Tactical breakdown: how Real Betis are the barking dogs that can’t bite


In football, there are many approaches of a good team, dependent on the tendencies of the moment and the club. For the vast majority of people, a good team is certainly this one which wins with consistency. Or maybe this one which was based upon the possession no matter what the results are. In this case, you probably don’t like Juventus neither Atletico Madrid. But based on the quality of the game, it is a little bit blurry because what we considered as the “beautiful play” nowadays won’t be it necessarily tomorrow. Once upon a time, the best football consisted of an old good Catenaccio which seems like the actual Atletico Bus. Years before, the Kick’n Rush was admired everywhere, a system which is hardly ineffective.

Since 2008 and Guardiola, the possession and the high pressing have become synonyms of good performances. It doesn’t mean that the former Barcelona coach has created these concepts, but his success with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and actually Manchester City have totally changed the public perception.

Team play

According to these parameters, Real Betis would be a good team. The 5027.7 accurate passes per match put them between Barcelona and Real Madrid with respective 589.5 and 528.5 accurate passes per game. Their lack of aggressiveness has cost them on several occasions. They have won just 88 balls in the final third. Whereas Eibar have got 183 followed by Real Madrid with 136, the Verdiblanco are in 16th place. Quique Setien’s trust in holding the possession is clear that’s why 44% of the team possession passes by the midfielders the likes of Sergio Canales – who is the capital for them in offensive phases, Giovanni Lo Celso, Andres Guardado and the deep-lying midfielder Willliam Carvalho. Sometimes, Joaquin plays alongside them. Those technical midfielders influence heavily the Real Betis gameplan.

Real Betis can count this campaign some luxury victims in la Liga, notably Barcelona, (3-4 win at Camp Nou on Sunday 11 November) and Atletico Madrid (1-0 on Sunday 3 February). In the Europa League, they finished at the top of their group ahead of AC Milan with three wins and three draws. They reached their higher pass completion rate in the first half in their first game vs AC Milan with an impressive 91%. The round-of-32 sent them against the French club Stade de Rennes, everyone thought it would be a formality but they have been eliminated. After saving a fantastic 3-3 in Rennes, they lost at home vs the Ligue 1 team.

The defence

Quique Setien’s team has the ball 63.4% of the time, which can explain why the ‘keeper Pau Lopez doesn’t have to deploy his talents, the former Espanyol keeper registers 2.8 saves per game and has conceded per match, 1.2 goals (tenth in this category). They don’t have a high-class centre-back like Barcelona’s Clement Lenglet who is getting on in Umtiti absence. His defence is mainly composed of Aissa Mandi, Marc Batra – former La Masia, and the highly coveted Junior Firpo, certainly, they are good at passing and participating in build-up but none of them are as strong as Diego Godin.

Passive possession

Real Betis aren’t a big club so we can say that according to their standard, these results are quite reasonable. Two years before, they flirted with the relegation zone, finishing with a poor 15th place at the finish of the campaign 2016-2017. Last season, sixth place was a big step forward.  However, knowing the individual skills, the Sevillan club could do better, so much better. Because, despite the good attacking performances, they don’t score a lot.

Only 30 goals in 26 games whereas Getafe who have the worst average possession (less than 40%) score more (34). That can be explained by the fact they don’t have a real scorer (a similar situation is happening at Real Madrid). There’s no Verdiblanco who reached 10 goals in La Liga. The first at scoring in La Liga is Sergio Canales with six goals. The high possession in the central region (44%) hide the fact that only 26% of Lo Celso’s teammates’ passes were in the final third. Meanwhile, we all know, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Real Betis La Liga Tactical Analysis Analysis Statistics

Evidently, everybody doesn’t have the chance to have a killer like Lionel Messi or a talisman like Griezmann to depend on, but Real Betis don’t really hurt his opponents either. Despite the large possession, they’re 14th-best at creating big chances, simply 29 in 26 games, missing 24 of them. It’s less than one big chances per game, their rivals Sevilla led by Pablo Machin have created 61 and missed 46.

Real Betis La Liga Tactical Analysis Analysis Statistics
We can easily notice why they have a negative goal difference. They have scored as much as they have conceded in the same game. They have played just 61 minutes with an advantage of more than one goal. Ironically, when they have had a big advantage, they concede four goals without scoring.

They are in 13th place of 20 Spanish teams in the category o: shots on target per match with four. When you have so much possession, you should score more. Something that they don’t get yet. And the most important thing is to not concede, but the Real Betis defence have conceded 32 goals, that’s why the goal difference is negative.

In my opinion, Quique Setien has not to be so dogmatic, he has learnt from Ernesto Valverde how to win without playing well, like Barcelona have this season. Real Betis would be in a better place if they didn’t have the capacity to concede or lose in an unexplained way. How a team can concede 14 shots and lose when they have 74% of possession? His recent defeats at home are the most striking examples yet of fans’ disillusionment with the record of possession. The one vs Real Madrid (1-2), or the defeat against Stade de Rennes (1-3), even the game vs Valencia (0-1). They dominated these games with large possession. Against Valencia in Copa del Rey, they conceded just a shot, ironically it was on target and they lost 1-0. Efficiency!!!


Real Betis have won versus Barcelona, right? Ernesto Valverde’s men played with ten players during the last ten minutes of the game and almost came back and scored almost at will. Sometimes the Verdilancos seem to be capable of better or worse, but their normal state always seems to leave something to be desired in the background despite the beauty of the form. Better performance is possible at the end of the roll, but so far, Real Betis don’t get the results there are capable of. Quique Setien should know there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

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