The kick-off of La Liga’s second fixture took place on Friday at the Nuevo los Carmenes stadium. Granada hosts their other Andalusian neighbour: Sevilla. Both teams showed some positive points in their previous matches. Sevilla did secure their first three points against Espanyol. On the other hand, Granada, and despite the draw, did score four goals in their opening match. It’s now time to confirm the promising start and to try to make a second step into a successful season debut.
I will try in this tactical analysis article to discuss, the different details that decided this game.
The two managers choose quite similar systems. They both, put on place a 4-2-3-1 slot which is based on two central midfielders that play a decisive role in the different phases of play. The slots can also be seen, on paper, as 4-3-3 formations. Though, during the game, the defensive roles of all of the four side midfielders of the two opponents alongside with the type of their off-ball movements made it more suitable to see the disposition as a 4-3-2-1.
Diego Martinez did renew his confidence in all the 11 players that have started last week against Villareal. On the other hand, Julien Lopetegui made only one change comparing to his first win against Espanyol. Ever Banega who took the place of Oliver Torres.
Sevilla and Granada struggles during the first half
The first period of the game has not seen much quality goal-scoring chances from either team. Sevilla, for example, had four shots on target. All of these four shots were taken from outside the box. Only Escudero’s one at the 44th minute did worry the hosts’ goalkeeper. Granada did not manage to have a single target shot in over 50 minutes of play in the first half. (45 minutes + 7 minutes of stoppage time)
This lack of chances is on a part, due to the lack of passes around the penalty box area and in the final third in general. Both teams, and especially Granada, did not succeed to have ball possession near the opponent’s net. Sevilla players attempted 83 passes in the final third. Granada attempted a quite similar number: 80 passes. This is quite low in general and does mean that they attempt only three passes every two minutes to the final third of the pitch. In addition to this, if you have a look at the Sevilla passing map you will notice another detail. There were only five passes attempted from zone 14 of the pitch and passes one zone 13 and 15 were either crosses or towards the flanks. In other words, Sevilla did not succeed to access to zones where the xG is the highest.
They did create some interesting connections, that will be discussed later, but failed to bring the ball high on the pitch. It is essentially due to some technical failures alongside with poor decision making.
Looking at Granada’s passing map, we can notice quite the same thing. There are few passes into the dangerous zones. In addition to this, Granada showed an imbalance during the attacking phase. They attempt most of their crosses, passes and runs on the left side of the pitch with a little presence on the right.
This focus on one side made things easier for visitors. They had to find solutions for one single issue. In addition, their entire left side was left at rest without being challenged or exhausted and thus, the left midfielder ready to make runs whenever the team recovers the ball. Defensively, it’s Lucas Ocampos who had the mission to go back and either press or cover passing channel to the centre.
Sevilla’s interesting connections and structures
Lopetegui’s team put a lot of effort in progression through the flanks. Here’s the repartition of their actions through the match. They had only 23% of their actions in the middle of the pitch. They dispose of two highly talented side midfielders who are able to dribble past opponents and combine with team-mates. Their starting side-backs were also among the best performers during La Liga 2018-2019 season. This says the team had some great key players to rely on during playing through the flanks.
This is important on paper and did help the visitors to build well their attacks. What is tactically interesting now is the positioning of all the midfielders and their movements during attacks. Here, the key for Sevilla is to always offer the ball holder solutions in the different directions of play. In other words, if a left-back has the ball he can pass the ball forward, towards the centre to his attacking midfielder or just to his right side.
Thus Sevilla involves four players in such situations, which means that they always had numerical superiority. Granada cannot close down all these passing options. They did not have enough compact structure to bring all four players in such a small zone of the pitch.
Unfortunately, most of these actions did not end in a shot or a chance creation.
Here are a few examples of such situations.
The key point here is the movement of the three central midfielders. They remain always close to each other. They also try to keep their average (x,y) coordinate close to the ball position. This guarantees presence around the passer which means passing options and recovery possibilities whenever the ball lost.
Here is a picture showing the average positioning of the midfield trio: Banega, Fernando and Joan Jordan.
On the contrary, the centroid of the Granada’s midfield trio was quite far from the ball position. Only the nearest one get involved in the build-up through the flank. Defensively, this did not change a lot which had cost some problems.
You will notice here the huge gap between Vico and the two central midfielders. Of course, the picture aggregates all positioning data over 90 minutes and so it’s not relative to a specific phase. However, it does show a general tendency of the team.
What changed during the second half?
Sevilla scored the first and unique goal of the game just five minutes after the break. They did then change their strategy a little bit. They did not totally give up the ball possession to Granada but they did attempt less risky passes for example. During the second half, they attempt less passes to the final third than their neighbours. They did attempt more tackles and more clearances (17 to 5) than El Grana did. It’s quite natural since they play an away match against a quite tough opponent.
In what concerns Granada’s analysis, the hosts did not change much of their tactics. As you can see in the picture below, the lack of passing options persist. there is no support for the side-back from the team’s midfielders. The trio is too far from the ball one more time.
They did also face another problem whenever they reach the final third of the pitch. Granada’s players rarely make runs in the back of the defenders. Whenever Sevilla losses the ball their side-backs go out of position to close Granada’s side midfielders. This leaves space between central defenders and full back. None of Soldado or Vico made a run towards this free space.
Last but not least the most interesting thing that I’ve remarked from El Grana players is their risk-taking. Central defenders and midfielders attempted dribbles in risky zones. They carried the ball into space whenever it is possible. The following map shows the location of four out of 11 total dribbles These four dribbles were all attempted by Central backs and central midfielders.
The main remark about this game is that Sevilla did totally deserve their win. They had the clearest ideas and the most organised structures at the different stages of play. They did also create the most dangerous chances. There’s of course room to improve individually and collectively. Most of the players are not 100% fit to play intense games and there is still some poor decision making. The team needs also more solutions when it comes to the second part of the build-up. Once the first defensive line is beaten, the players need a few patterns to help them develop their creativity.
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