For the 37th round of La Liga, in what was the penultimate fixture of the season, Valencia Club de Fútbol faced Deportivo Alavés at the Mestalla stadium. Valencia were looking for the victory and were waiting for Getafe’s stumble to get fourth position, the last spot to qualify for next season’s Champions League. For their part, Alavés needed to win and wait for several results of other matches in order to occupy the sixth position, the last spot to qualify for next season’s Europa League. So, both teams fought for their objectives in a match that was going to be even.
The following tactical analysis with statistics will show how Valencia were able to overcome a tough opponent like Alaves, who have been one of the revelations of this season in La Liga. The result was 3-1 in favour of Valencia against an Alavés side who unfortunately have shown a low level in recent matches. The match levelled for several moments with interesting opportunities for analysis.
Valencia took to the field with their usual 4-4-2 system, but with three changes from the team that lost 2-4 to Arsenal in the Europa League. Marcelino García, coach of the “ché”, placed Jaume Domenech in goal to replace Neto. Domenech is the first-choice goalkeeper in La Liga, while Neto was the first-choice goalkeeper in Europa League.
In addition, Carlos Soler replaced Francis Coquelin. Soler plays as a right midfielder, while Coquelin is a defensive midfielder. This means that Marcelino’s approach was more attacking in this match. The third change was the entry of Santi Mina by the Frenchman Kevin Gameiro to look for different characteristics in the attack.
The rest of the team was the same that has been playing regularly, which has been characterised by being compact and well-organised. Balance is the perfect word to describe this Valencia side, which has found the consistency it lacked in previous years. The two lines of four players in defence and midfield give the team stability. The difference in this match was that Valencia had to risk more for victory and that’s why the only defensive midfielder was Daniel Wass. Also, with Soler and Gonçalo Guedes, the idea was to attack from the external lanes.
Despite going behind very early, Valencia never changed their classic system. The team had a big need to win, but they were always faithful to their formation used for most of the season. In addition, the changes during the game were between players of the same position so as not to alter the system.
For their part, Alavés, a team led by Abelardo Fernández also proposed a 4-4-2 formation as their system to face this important match. There were only two changes to the last match in which they lost 0-1 to Real Sociedad. In fact, Alavés was looking to recover from eight games without victory. For this, the coach gave admission to Darko Brašanac instead of Manu Garcia. The Uruguayan Diego Rolan also joined the starting team to replace Borja Bastón as a striker.
Alavés bet in this match for an idea similar to Valencia, but a little more conservative. The draw, if there were some results in other games, was not a bad business for the “blanquiazules”. Brašanac and Tomás Pina were the pair of defensive midfielders, but with a dual function to join Jony Rodríguez and Martín Aguirregabiria, the external midfielders. Jonathan Calleri and Rolan, strikers, exchanged positions and one of the two was constantly behind the other.
Like Valencia, Alavés never changed their system despite the different contexts in which the team found themselves during the match. They started winning and clung even more to the two lines of four in the back-line and four midfielders. However, Valencia scored two goals quickly and Alavés, with the need to seek the match and victory, never changed their 4-4-2.
Alavés wanted to press Valencia from the first minute. The idea of the team was to cover the passing lines between the goalkeeper and the back-line. In the same way, Valencia looked disconnected at times thanks to the good pressure of Alavés. The back-line did not connect with the midfielders and so it was very difficult for them to generate sustainable attacks. In some passages of the match, the only option of Valencia was to play long balls to bypass the pressure lines imposed by Alavés.
Alavés pressed with up to six players to have reference to each one of the possible receivers. That is to say, the players of Alavés pressed the whole back-line and in addition, they pressed to Wass and Dani Parejo. These two players were in charge of taking the team out from the back, so Alavés chose to occupy them both.
The good pressure of Alavés made Valencia retreat more and more. At times the local team played too close to the goalkeeper Domenech. Calleri and Jony were in charge of pressuring the centre backs and covering the goalkeeper’s passing lines. While Rolan was outside the area taking care of Parejo and Cristiano Piccini, the right full-back.
Valencia tried to turn their game sideways. Soler and Guedes were the external midfielders and in them fell the responsibility of opening the pitch. The idea of generating amplitude is to make the opposing team, in this case Alavés, more open so that the internal lanes are released and thus play can be built inside.
Soler and Guedes were constantly very close to the sideline. Rubén Duarte and Carlos Vigaray, full-backs of Alavés, had a lot of work in those lanes and they could not pass to the attack with naturalness, because their first task was not to let the external midfielders of Valencia attack those sides.
Thanks to the amplitude, Valencia generated their best goalscoring opportunities. Soler was the most incisive who had more influence on the attacks of Valencia. Soler constantly surpassed Duarte, Alavés’ left full-back. From there Soler constantly attacked the space generated by the good movements of Valencia. In fact, this is how Valencia’s first goal in the match was born.
Valencia and Alavés played a very similar match according to the statistics. Having the same proposal and the same 4-4-2 system, this possibility could not be less. They had the same shots to the goal with 10 for each one. In addition, of those 10 shots to the goal, seven from Valencia were through open play. Two were through set pieces and one was through a counterattack.
While six of the 10 shots to the goal of Alaves were through open play. Three shots were through set pieces and one was through a counter attack. The difference was Valencia’s effectiveness in converting the attacks they generated.
In addition, there was also parity in the percentages of the attacks of each team. There is a clear sign that both tried to attack from the outside lanes. While the internal lane had less incidence. Valencia attacked 41% on the right side through Soler. They attacked 36% on the left with Guedes and 23% through the middle. While Alavés attacked 40% through the left with Jony playing on that side. In addition, they attacked 36% through the right and 24% of the attacks were through the middle.
Thanks to the victory in this match, Valencia are placed in fourth position with 58 points. They are above Getafe and Sevilla in fifth and sixth respectively in the table of standings. Getafe have 58 points and Sevilla 56. The goal difference is what is giving Valencia the chance to play the Champions League next season. Qualifying for Champions League is the team’s main objective. Valencia have a goal difference of +14 and Getafe +13.
The 38th round, the last match of the season for Valencia, will be against Real Valladolid, a team that was saved from relegation to La Liga 2, the second division in Spain, on this matchday. That can be a simple match for Valencia, as they face a team that will be playing for absolutely nothing. Valencia must win and try to score several goals to ensure a fourth place in the standings.
For their part, Alavés, with this defeat, lie in 11th with 47 points. Alavés will finish their good 2018/2019 season facing Girona Fútbol Club, a team that is in relegation positions in the table of standings and will fight not to relegate to Liga 123. The main objective of Alavés was to stay in La Liga and they fulfilled it. In addition, for moments, they were located in positions of classification to European cups.
Alavés have managed to stay in La Liga since 2016 when they were promoted. The team have managed to find a regularity that suits them well as an institution. Keeping Abelardo Fernandez as a coach and keeping the majority of players, maybe next season the team will be able to qualify for either the Europa League or go even one better and reach the dizzy heights of the Champions League.
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