How Imanol Alguacil remained unbeaten in tricky Girona trip

Artwork by @chapulana.

Girona headed into the clash with Real Sociedad in need of a victory to reassure themselves. Girona’s win against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu last time out ended their longest winless run in La Liga (10 games, 4 draws, 6 defeats). On the other side, Real Sociedad came to the Estadio Municipal Montivili to continue their unbeaten run. They are unbeaten in their last seven La Liga games (4 wins, 3 draws) their longest unbeaten run in a single season since April 2013 (15). This tactical analysis looks at the highly interesting tactical trends of the game.

Starting lineups

Girona- Real Sociedad - La Liga - tactical analysis - analysis - statistics

It was the battle of last season’s two Real Sociedad coaches. Imanol Alguacil took over when Eusebio was fired. When we know that Barcelona accumulate on average 595.7 accurate passes per game and you remark that this game has only 635 overall and 41 fouls committed, you quickly have an idea of what kind of game it was.

Girona - Real Sociedad - La Liga - tactical analysis - analysis- statistics

Girona analysis

Eusebio Sacristan backed with his best possible starting XI without Aday Benitez, Carles Planas and Johan Mojica all at the infirmary and the youngster Pedro Porro on the bench while Valery Fernandez was not even on the matchsheet.

The hosts demonstrated a clear strategy in possession, to try to exploit wide areas and get crosses into the box for the available man, most often Christian Stuani was the target man. Cristian Portu made six, the full-backs Raul Garcia and Jonas Ramalho, they both crossed three times, Alex Garcia and Alex Granell made respectively five and seven. Of 26 crosses attempted, only four were accurate and this strategy didn’t work. it’s largely due to the fact that Imanol Alguacil well prepared his defensive central pair to avoid any crosses. Eusebio Sacristan didn’t have a plan B and continuously pushed the team to the same mistake, whereas, he did some modifications against Real Madrid in the second half.

Out of possession, the hosts operated in a 4-4-1-1 mid-block, with Stuani followed by Alex Granell at the head, Christian Portu, Anthony Lozano tucking in with Aleix Garcia and Douglas Soares inside the midfield. They generally allowed Real Sociedad to bring the ball out with ease.

Girona - Real Sociedad - La Liga - tactical analysis - analysis - statistics
The Girona shape allowed Real Sociedad’s midfielders to play between the lines.

Girona aren’t only just the team which concede the most penalties (8) in the league, they are also a team which can’t finish the action. Their lack of realism in the penalty box cost them many points in their recent winless series. During this game, they attempted eight shots inside the box, and scored zero goal. No surprise when you see them at the 15th place of shots on target per game – only 3.9.

Girona - Real Sociedad - La Liga - tactical analysis - analysis - statistics
The gap between behind the defensive lines, Stuani had the possibility to run behind Ruben Navas and Borja Garcia in support. He will choose the number ten
Girona - Real Sociedad - La Liga - tactical analysis - analysis - statistics
Only three Basque defenders (blue) were able to block the shot, the angle (green) is clear. Finally, Borja Garcia throws it in the sky

Real Sociedad analysis

Without Adnan Januzaj (Sprained ankle), Asier Illaremendi (Groin injury) and their goalscorer Willian Jose (nine goals). The visitors set up in 4-2-3-1 formation with David Zurutuza and Igor Zubeldia operating as double-pivot behind Mikel Merino, Mikel Oyerzabal, and the La Masia product Sandro Ramirez. Juanmi was the lone striker at the expense of Willian Jose, who has scored nine goals in La Liga this campaign. The Brazilian is one shy of becoming the second Real Sociedad player to score 10 goals in three consecutive campaigns, in the 21st century after the Mexican winger Carlos Vela (2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14)

The visitors initially had no trouble playing out against the Girona pressing, with Zubeldia in particularly good form – 45 accurate passes with 94% pass success, he was also the one who completed the most dribbles with three successes in four attempted, and lost zero aerial duels disputed. The Girona midfielders showed a certain passivity in the central region despite having three men devoted to recuperation.

Since the start of the season, Real Sociedad are unbeaten in each of the four leagues games they have played on a Monday. In a table based on only away points, Real Sociedad would be third in the league table with 19 points ahead of Atletico with 18 points. Imanol Alguacil is still unbeaten as Real Sociedad manager. He won his first game in Bernabeu on 2-0, the second vs Espanyol 3-2, conceded three draws against Rayo, Huesca and Valencia. The derby vs Athletic, he won by 2-1.

Their notable fact came from behind, their pair of centre-backs who did a good job: Diego Llorente completed the most passes (63) in the match with 88% of success, he was very present for his side, three aerials duels won, four recoveries, two interceptions, five clearances. And was even decisive in this action below

Girona - Real Sociedad - La Liga - tactical analysis - analysis - statistics
In this action, Diego Llorente relinquishes his function of centre-back to cut the transmission between Portu (the passer) and Stuani totally free

By his side, there was Raul Navas. He was not so bad as he registered an 89% pass success added to four aerial duels won, seven recoveries and was fouled twice, with nine clearances.

Action of the game

Barcelona’s Ter Stegen is not the only one to make brilliant saves, Geronimo “Gero” Rulli has the skill to stop any shot. The Argentine keeper has proved himself as one of the top La Liga ‘keepers with 3.2 saves per game. He proved it once again versus the Catalan side with three saves among them, this one with his left-foot like a handball keeper.

Girona - Real Sociedad - La Liga - tactical analysis - analysis - statistics
This save was as decisive as a goal


Real Sociedad were winless in their four away games against Girona in all competitions (D2, L2) with their only win coming back in December 1942 in the second tier (2-1) and this run still continues with this goalless draw. Imanol Alguacil’s men remain on 34 points in seventh place. Girona are seven points behind Real Sociedad in the 15th place. This game shows how difficult it will be for the Sacristan’s men to survive in La Liga and how encouraging the Imanol Alguacil performances are with him at the head of San Sebastian team. After a strong start at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Sociedad’s manager Imanol Alguacil is averaging 2.14 points per game in La Liga this campaign – only Barcelona’s Ernesto Valverde (2.25) and Real Madrid’s Santiago Solari (2.21) are averaging more.

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