Valencia met Mallorca at the Mestalla, hoping to get their first win of the 2019/20 La Liga season against their newly promoted opponents. This tactical analysis will investigate the approach taken by the two managers, Marcelino and Vicente Moreno. Their tactics were quite similar and Mallorca initially managed to match their more prestigious counterparts. Their pre-match analysis clearly translated to Los Bermellones in keeping Valencia at bay before they eventually succumbed after conceding two penalties.
Valencia made several changes after their defeat to Celta Vigo. Mouctar Diakhaby replaced Gabriel Paulista. Ferrán Torres replaced Cristiano Piccini which resulted in Daniel Wass moving to right-back. Francis Coquelin came in for Geoffrey Kondogbia. Rogrigo replaced Maxi Gómez. In spite of all of this, Marcelino still retained his favoured 4-4-2 formation.
Mallorca meanwhile operated with a 4-4-1-1 at the Mestalla. They were unchanged from their defeat to Real Sociedad.
Both sides attempted to get extra bodies infield initially by utilising inverted wingers. Concurrently, they asked their full-backs to provide width in a corresponding move. Early on, it was Mallorca who had more success in this regard- this was largely due to their use of midfielder Aleix Febas as a number ten off the striker. Valencia meanwhile, used two strikers ahead of their midfield quartet.
Febas would often drop deeper off the front line, sometimes creating an almost 4-3-3 structure though more often creating a 4-2-3-1 formation. This often gave the away side a significant numerical superiority in the centre of the pitch. This certainly helped Mallorca be the more threatening side early on. Furthermore, the quality of passing and patience shown by Los Bermellones in the early exchanges across the team helped them gain control.
Valencia were somewhat less successful in creating such numerical advantages, particularly in the initial stages. Mallorca were more defensively compact than Valencia, limiting the space between the lines and forcing Valencia’s players wider. They utilised a 4-4-2 stucture, with Febas pushing up alongside Ante Budimir. Marcelino’s side encountered a similar approach and had similar problems against Celta Vigo. However, the home side were more effective at creating those superiorities as the game progressed.
Parejo, Diakhaby and Rodrigo integral
Dani Parejo and the aforementioned Diakhaby and Rodrigo were integral as Valencia grew into the game. Parejo and Diakhaby were Valencia’s most willing and effective progressive players. Parejo was accurate on all 11 of his passes to the final third and three of his five passes to the penalty area. He would often take a position up on the left side of his centrebacks and look to play penetrative passes from those positions. He was willing to take those positions to counter Mallorca’s mostly compact, 4-4-2 defensive shape.
Diakhaby meanwhile, was accurate with three of his four passes into the final third and he played 23 forward passes compared to only two backwards. He also made four progressive runs. Diakhaby often took the ball beyond Mallorca’s front two pressers and threatened the midfield, opening space up beyond them.
Rodrigo was frequently the target of passes from deep. His movement off the front line was Valencia’s key source of ball progression through the centre of the field, with passers looking to get the ball into his feet between the lines. Mallorca’s defence would not follow the striker, whilst their midfield often seemed unaware of his positioning behind them. Resultantly, he could move the ball on to a teammate to continue the attack. He was also willing to pull into wide areas to create overloads there.
The striker’s movement became increasingly threatening in the second half, as Mallorca chased the game. They started to press higher with the front players but failed to follow with their midfield and defence. This created vast spaces in between the lines and allowed Valencia to get a grip on the game as well as progress the ball to Rodrigo more easily.
Valencia utilise underlaps
Having favoured a policy of inverting their wingers and sending their full-backs on overlaps during the first half, Valencia moved towards underlaps in the second period. Their half-time analysis had seemingly revealed that Mallorca were using their full-backs to track Valencia’s wingers when they were in wide areas. Simultaneously, Mallorca’s centre backs could be manipulated by the positioning of Valencia’s strikers. This opened a large gap, through which Valencia’s full-backs could underlap.
The ploy worked well, with Valencia managing to break through Mallorca’s lines at pace in wide areas far more effectively than they had managed in the first half. In the absence of midfielders likely to make such runs with any consistency (though Coquelin made one into the penalty area in the first half to win a penalty), Marcelino asked his full-backs to do so instead. As a result, Mallorca’s defensive structures were routinely pierced even after they abandoned their high pressing later in the second period.
Though Mallorca’s defensive discipline initially frustrated their opponents, and their attack was more effective early on, they were handed a second successive defeat. Valencia grew into the game, led by the penetrative passing of Parejo and Diakhaby. Rodrigo’s movement increasingly provided a target between the lines. This tactical analysis highlighted this trio’s importance to Valencia’s performance.
Marcelino also adapted, switching his inverted wingers and overlapping full-backs for wide playmakers and underlapping full-backs. Lacking consistent surges from deep from their midfielders, this move helped force Mallorca back and give Valencia the control of the game they needed after going two goals up. Furthermore, the disorganised nature of Mallorca’s second half high press only served to tire Los Bermellones. Valencia were able to play through the press and take the sting out of the game.
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