It’s Sunday and Leganes are preparing to welcome one of the most entertaining and ambitious teams: Quique Setien’s Real Betis. The visitors are in search of a second consecutive La Liga win, something that had not happened since the 12 December. They must at the same time keep in mind their upcoming Europa League match against Rennes. On the other side of the pitch, there is a strong opponent, especially at home. The locals had not lost a home match since the one against Villareal five months ago. The match looked quite interesting as fans wanted to know how the Andalusians would face their consistency problem in a long-term capacity. In this tactical analysis, we will try to look in depth at what happened during the game using statistics and tactical analysis.
Quiqé Setien managed to rest some of his key players for Rennes’ match on Thursday. All of Sergio Canales, Andrés Guardado and Diego Lainez were benched. Marc Bartra was ruled off due to injury. Although, the ex-Almeria manager kept his habitual 3-5-2 structure with Jesé Rodriguez as starter forward. (It has been a while since the ex-Blanco has started a match).
Leganes had also a 3-5-2 structure with Youssef En-Neysri upfront, the Morrocan attacker has been on fire for a while. He had scored three times and created one assist in his last three matches.
Real Betis’ struggles to move into the final third
The Andalusians’ main challenge on Sunday was to get over their opponent’s midfield line and create real danger. In fact, their three-man defence alongside the use of Pau Lopez in ball circulation and the two full-backs who maximised the width, were sufficient elements in surpassing Leganes’ high pressure during the game.
To cut all the visitors’ pass lines, Leganes needed seven players in the final 25 meters. First, this is quite risky as they leave much space behind them. Second, even with a big number of players, their pressing can be inefficient. They needed huge intensity to bother such technically-gifted midfielders.
Thus, even with some individual errors, the pressing at the first build-up phase was not the biggest issue for Betis. It was the next step that looked to be the hardest one.
Every team who adopts the ball retention and circulation model needs to create superiority situations in specific zones of the pitch. These zones are the numbers’ 13,14 (the classic Johann Cruyff zone) and 15 on the image below.
The frontiers between these ones and the zones 10,11,12 are also crucial. It was exactly in these zones that Real Betis’ players lacked pass options and inspiration.
During the 90 minutes, Los Verdiblancos almost never had a circulation sequence that ended in an unbalance of the opponent’s defence. Let’s have a look at their attacking left side to explain this.
The first thing to notice (and the most remarkable one) is the absence of any Betis player between Leganes’ defensive and midfield lines. Francis, who played as left-back in the 3-5-2, never had a pass option to the half-space. This was mainly due to Wilfried Kaptoum’s positioning and movements. The Cameroonian had only made backward runs and often stayed on the same horizontal line as the ball-holder, as pictured here.
The ex-Barcelona player had always received either backwards, to the right passes with an opponent closing him down and rarely got the ball when accelerating. This happened with Giovanni Lo Celso also:
The absence of any combination was also due to the fact that a right-footed player was on the left side. Francis used his right favourite foot 99% of the time: it’s quite obvious when being marked in such a situation, your pass option can be all but forward.
Quique Setien tried to fix this in the second half. The Spanish manager brought Diego Lainez who occupied the left side whereas Francis was repositioned on the right. Although, things did not get much better for the Andalusians. They continued to struggle especially after the third goal and they ended up by losing their ball control.
We will try to figure out in this section various statistics to emphasise on Leganes’ direct style of play. We will do our best to contextualise the statistics used (as some of them are quite general) to make them as significant as possible. The first thing that stood out was that 20% of Leganes’ passes were long ones. On the other side, only 8.5% of Betis’ passes were long. Apart from the period where the locals were 3-0 up, we’ve not seen them enter a real build-up phase. Their attacks started either with long chipped balls played in En-Neysseri’s direction, quick long passes on the ground or recovered balls on the opponent’s half.
When looking to the passes’ target zones, one can remark that the visitors had attempted only 20% of their passes to the final third. It’s almost double for the hosts with 39%. Finally, ball possession was clearly in of Setien’s team’s favour, 62% to 38%. Thus, the strategy was clear: “we cannot compete with Real Betis in terms of ball possession, so when we get it we must go straight to the goal.”
Youssef En-Neysseri’s third goal analysis
This was a typical fast counter-attack goal that needed only second and a few touches from the start till the end. It was all started by a Real Betis attack where Sidnei tried to find Jese between the lines. At the passing moment, the distance separating Kaptoum from his closest midfielder is visibly huge. William Carvalho was far away from the passer (around 20m). On one hand, he cannot support his teammate offensively. On the other hand, he left a space causing a lack of compacity that costs another goal for his team.
Betis’ centre-backs were also quite spaced (they maintained their ball exit position) and did not manage to tighten when they saw En-Neysseri making his run.
Finally, the hat-trick hero was there to finish in beauty with a left-foot shot.
We can say that this was a really disappointing game from the Andalusian team. They almost did not create any chances during the whole match. Setien’s team lacked inspiration in the final third where organised offensive moves were absent.
Leganes were a perfect example of football pragmatism during this game. They proved that a 3-0 win remains possible against a technically superior team. “We don’t control the ball, we don’t impose a specific rhythm, we don’t create numerous chances and you still can believe that we did all that when you get the result, without watching the match.”
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