The back line are not performing to a good standard individually and the team as a defensive unit sometimes verge on shambolic. The gaps left by Celta’s midfield in the transition phase of the game are huge and teams are taking advantage of this on a regular basis.
The way the midfield are caught flat on numerous occasions is alarming for a team who are regarded as very much capable of pushing the top teams in Spain. Teams who play in-between the lines are tearing apart the outdated 4-4-2 deployed by Celta manager Miguel Cardoso and the consequences are a poor run of form and the team flirting with relegation trouble.
Surprisingly, out of the multiple formations they have implemented throughout this year the 3-4-3 has been the most successful yielding two wins and only conceding once whilst scoring four early on in the campaign. This suggests the manager is unsure on how to best utilise the players at his disposal.
The Celticos currently have the joint fourth-worst defence in La Liga and make individual errors at an alarming rate. This alongside a very sketchy disciplinary problem; three red cards and 28 yellows shared across the defensive players, shows not only ill-discipline but also panic in their play. Former Lazio and Southampton defender Wesley Hoedt was brought in to steady the ship in January and then promptly got sent off on his debut for two yellow cards in which was not a great start for the Dutchman.
How can Celta improve
With the winter transfer window now past and only the previously mentioned Hoedt arriving to bolster a far from competent back line, the only way to fix Celta’s problems must come from within. Of late the 4-2-3-1 formation has been used more regularly and I believe this is the way to go for O Celtina.
Playing two holding midfielders will not only fill the space in-between the lines, where they have had so much trouble this season, it will also allow them to create a more solid base to build from. With the team already good at going forward, rectifying the issues at the back should be the main priority for the remainder of the campaign.
In this formation, they should also consider moving Mendez from the central position they have played him in the past few games back out to a wide midfield berth. Not only does Mendez create a lot from cutting inside via wide positions his industrious nature also gives the fullback behind him good protection which they currently sorely need.
If Celta can ride out the storm of this season a big change is needed at the club, it has stagnated massively over the past few years and a change of personnel and direction at the top is needed for Celta to rise again to the upper echelons of La Liga.