Krasnodar came within a few seconds of earning a place in the Europa League quarter finals, but it was ultimately Valencia who prevailed over the two legs to earn an all Spanish tie vs Villarreal, albeit with a performance that was probably not worthy of seeing them through. Valencia’s quality shone through in the last seconds of the tie to untie an organised, exciting and tactically excellent Krasnodar side and in this tactical analysis, I will show you how Krasnodar controlled the game and almost upset Valencia.
Krasnodar went with a familiar 4-1-4-1, which they used to aggressively press Valencia in their own half. Valencia played a compact 4-4-2, looking to hold their lead and score a vital away goal on the counter. Both Kondogbia and Coquelin remained rigid in their shape throughout the game, not pressing high up the pitch or taking risks out of possession. Valencia were compact for the vast majority of the game, with Krasnodar having little chances in the second half but finding some joy in the first half through Claesson and Ari combining, with the latter leaving the pitch injured in the 30th minute. The rough matching up of formations for the two teams gave Krasnodar a distinct advantage in the game, particularly off the ball.
Krasnodar’s man orientated press
Krasnodar were extremely brave out of possession, particularly in the first half, where at every opportunity they would press high and look to win the ball back from a Valencia side who seemed vulnerable to the press. Below we can see how the matchup of formations actually benefited Krasnodar. This is a relatively simple press, where each player is clearly assigned a man or position to press and because of the matchup of formations and therefore players in areas of the pitch, Krasnodar could press almost every player successfully. If Valencia had an extra man in midfield, a spare pass would have been allowed and an overload would have been created, allowing Valencia to build attacks.
Below, we can see another example of Krasnodar’s press in a much more aggressive manner. This time higher up the pitch, Krasnodar have six players pressing six Valencia players in a man orientated press. Each Valencia player is covered, and the most aggressive pressing movements come from the two central players whenever their men receive the ball, with Krasnodar not allowing them to turn and therefore forcing Valencia backwards. This meant Valencia couldn’t build from the back in the game and because of how well-organised the press was and because of Valencia’s poor press resistance, they had very little opportunity to beat the press and exploit the space and numerical advantages behind it.
Beating the Krasnodar press
Here, a staggering seven Krasnodar players press Valencia in their half, which led to a goal scoring opportunity for Krasnodar. As I mentioned earlier, to try to beat the press, Valencia would have benefited from an additional midfield player helping to build from the back. In this case, Cheryshev drops deeper and more centrally to receive the ball, but Krasnodar’s press is so aggressive that his full back Petrov follows him, meaning that Krasnodar have seven players out of possession in Valencia’s half. If Valencia could have exploited this, they could have caused Krasnodar more problems, but in many ways it is a credit to Krasnodar’s press that Valencia could not exploit this.
In the image below we can see the overloads Valencia were gifted if they could beat the press or counter quickly from areas where Krasnodar had committed many players forward.
Valencia help Krasnodar’s build up
In my opinion, Valencia were too defensive and allowed Krasnodar to build momentum through their build-up, which reached a pinnacle with a wonderful strike from a wonderful young talent Shapi Suleymanov, who I will be keeping an eye on for the close future.
Krasnodar were insistent on playing the ball out from the back, with goalkeeper Safonov often opting to play the ball to his centre backs on either side of the box. Valencia refused to press to stop this, where if they had, Krasnodar would either be forced to beat Valencia’s press or to play the ball long, which shouldn’t be a problem with midfielders such as 6″2 inches tall Kondogbia.
However, Valencia’s non-existent press meant they could be much more compact and organised in their own half, as we can see below with Valencia’s two banks of four. This organisation shut Krasnodar down in the second half until Shapi’s strike, but at times in the first half Krasnodar looked like they were capable of penetrating the block. With a touch more bravery, Valencia could maybe have made the game less nervy for themselves, but with Krasnodar outplaying them offensively, Valencia looked to sit and grind out the result until Krasnodar scored.
Krasnodar were undone in the end by poor game management. In the final seconds, Krasnodar had an opportunity to clear the ball which wasn’t taken, and Ramirez dived in on the edge of the box to allow Valencia the opportunity to cross into a wide open space left by the Krasnodar defenders deep in their six-yard box. The experience and quality of the players in the game eventually shone through, and Krasnodar’s experience will only grow with this painful defeat to a Valencia side filled with offensive quality when given the chances.