Analysis: Sevilla’s changes pay off as they defeat Espanyol

La Liga 2018/19: Espanyol vs Sevilla | Tactical Analysis

Three days after their surprise elimination from the Europa League in Prague, a result that proved fatal to Pablo Machín, the Andalusian club is once again coached by Joaquin Caparros. In this tactical analysis, we analyse his first game back in charge of Sevilla in their game against Espanyol.

Line ups

Naldo played as the centre-back along with Hermoso. Rosales and Vila took up positions as the full-backs. In midfield, Roca operated as the deep-lying midfielder alongside Darder and Granero. Hernan Perez and Wu Lei occupy the flanks. Borja Iglesias started in front.

La Liga 2018/19: Espanyol vs Sevilla | Tactical Analysis

The visitors lined-up in a 4-4-2 with Andre Silva and Wissam Ben Yedder leading the line. Amadou and Gonalons operated in the middle, Quincy Promes and Ever Banega played on the flanks. Juan Soriano was the keeper due to the absence of Tomas Vaclick, injured right before the game started.

Espanyol analysis

Espanyol came into this match looking to continue their run as they were unbeaten in their last eight La Liga games (two wins, four draws) after winning only one of the previous 10 and maintain their push for a Europa League spot. Espanyol were also looking to stop their poor run vs the Andalusian team because they have only won one of their last their 16 La Liga games against Sevilla (four draws, 10 defeats), last doing so in January 2017 under Quique Sanchez Flores.

espanyol-sevilla - la liga - tactical-analysis-statistic
Notice how poor the xG of Espanyol is while Sevilla’s gradually improved

As we have seen in previous games, like this one vs Atletico Madrid, Espanyol play well but without any end product. They had three shots on target from 10 attempts whereas the Sevilla side had two on target from five attempts.

Considering Sevilla played with two international strikers, Rubi decided to overload in defensive phases. They didn’t allow the Andalusian side to play through the middle, Roca often getting back alongside the two centre-backs to cover when the game was out wide.

However, this tactic had an issue. The offensive men on the wings didn’t track back to help the full-back quickly enough. In the 30th minute, Wissam Ben Yedder found Jesus Navas twice on the right side and Navas was not put under pressure. Espanyol relied on Naldo and Hermoso, both good in the air, to defend the cross. Fortunately, Navas and Promes didn’t have success in their attempts.

espanyol - sevilla - la liga - tactical analysis - analysis - statistics
Espanyol got nine players to cover letting the only Borja Iglesias up front. Notice how they focus to cover the central region

Jesus Navas is alone on the right side, and Ever Banega is in the half-space. When in possession, the three men inside never arrived to overload their opponent’s midfield, they were not enough quick in the other half to surprise the opponent. Sometimes they showed impatience, they recorded seven shots from outside the box.

Sevilla analysis

Appointed on Friday, Joaquín Caparrós had decided to accompany his return to the Sevillan bench with some strong choices, starting young Juan Soriano (21, one La Liga game this season) in goal, Maxime Gonalons in the middle, and shifting Ever Banega to the right side of his 4-4-2. The result: his men controlled the ball and generally dominated the early exchanges in the first period and they caused Espanyol problems.

Underrated Wissam

Wissam Ben Yedder has been involved in Sevilla’s last five goals in games away from home in La Liga (three goals and two assists). Against Espanyol, he was calm when he had to convert the penalty. Despite his good season (16 goals, 6 assists in La Liga), he hasn’t been called up by Didier Deschamps. The French national team coach prefers Olivier Giroud who is not even a starter at Chelsea. The Frenchman scored his 10th in the last 10 games in all competitions helping his teammates to their first away win in La Liga since September.

espanyol - sevilla - tactical analysis - analysis- statistics
With Andre Silva playing as the focal point, the French striker can move in the gap left by the Espanyol defence

Ever Banega’s position

It’s uncommon to see the midfielder playing out wide but this match, this Sunday we saw him on the right side. No player really distinguished himself, but the Argentinian was the main threat for the Catalan side. They committed four fouls on him, especially in the first period. He allowed his team to come out clean and the quality of his long ball (five attempted) were useful in the transition phase. He completed 43 passes (78% of success) among them two key passes.

espanyol - sevilla - tactical analysis - analysis- statistics
Here the Argentinian is on the right-side. The Espanyol midfielder left too much space for Banega, allowing him to take the shot.

Should we expect to see Banega in this position again? Possibly but it won’t be a total success. His crossing was sub-standard which isn’t ideal for a winger. Pablo Sarabia who is able to occupy the flank wasn’t available, and Fran Vazquez came on in the second half. Both can play on the flank, they offer more depth and penetration behind the line.

espanyol - sevilla - la liga - tactical analysis - analysis - statistics
Here Jesus Navas is totally free on the right side while Ever Banega (yellow) occupies the half-space

The surprise of the Chief

Joaquin Caparros is an old-school coach, the kind of coach that prefers to not play with a deep-lying playmaker but a holding midfielder or a double-pivot to secure the central region. The former Sporting director started with a player who didn’t have to do much to prove his ability. Maxime Gonalons was once upon time, one of the top French midfielders, particularly when he was at Lyon and later at AS Roma. The defensive midfielder was strong, good at passing and was a real fighter. As we can see in the below image.

espanyol- sevilla - la liga - tactical analysis - analysis - statistics
His performance by numbers

The pairing of Amadou & Gonalons will provide air superiority, and impact in duels, something they lacked months ago with a midfield trio composed of Ever Banega, Pablo Sarabia and Fran Vazquez, who are three technical players and weak physically.


Espanyol missed their chance to return to winning way against a Sevilla side. Too much approximation in the final third and with 18 days break between fixtures, they will have the time on the training ground to address the issues that have plagued them in this game.

Sevilla, in the end, ended Espanyol’s fine run of form as they keep up the pressure on Alaves and Getafe who remain one and three points ahead of them respectively.

If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the March issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.