Sevilla edged Alavés to a 1-0 victor in La Liga to go top of the table. Julien Lopetgui’s side took all three points thanks to Joan Jordan’s freekick, securing their third win in four games. This tactical analysis will look into how they did it away from home.

Lineups

Alavés lined-up in a 4-4-2 formation, featuring Rubén Duarte and Rodrigo Ely in defence. Tomas Pina and Pere Pons manned the centre of midfield, with Wakaso and former Barcelona man Aleix Vidal on the wings. Joselu partnered Lucas Perez up front, both of whom formerly played in the Premier League.

La Liga 2019/20: Alaves vs Sevilla - tactical analysis tactics

Sevilla came out in a 4-3-3 shape, with Premier League winner, Jesus Navas, captaining the side. Fernando sat in front of the centre-halves, as Banega and Sevilla’s new boy, Joan Jordán, in midfield. Meanwhile, de Jong took up the sole striker role, with Ocampos and Óliver Torres either side of him.

Alavés isolation

The home side went into this game as the underdogs, with Sevilla flying high early on in La Liga. Alavés set-up to isolate Sevilla’s front-three from their creatively dangerous midfield. As we can see below, Alavés set-up a zonal system where Sevilla’s most dangerous players trapped inside several cages of three or four blue shirts. Any players outside of this caging zone are man-marked or closely followed by the outside members of the cage.

La Liga 2019/20: Alaves vs Sevilla - tactical analysis tactics
Alavés look to cut-off any options in the centre for Sevilla’s left-back. This is done by creating cages around Sevilla’s most dangerous, and man-marking any other options.

There is a vulnerability in this method of defending, as Sevilla can move the ball back to drag out and stretch this zone. If the ball is moved quickly enough, Sevilla can then expose more space to attack into. However, this was made to be very difficult by Alavés, with their quick pressure allowing them to completely control the centre of the pitch when off-the-ball.

As we can see below, Alavés set-up a more spacious zone of marking which is without cages in the centre. Alavés switched to a 5-3-2, leaving more space in the centre for Sevilla players to move, with one spare blue jersey in the middle. This set-up is similar to the one previous, as it traps Sevilla’s most dangerous in a zone which can be easily pressured should the ball get inside, while any spare white jerseys can be pressured from the outside players of the zone. This too is very vulnerable to quick passing, which Sevilla are known for. Should the ball be played deep, the Alavés zone will be stretched, opening the centre and moving defenders away from their designated positions.

La Liga 2019/20: Alaves vs Sevilla - tactical analysis tactics
A cageless zone is deployed by Alaves, leaving a spare man in the middle while cutting-off Sevilla’s danger men from the full-backs who bring the ball forward.

So, how did Sevilla break through these zones? This brings us on to our next piece of analysis.

Sevilla break the cage

The away side were able to break through these zones of isolation through quick passing play and zippy movement which mixed up the Alavés back-line. As we can see below, Sevilla’s front-three is man-marked by three of Alavés’ back-four, while the home side’s midfield three looks to cut-off the ball from the Sevilla attackers. Alavés switched into a 4-3-3 formation, as one midfielder pushed the defence with the two strikers. This change in shape for Alavés made it easier for Sevilla to surpass the first wave of pressure, while the home side had one fewer to set-up their caged zone. Sevilla’s front-three drop deep to drag the Alavés defence to hold a high line.

La Liga 2019/20: Alaves vs Sevilla - tactical analysis tactics
Alaves set-up a zonal cage around the Sevilla striker de Jong while their midfield three look to completely cut-off the front-three from the rest of the Sevilla team

The ball is played into this cage around the striker, dragging an Alavés central defender out of his position, leaving space for Reguilón to run into and attack a broken back-line. The Sevilla left-back wins a freekick on the edge of the box having broken through this zone with quick passing. This freekick was well taken by Joan Jordán to win the match for the away side.

La Liga 2019/20: Alaves vs Sevilla - tactical analysis tactics
An Alaves centre-half is dragged out of position in a bid to tighten the cage to squeeze the Sevilla possession. However, the rest of the cage does not press, and the centre-half is dragged out of position, creating room for Sevilla to attack the penalty area.

Sevilla force long balls

Sevilla’s tactics forced Alaves into long passes, which allowed Sevilla to dominate possession by 62% and reducing Alavés’ final third passing rate to 52% in comparison to Sevilla’s 77%.

As we can see, Sevilla isolate the Alavés strike pair and a creative midfielder in a wide cage, while man-marking Alavés’ near-side winger. Meanwhile, two of Sevilla’s front three pressurise the ball, preventing the Alavés right-back from playing out from the back. He is therefore forced into a long-ball toward Joselu, which is won by the Sevilla centre-half and possession is regained.

La Liga 2019/20: Alaves vs Sevilla - tactical analysis tactics
Two white shirts close the ball down, while Alaves’ most dangerous players are well covered by Sevilla’s back-line, giving themselves a great chance of regaining possession.

Once again, we see below that the ball is being pressurised by a Sevilla front-man, while they also man-mark the Alavés midfield three, plus cover on the Alavés right-back. Meanwhile, the home side’s front-three is caged by the Sevilla back-four and a deep-lying midfielder, out-numbering the Alavés attack, which gives the visitors a good chance to win the long ball.

La Liga 2019/20: Alaves vs Sevilla - tactical analysis tactics
Sevilla once again close down the ball in deep positions, while man-marking the midfield. Therefore, Alavés are forced into a long pass, which is well covered by Sevilla’s numbers on the edge of their penalty area.

Conclusion

Sevilla were deserving of the points against Alavés, which sent them to the top of La Liga. Their excellent movement off-the-ball proved to be too much for an organised Alavés back-line. Overall, Alavés need to decide on their best shape to defend in, as Sevilla were able to break them down too easily when in a 4-3-3.



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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