La Liga 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Getafe vs Villarreal

La Liga 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Getafe vs Villarreal
Artwork by @chapulana

Both team’s positions on the table have been quite surprising in La Liga, though in quite opposite ways. Getafe have massively overcome the expectations (and the xG as well!), still fighting for the last Champions League spot going into the final round of the season. This tactical analysis will consider the final match of their season through statistics.

On the other hand, Rodri Hernandez’s departure has been quite a big blow for visitors Villarreal, but Cazorla’s return has helped them barely survived the relegation battle. Getafe was the only team coming into this match with a real purpose, but ultimately they had to settle for playing in the Europa League next season through their position in La Liga.


Getafe started this match in their usual 4-4-2. However, Dakonam’s poorly-timed suspension meant Cabrera had to tuck in. The left-back spot, in turn, was surprisingly occupied by Foulquier.

J.Calleja chose a 4-2-3-1 for the visitors with midfield maestro Santi Cazorla on the bench. Mario Gaspar is replaced by Quintilla due to suspension.

Tactical Analysis Getafe Villarreal La Liga Statistics

First half and the battle of second balls

Getafe plays in a very direct manner. They clear the ball very frequently, as they look to go route one. They transform the football match into an aerial battle, with Mata and Molina the main targets in attack. The centre-forwards and the wide midfielders are always ready to get close to the Villarreal back four to fight for the second balls. In the below picture, we can see the front four of Getafe between the lines. We can also see Villarreal 4-4-2 defensive structure, which will be talked about later.

Tactical Analysis Getafe Villarreal La Liga Statistics
Many Getafe players between the lines

Their direct tendencies can be illustrated in the below table. 43% of their passes were forward compared to Villarreal’s 37%. And while Getafe attempted much fewer passes (289 to 410), they made more passes to the final third (61 to 44).

Tactical Analysis Getafe Villarreal La Liga Statistics
Both teams’ distribution of passing types

Getafe’s pass map further illustrates this. Goalkeeper David Soria didn’t make a single pass to three of their back four. Their main combinations were on the right, with Jorge Molina, Portillo and especially D.Suarez. Suarez and Molina also won most aerial duels for the home side (both won four).

Tactical Analysis Getafe Villarreal La Liga Statistics
Getafe passmap

Foulquier, who played mainly as a right midfielder this season, tried to stay rather lower and narrower than D.Suárez. He calmly picked out his teammates with ground passes from deep. His 86% pass accuracy was the best of the night if we exclude Villarreal’s late substitute Morlanes.

All players on Getafe’s left side are right-footed, so they are expected to cut inside and release an early cross. Late crosses are often made on the right wing, even Molina drifts across frequently to cross. Mata mainly stays central, but sometimes he can also move wide to provide a passing lane forward, typically on the counter. In the build-up to the first goal, both Mata and Molina stayed on the right flank to facilitate the counter-attack down the wing. Quintilla, Fuego and Mori’s defending were poor though.

Villarreal defended in a flat 4-4-2 with Iborra and Bacca up top. This set-up would be a man-for-man counter to Getafe’s attacking structure, which can look quite like a 2-4-4 when they play long balls from deep. Their pressing system didn’t need to be entirely accurate to force the opponent long as Getafe players voluntarily did so.

Villarreal, as expected, started the match with a lot of ball control and possession. They mainly build-up through the middle, with the centre-backs pushed wide, and one central midfielder coming deep to get the ball, giving them a 3 vs 2 advantage.

Tactical Analysis Getafe Villarreal La Liga Statistics
Villarreal build-up with centre-backs spread wide and a pivot coming deep for the ball

Getafe forwards didn’t pressure them too hard but instead tried to block their passes through the centre, aiming to isolate them. Therefore, Villarreal had to get to the opposition half and attack down the wings and try to hit early crosses into the box.

A typical scenario would be as follows: A winger combined with the full-back looked to cross the ball, the other three attacking players would look to make a run into the box. That was not an effective option at all in the first half. However, the players at the back (especially Alvaro) don’t try to play from the back at all cost but instead, are willing to play a lot of long balls to the forwards. During these situations, the front four often get close to Getafe’s defensive line to challenge for the second ball, making them look like a 2-4-4.

Iborra is their main source of progressing the ball high up the pitch. He can come between the opponent’s lines to get the ball or beat an opposition defender in an aerial duel. In both cases, he often accurately lays off passes to a nearby teammate and Villarreal can quickly progress the ball forward. He won 11 aerial duels in this match, much more than any other player on the pitch (the second best was just four).

Another typical situation would be laying off the ball to the wide midfielder. The midfielder runs across the flank and crosses to Carlos Bacca. Villarreal’s centre-backs (more typically Mori) and double pivot can play passes between the lines quite expertly. They can sometimes play great through balls behind the opposition defensive lines for the likes of Bacca to use his pace.

Tactical Analysis Getafe Villarreal La Liga Statistics
Mori lobbed throughball to Bacca (Mori’s a good ball-playing defender along with Alvaro)

Villarreal mainly plays on the left side, with Mori, Trigueros, Pedraza and especially Xavi Quintilla heavily involved.

Tactical Analysis Getafe Villarreal La Liga Statistics
Villarreal passmap

How did Getafe set up their defence?

As we’ve mentioned above, they didn’t aggressively press the opponent’s first line of build-up, only did so higher up the pitch. In those cases, the whole defence stay narrowed both horizontally and vertically, moved according to the ball position. The centre-forwards try to stay between the opponents’ temporary back three and block passes to the deep pivot. They can look to close down the centre-backs if the opportunity arises. In such cases, if a passing lane to the deep pivot opens up, a central midfielder will rush give the opposition ball carrier no time on the ball.

In the example below, we see the Getafe’s forwards getting close to the ball and blocking off any passing lanes to force a forward pass. The central midfielder, Maksimovic stepped out of the line to close down opposition central midfielder.

Tactical Analysis Getafe Villarreal La Liga Statistics
Maksimovic closes down Fuego and at the same time blocks passes through the middle

Getafe players would play follow this sequence of passes. Wide midfielder to full-back, full-back to wide midfielder, central midfielder to the other central midfielder. These players only step out when the opposition player they have been tasked to mark comes forward.

The basics of zonal defending include overload and compression of the ball, making it very difficult to penetrate. Villarreal had to overcome this by switching the ball to the other flank, but they didn’t do that quickly enough throughout the match.

Since Villareal players’ positioning are quite rigid throughout the match and short passing lanes through the centre are mostly blocked. They are often forced to play long balls forward (mainly to Iborra), or else will make some futile U-shaped passes between the back four.

Tactical Analysis Getafe Villarreal La Liga Statistics
Getafe overload a small area in the pitch, forcing a long ball to Iborra

Once again Villarreal moves the ball forward, we see Getafe overload the ball carrier. Notice that the near-side midfielders stay high to close down passing lanes, while the far-side ones are deeper to ensure defensive stability as the ball may suddenly be switched to the other flank.

Tactical Analysis Getafe Villarreal La Liga Statistics
Near-side mids high, far-side mids low

From the 28th minute, Getafe pressed higher. The forwards will close down the centre-backs (one of them can attack the keeper while still covershadow the centre-back), and one centre midfielder will aggressively mark Villarreal’s deep pivot.

Tactical Analysis Getafe Villarreal La Liga Statistics
Getafe pressed higher

Second half

Villarreal equalised right before half time with a header from (who else?) Vicente Iborra. In the 56th minute, Ángel Rodríguez came in as a centre-forward, pushing Mata to the left wing. Mata was replaced by Samu Saiz in the 68th minute. These substitutions clearly showed Jose Bordalas’s intention to attack.

Samu Saiz, as a right-footer playing on the left wing, cut inside to attempt crosses quite often. He often stayed central and sometimes overloaded the right flank to disrupt’s Villarreal’s solid 4-4-2. As a result of this, one man is freed on the right flank (after some combinations) or on the left (after pulling the whole Villarreal system to the right side) to cross some dangerous balls in.

Getafe scored the second goal after a terrible back pass from Quintilla. Molina drove the ball down the wing close to the goal-line and tricked poor Mori like he did in the first goal. His cross found the onrushing Maksimovic’s head for the goal. It was Trigueros who couldn’t track his run.

After the second goal, Getafe stayed deep in a low block to protect the score. 71th-minute Villarreal sub, Santi Cazorla brought much more control to the visitors with his wide range of passing. His two-footedness helped them suddenly switch play to either flank at ease. Villarreal made ground passes more often during this phase. Samu Saiz is often slow to follow Jaume Costa’s movement, so Cazorla or Trigueros will pick out Costa with a lobbed pass after a series of passing in the middle.

Villarreal scored the second goal very late after a mistake from David Soria. He saved Iborra’s header but clumsily let Gerard Moreno’s weak shot in. Getafe had to accept a 2-2 draw.


The draw result was a fair one as both teams lacked creativity in their attack. Valencia’s win meant that they will take the last Champions League spot no matter the result of this match. Their stunning form during the second half of the season proved them worthy of this achievement. Getafe would have to satisfy with playing in the Europa League, which would definitely not be too bad a result for them.

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 May 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.