Boca Juniors’ opponent in the 15th tour of Argentinian Superliga was quite unexpected for it to be named the central match of this tour. They were up against Argentinos Jrs, who finished 26th last season, but surprisingly were on the same amount of points as last year’s Copa Libertadores finalists. A win for any of the teams meant that they will take the first position of Argentinian league. With River Plate catching up there wasn’t a problem with motivation for both teams, as in any other game in this league. In this tactical analysis we are going to see how Boca Juniors tried to get the game under control and the actions their opponents made to not let that happen.
Boca Juniors have made a few changes from the previous game. First of all, Boca’s coach Gustavo Alfaro for this match decided to switch his usual 4-2-3-1 formation and lined up in an unusual 4-1-4-1 formation. This was the first step the coach made to have more control of the game. Apart from this change, Fabra started the game as a left-back instead of Mas, who played in the previous match with both Mauro Zarate with Daniele De Rossi left on the bench. Carlos Tevez missed the game due to injury.
As for Argentinos Jrs, they used their standard 4-2-3-1 and the only change was in the defence, where Marcos Angeleri replaced Carlos Quintana, who picked up an injury in the last game. Their coach, Diego Dabove, decided to stick with his tactics.
Boca Juniors’ build-up play.
“Xeneizes” used a steady back four with full-backs not pushing up to attack very often. Iván Marcone positioned himself very close to the centre-backs to help with circulating possession and starting attacks. Out of possession, they played with a high press. Players such as Reynoso, Mac Allister, Ábila and, Salvio pressed from the front to put pressure on the opposition.
The idea behind their build-up was pretty simple, they tried to use spaces that were left in behind the Argentinos players through quick passing. They wanted to exploit the space they left from their intense pressing style. They often used their goalkeeper for this purpose as in the example below:
The opponent’s intense pressing style oftentimes forced Boca players to get the ball back to their goalkeeper, who used his passing ability to distribute the ball towards the striker or someone in midfield. This was the easiest way to break the first line of pressing and Boca utilised it a lot of times in this match.
In the first stages of the build-up, centre-backs were getting help from their defensive midfielder, and as the match progressed, it was becoming a vital option.
When it came to the final third, we also can see some interesting patterns develop. Boca’s attackers used a lot of false runs in behind the defence to create spaces for teammates. As we mentioned earlier, the back-four always remain untouched while attacking. The midfielders interacted with the forwards in various ways. They were interchanging positions (thus misleading the defenders), and, most importantly, led to a lot of fake runs, that proved to be one of the best ways of creating space behind their defensive line. As a result, a lot of space opened up and created goalscoring opportunities. Here is one example:
Combinations like this allowed Boca to exploit the speed of their attackers, especially the likes of Salvio and Reynoso. The first goal of the game came from similar attack: Reynoso made space for Mac Allister to run into, and the Boca’s central midfielder provided a cross for Ábila, who finished it off with a clinical header. One of the midfielders above (marked blue), makes a false run and takes one defender with him, creating space for Mac Allister to run into.
Mac Allister crosses and Chavez makes a mistake catching the ball and that results in Boca Juniors scoring the first goal of the match:
Argentinos Jrs play using fast transitions
So, Boca Juniors playing style and their ideas of breaking the press seemed to be working pretty well. But what Argentinos could do to find goalscoring opportunities as well? The answer is simple: just to keep doing what they have been doing which is a lot of pressing.
All teams in the Superliga like the idea of pressing. it’s this league’s most distinctive feature. Argentinos Jrs is no exception: their main idea in the attack for this match was creating moments from fast transitions. For this tactical point to happen, they used a pressing group consisting of midfielders and attackers, while the defensive line provided needed security in case Boca bypassed the press. In the example below we can see how their smart positioning on the pitch allowed them to take advantage of opponent’s mistakes:
In the image above we can see five players around the opponent receiving the pass. Once he gets the ball, the closest player attacks him and wins the ball, thus starting a very dangerous attack:
It was just a matter of time for them to find a goal and it came at the beginning of the second half.
Boca’s changes to regain control
Alfaro’s idea of 4-1-4-1 as a remedy to stop Argentinos Jrs pressing worked for some time, but Silva’s goal forced Boca’s coach to make some adjustments to the way his team attacked. His team was clearly going for a win. So, he instructed both full-backs to push higher and the defensive midfielder to play as a half-back dropping in to help the centre-backs like in the example below:
Fabra and Buffarini are staying very wide and high up the pitch during the build-up, thus creating a numerical advantage in the wide attacking areas. At the same time Marcone, the defensive midfielder, is staying in one line with centre-backs to give an extra-man in defence and build-up.
But their opponents defended really well, not letting Boca’s forward to get into dangerous positions. Even bringing Mauro Zarate didn’t help much. The Argentinian forward only managed to get one shot on target with 40% passing accuracy.
Argentinos Jrs started to hope for quick attacks, they mainly used long balls to Silva to start them. But they couldn’t progress into more dangerous areas even if Silva won the ball. The game, in general, started to have even more fouls and that meant a subsequent waste of time, constantly slowing down the pace of the game.
In this manner, both teams got to the end of the game, and one of the few highlights was when forward Villa was sent off with a red card.
From the analysis of both teams, the draw in this match seems like quite a fair result. Argentinos Jrs really wanted to win, but Boca’s class didn’t let that happen. Due to this result, both teams are still sitting on the same amount of points with River Plate two points behind them and having a game in hand. It will be very interesting to see if Argentinos Jrs can sustain that pace and remain in top positions until the end of the tournament. If they will show the same passion and determination like in this game, it will be unfair to them not to be.
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