Sevilla managed to squeeze through to a 3-2 victory over Real Sociedad on Sunday, coming back from an early goal which now puts Sevilla and Sociedad level on points in the La Liga table. This tactical analysis will show how Sevilla managed to take the win.
Sevilla lined-up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Sergio Reguilón and Jesús Navas manning the full-back positions. Diego Carlos and Koundé started in central defence, with Fernando screening ahead of them. Oliver Torres and Banega made up the rest of Sevilla’s midfield, while Nolito, Ocampos and de Jong started as the front three.
The visitors, Sociedad started in a 4-1-4-1 shape, with Llorente and Bustondo partnering at centre-back, with veteran Nacho Monreal starting on the left side. Zubeldia started in holding midfield, with Real Madrid loanee Odegaard and Zurutuza ahead of him. Oyarzabal and Januzaj played on the wings, with Willian José through the middle.
Sevilla’s defensive setup
Sevilla’s tactics set-out to aggressively press Sociedad’s strongest asset: their wingers Oyarzabal and Januzaj. Meanwhile, they had an excellent target man in Willian José to deal with in the centre. Therefore, the home side set-up a central block which would look to follow and at times push the ball to the flanks in a bid to isolate the ball out wide from the middle of the pitch. Fernando dropped just ahead of a back-three, who would take Januzaj inside while giving Navas the freedom to press the wing, supported by Ocampos and Banega, who can squeeze in on the ball, while also being in the position to follow the ball should it manage to be worked backward to the two free green shirts. On this occasion, the pressure applied by Sevilla is too much for Sociedad to continue play, which puts Sevilla in a great position- with their attacking full-backs able to transition Sevilla from defence into attack.
As we can see below, this wide press and isolation tactics are not just used by Sevilla’s defence. Real Sociedad look to play out from the back, splitting their central defenders in a bid to stretch to the front-three, preventing this kind of press. However, rather than covering the high full-back, Nolito instead comes inside to cover between Sociedad’s centre-half and deep-lying midfielder. Meanwhile, Sevilla commit their two central midfielders to cover Sociedad’s full-back and dropping midfielder who drops deep in an attempt to break the wall between the left side of Sociedad’s defence and the midfield. On this occasion, a long ball forward is won by Sevilla’s centre-back and Sevilla can then build up from the back.
In this third example, we can see that Sociedad look to play out from the back once again. This time, Zubeldia has dropped in earlier to support the back four against Sevilla’s wide press. However, every close passing option is man-marked, while a spare man completes the block who can then lead the press on the ball. Meanwhile, the long switch is also covered by Sociedad’s winger on the far side. However, Sevilla did not commit as many bodies forward on this occasion, and the far side centre-half is left open. As he receives the ball and the full-back’s marker is then caught between two minds as to whether he presses the ball or sticks to the full-back, giving time and space for the away side to play out in better space.
Sociedad control their penalty area
The away side set-up to cut off the penalty area, holding a firm line on the edge of the box to create a dense line in a bid to protect their goal from numerical overloads from the front-three and an oncoming midfield of Sevilla.
As we can see below, Sociedad hold their line on the edge of the box, while looking to protect an open area there by committing numbers to press the ball as it progresses forward on the far side. This means that rather than look to exploit this space on the near side, Sevilla’s oncoming midfielders are going toward the far side to support their teammate, who is under severe pressure. A problem to note, however, is the Sociedad line itself which is far too spread out as the attacker on the near side exploits the blind spot of the defender ahead of him, while the Sociedad right-back is too far from him to neutralise the danger. Had it not been for a well-placed block ahead of them, the Sociedad defence would’ve been in a lot of trouble from the cross.
However, this was exploited a couple of times by Sevilla, who managed to work their way between the lines as the midfield failed to cover the back four, who are packed together to protect their goal. This opened up the wide areas, with Jesús Navas exploiting this space on the far right. The midfield for Sociedad were unable to create the block on this occasion as Sevilla slipped between the lines early and attacked the middle rather than beginning the attack in the wings. This brings us onto our third and final piece of analysis.
Sevilla’s build-up play
Sevilla looked to build out from the back quickly, focusing on their wing play by pushing their full-backs high. At the beginning of the move, Sevilla’s full-backs push forward, attaching themselves to the midfield in a bid to stretch them across the field and create gaps to exploit. To protect the goal as well as moving the ball forward, two Sevilla midfielders drop deep to create a block to play around Sociedad’s front men. Should one of the opponents intercept a pass, the attackers are separated from their midfield, and the block can squeeze in on the ball to prevent a shot on goal.
As we can see below, Reguilón takes up this position between the lines, with open space in the centre for himself, an oncoming midfielder or an inside forward to attack. Sevilla opt for the switch to the open full-back on the far side, as the left-back took defenders to his side, opening an abundance of space on the right side. From here, Sociedad were unable to set-up their defensive block in front of the ball, leaving the defence and space on the edge of the area exposed. Sevilla were unable to convert from this position, however, as poor decision-making ended in a cross into the penalty area rather than a forward attacking the space on the edge of the area.
Sevilla did well to take all three points against Real Sociedad, disrupting their well-organised midfield commanding a defence who could not cover the wings while isolating their penalty area on their own. Meanwhile, Sociedad must be careful when looking to attack more, as was the case when Isak came on to partner Willian José in the second half. This severely weakened what was already a poorly organised midfield, and when setting up in a flat-four, they were too open to the Sevilla full-backs coming inside and disrupting their shape. Instead, they should look to a more solid formation when looking to create this block, an extra holding midfielder could certainly solve the problem so that they don’t have to leave this far-side gap on the edge of the penalty area.
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