Real Betis came back from a goal down to take all three points from the hands of Leganés in La Liga last weekend. Betis came up against a defensively solid Leganés team who would enter the pitch to frustrate the home side and look to steal a win from counters and set-pieces. Meanwhile, Betis looked to play expansive football and breakdown a well-organised Leganés team, using the class of Nabil Fekir and high pressing full-backs. This tactical analysis will examine how Betis made the comeback to collect the victory.

Lineups

Real Betis lined-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with the converted winger, Alfonzo Pedraza playing at left-back, who partnered the ever-present Sidnei on the left side of the defence. William Carvalho played at number four, while Andrés Guardado slotted in as a deep-lying playmaker. The two holding midfielders would act as the link between the defence and a frightening attack, which featured excellent playmakers Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales.

La Liga 2019 20: Real Betis vs Leganes - tactical analysis
Real Betis vs Leganes: La Liga team sheet

Meanwhile, the visitors Leganés came out in a 5-3-2 shape, with Kenneth Omeruo sitting in the heart of the Leganés back-line. A midfield three of Roque Mesa, Rubén Perez and Óscar Rodriguez acted as support for front-men Youssef En-Nesyri and Marti Braithwaite.

Leganés defensive shape

The away team went into this fixture knowing that to come away from Betis with anything, they would have to shut down the Betis attack from the source, while also covering the Betis forward four. The source to close down came in the shape of William Carvalho, who acted as the main link between defence and attack for Betis. As shown below, Carvalho was often the first point of pressure applied by the Leganés midfield and front pair. Meanwhile, the Leganés cage is flexible enough to press the centre-halves while having an extra man to screen the defence.

la liga 2019 20 real betis vs leganes tactical analysis tactics
Carvahlo is given no option to progress the ball up the field and is forced to play backwards.

This tactic proved successful to an extent, as Carvalho lost the ball three times, all in his own half, while he was also unable to carry the ball himself, with just one attempted and unsuccessful dribble, below his average of two per match. Furthermore, Carvalho was limited to just 47 accurate passes, well below his match average of 63 passes per match. 

Leganés held a strong shape throughout, keeping any gaps as tight as possible in the middle, before aggressively pressing the ball when in wide areas. As we can see below, Joaquín was the player to be isolated from play when in the final third. As the ball is played inside, the Spaniard is entered into a classic game of ‘rondo‘, this surrounding tactic with Roque Mesa left spare allowed Leganés to win the ball out wide nine times out of 10.

La Liga 2019/20: Real Betis vs Leganes - tactical analysis
An in-game rondo game commences, and there seems to be only one winner, as Joaquín is completely isolated from his team, while any out-ball is covered well by Leganés.

Once again, we can see that Leganés pressure on the wide positions while having cover inside on the greatest Betis dangers. This aggressive three-man press on the wide positions proved successful for the most part, but was also risky from the away side, with more of the pitch made available for players like Fekir to pick-off from. This wide press tactic brings us onto our next piece of analysis.

La Liga 2019 20: Real Betis vs Leganes - tactical analysis
Leganés are able to isolate Betis on the wings, but risk space being exploited should the ball not be won.

Leganés wing-backs

The away sides’ wing-backs proved a crucial part of the Leganés defensive set-up, more so than Leganés’ forward threat. The wing-backs would pressurise the ball as the ball came across to their side of the pitch, as they quickly took up a position alongside the midfield three. As we can see below, however, this tactic would be risky, opening the pitch up behind them and between the lines. This pressure was difficult to bypass, but if the wing-back press was beaten, Betis could cause massive problems for Leganés.

La Liga 2019 20: Real Betis vs Leganes - tactical analysis
The Leganés wing-back, Silva moves forward to create a left-sided midfield four, as they look to isolate Morón upfront. Meanwhile, his wing-back partner drops deep to create a back-three.

In the final third, the Leganés wing-backs are the first to pressurise, with an extra centre-half and central midfielder coming out to support in an aggressive press on the Betis wingers. However, once again we see a huge gap inside as well as plenty of space for Canales on the edge of the box. This was a high-risk tactic employed by Leganés but worked well for most of this game, but when it didn’t, it was chaos in the Leganés box.

La Liga 2019 20: Real Betis vs Leganes - tactical analysis
Three defenders pressurise the ball out wide but leave a lot of space behind them that Betis could exploit.

Betis break-down back five

At this point, Leganés held the lead following a rather scrappy goal from Braithwaite earlier in the half. Leganés continued to aggressively press the wide positions, which was particularly questionable given the risky nature of the away side’s set-up. Fekir moves toward the ball, which lured the cage around him from the supporting two defenders. Fekir then exploits the blind side of the cage, attacking the abundance of space left behind on the left side of the penalty area.

La Liga 2019 20: Real Betis vs Leganes - tactical analysis
Fekir drops inside from the Leganés cage and exploits the space in-behind.

Fekir’s movement drags the three that had caged him around for a few moments, bringing them back inside and out again. This mazy movement allowed for Betis wing-back, Emerson to take advantage of the space and distraction that Fekir created, the ball came in and Morón was there to finish the move off and equalise for Betis. The home side had finally found a way to surpass this aggressive press that Leganés refused to ease upon.

The momentum for Betis was in full flow, and the home side continued to exploit the room created by a relentlessly aggressive defensive style on the wings. This time, a through ball came into the feet of Canales on the inside rather than Pedraza on the wing. This takes one of the three wing pressers out of the equation. The space in the middle is quickly exploited by the movement of Canales and the lack of organization following the compromise of the defence on the near side. The Spaniard found Fekir at the back post, and the Frenchman gave Betis the lead, and the winning goal.

La Liga 2019 20: Real Betis vs Leganes - tactical analysis
A great ball through for Canales opens up space in the box, as Leganés can’t apply the pressure out wide that they could previously.

Conclusion

In the end, Leganés were too stubborn with their tactics to keep the three points as safe as possible. For much of this game, Betis struggled to open the visitors up, with the inside sealed shut, while the wide areas were aggressively shut down. Leganés were excellent in covering the Betis front four while pressurising the ball when in deep areas. Betis did well to work their opponents out and exploit their mistakes, with the talent of Fekir proving a game-changer when Betis could bring him into the match.


Artwork by @chapulana

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Ciaran O'Hare

Writer/Analyst at FBA
Leeds United and Falkirk fan, podcaster and radio producer. I love to dive deep into the art of football tactics and the sport's greatest stories.
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