Valencia and Sevilla played a relatively stale game that ended 1-1 with a late home goal to tie it all up. With Ruben Sobrino and Lucas Ocampos on the scoresheet, this match was a very conservative game. Here is a tactical analysis.
Valencia (4-4-2): Cillessen; Wass, Garay, Gabriel, Gaya; Torres, Coquelin, Parejo, Soler; Gomez, Lee
Sevilla (4-3-3): Vaclik; Navas, Kounde, Carlos, Escudero; Fernando, Jordan, Banega; Ocampos, Oliver, Hernandez
Valencia made plenty of changes from the last match. While they stuck to the 4-4-2 that they’ve used the entirety of the season thus far, the lineup was a complete rotation from the last game.
It is actually fair to say that Albert Celades does this often as every lineup was different from the last, but in particular this match saw a drastic change to the starting 11. Rodrigo got sent off in the last game and was suspended as a result. Coquelin came in for Geoffrey Kondogbia in that holding midfielder position and Lee Kang-In came in for Kevin Gameiro. As for Rodrigo’s replacement, that ended up being Maxi Gomez.
The backline was almost the same with the only change being Daniel Wass for Thierry Correia in right back.
Sevilla on the other hand, went 4-3-3 as they often do. Not many changes for them from the last game but Oliver Torres enters for Nolito up on the right-wing.
Valencia’s defensive shape
As mentioned before, Valencia lined up with a 4-4-2 and had this deployed in their defensive shape. They seemed to care more about lining up in this formation and looking for interceptions. Clearly a zonal marking scheme. They aren’t marking individually, but rather closing down the space on Sevilla to try and win an interception rather than looking for the tackle. This was their tactics for the entirety of the match.
Basically, what made this strong was how compact the home side was as they would rarely venture out of position to keep this shape except on the occasion where they needed to close down on the space. For example, if Sevilla attacked on the right side, Valencia’s left striker (in this case, Gomez) would venture out on Sevilla’s right to cover the space. Usually there were about 2 players covering and marking the opposition, but never too close and it was more about finding the interception.
As shown above, Valencia are lined up in the 4-4-2. Every time the ball moves in one direction (eg, on the left-wing) one player ventures out of position to add an extra man to the zone and close down on the space.
As Fernando executes his pass over to his teammate, Kang In-Lee and Ferran Torres cover the space. They go take Kounde both without holding him or to put in a tackle, but rather to close him down and give him less to work with.
Kounde has two options here. Make a pass back and play it safe, or get it forward as he has some space to progress the game. Daniel Wass is currently where he needs to be and this would probably mean that Coquelin or even In-Lee would have to go and support Wass in defence. On that note though, there also isn’t enough support and if Kounde is to overlap, he would need cover. This creates a possible counter-attacking risk.
Kounde opts for a back pass and In-Lee and Ferran Torres return to their respective positions to stay in defensive shape and not allow any possibility of a dangerous attack.
Sevilla in possession
Sevilla play a 4-4-3 but the midfielders and wingers are in a narrow shape. This doesn’t necessarily mean they overlap though. Instead, they wait out wide to offer extra width as the wingers mostly drift inside and lure their defenders to create space out wide.
While the team would mostly sit in a narrow 4-3-3 to try and oppose the rather wide Valencia 4-4-2, they used the zonal marking to their advantage and sent out the full-back to be near the touchline as the players to offer that extra width. It isn’t exactly an overlap as mentioned but just an attacking player who the team can pass the ball to out wide.
A man to man defensive system from the opposition would have made things more ideal for the visitor. This is because having players like Lucas Ocampos sit narrow when he is considered a “wide” player would lure in the defenders making space for his teammates around him, but this isn’t the case with Valencia’s zonal system. As a result, Sevilla have to send the full-backs forward to offer more men up front and lure one or two players out of position before making a swift pass to find the open space they need.
In the image above, Navas is the only one out wide while everyone else is in the middle. Ocampos who is the right-winger is the closest to the full-back and even though there isn’t exactly an “overlap”, Navas is asking for the ball as he has an entire wing open to him. With his well-known speed, he could make a run for it.
Ocampos retreats from the box either to provide an extra passing option or to take his marker with him and let Navas get to the byline. Ocampos tries the latter, but unfortunately, it didn’t work due to Valencia’s zonal marking scheme. The opposition only cared about who was in possession. This did not stop the full-back for having a go at reaching the byline.
They relied on the right side for most of the game, just as the heat map would suggest. Joan Jordan, Navas, and Ocampos all linked up well.
Valencia’s attacking setup
There was no pseudo-formation for Valencia when they were in possession at least early on in the game. They maintained the 4-4-2 in both attack and defence. The winger would go up to join the attack but would stay out wide and not really drift inside. The full-backs would push forward but never really exceeded midfield.
They would play very centrally because of this. Valencia didn’t have many men out wide. As opposed to Sevilla who did something similar, they had full-backs who pushed up and attacked whereas Valencia they don’t venture too far out of position.
Also, a few centre backs joined the attack at least in the second half when they were chasing an equalizer. Every time Valencia were taking a step backwards, so would their central defender as he was risking a dangerous counter-attack, with little cover.
In the second half, Valencia made a couple of subs and changed to the 4-3-3 in attack to chase an equalizer, and they ditched the “no pseudo-formation” strategy as they remained in the 4-4-2 but sent the left and right midfielders up top when they had the ball. In this attempt, Carlos Soler and Kang In-Lee both came off for Manu Vallejo and Ruben Sobrino respectively.
Valencia in attack would send 3 men to the box to overwhelm the Sevilla defence, not leaving them much option for wide players. At this moment, the visiting team wasn’t extremely defensive and was looking for good opportunities to counter, but this was risky due to Valencia’s strategy in attack to sending the 3 forwards higher up the pitch.
Kondogbia would also push high up while Gaya would finally begin to overlap, something that wasn’t done to often in the first 60 minutes. His heatmap summarizes how conservative he was during the game, especially when you compare it to the more attacking Jesus Navas on the other team.
This screenshot, late in the game shows Valencia’s attacking setup, with Gaya the more offensive-minded full-back compared to Wass, he offers some width and finds space on the left side. Meanwhile, there are three attackers in the box and opposing markers. This is the perfect chance for Gaya to overlap, and that he does.
This is the perfect opportunity as it doesn’t leave the Sevilla defence many options. Kondogbia, unfortunately, did not pass over to Gaya but the opposition couldn’t move too much because of the three men in the box. The odds were against them.
After finding the equaliser off a set piece in the 80th minute, they became more conservative in attack. In the situation below, you can see how many men Sevilla have in their own half as opposed to Valencia.
Valencia had five players in Sevilla’s half, and they were all relatively spaced out. The other team had all 10 of their outfielders in their own half. Sevilla seemed happier to let it play out as a draw, and while this mentality also wasn’t too far off for Valencia, they still threw a few men forward to try and maybe bag a winner but also being cautious of the counter-attack.
In this analysis, it was shown that Sevilla were perhaps the better and most intelligent side, Valencia offensively were not too exciting but at the back they had understood the tactical shape that Celades wanted to deploy. In the end, both goals came from plays off set pieces. Valencia’s goal was directly off a free-kick and Sevilla the goal had started from it. In conclusion, a draw was a fair result but Sevilla were easier to understand and this perhaps was why they were ahead in the game for the longest time.
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