Villarreal took all three points away at Sevilla, who were high-flying in La Liga. Strong set-pieces and patient counter-attacking football served Villarreal brilliantly against a team who lacked creativity and adaptable tactics, leading to their downfall this weekend. This tactical analysis will look into how Villarreal managed to upset the odds at Sevilla.

Lineups

Sevilla lined-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Diego Carlos and Daniel Carriço guarding the centre of defence, and Reguilón and Navas starting as full-backs. Banega and Fernando started just ahead of the back-four, with Torres, Vázquez and Munir supporting de Jong as the lone striker.

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

Villarreal came out in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Albiol and Torres sitting in the centre of defence, with Gaspar and Xavi Quintillà starting either side of them. Vicente Iborra sat just ahead of the centre-halves, with Zambo Anguissa, Trigueros, Gómez and Chukweze completing the midfield four. Gerard Moreno started as the sole striker.

Villarreal’s counter Sevilla’s press

Sevilla deployed a wide block in a bid to slow down Villarreal’s potentially dangerous and pacey counter-attacks from the wide areas. Sevilla generally pressed with four bodies in order to out-number the wide rotations of the Villarreal winger, full-back and near-sided central midfielder.

As we can see below, Sevilla look to push possession against the by-line, doubling down on the potential danger of Chukweze in order to nullify the threat the winger poses. The supporting midfielder is man-marked while Fernando covers the detached full-back. This caused major problems for Villarreal, who struggled for creativity in the play-out. Sevilla were generally well-disciplined in Villarreal’s play-out and covered themselves pretty well.

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

However, there was a weak spot in this press, which was Fernando’s positioning in the block, covering the detachment of the block.

As we can see below, Sevilla deploy their wide press tactics higher up the field, as Villarreal’s goal from a corner kick forced Sevilla to come out further. Villarreal used this to their advantage, with the space left by Fernando who had been taken into defending the ball rather than covering the gap shown in the midfield. Meanwhile, Fernando’s midfield partner in Banega hasn’t filled his teammate’s position, leaving a huge gap.

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

Reverse passes ruffled Sevilla’s feathers even more, further stretching the four-man press and engaging Fernando out-of-position. Villarreal’s reverse passes then gave the wide rotations time to move around to open further gaps in the middle and giving their wingers more space and freedom to move.

As we can see below, the pass into Albiol further stretched the four-man wide press, giving Anguissa and Chukweze time to rotate, giving Chukweze more room to make moves to receive a through ball.

Fernando’s positioning is stretched further with the inside run of Chukweze, opening a clear passing lane into the gap created by the high and wide press, while Anguissa and Ckukweze overload a weakened defence in the wide area.

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

Villarreal set themselves up well to counter Sevilla, whose attacking focus was completely in the wide areas, this is a piece of analysis which will be explored deeper later on.

Villarreal often held two firm lines of four or five between defence and midfield, depending on the commitment of the fullbacks and midfielders coming from deep. Generally, Villarreal left themselves a few midfielders in the wide pressing position in order for them to turn quickly and start the counter-attack.

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

The two runners left at the front of Villarreal’s defence, with Moreno and Chukweze shown below to position themselves between the lines let by Sevilla at the back. Passes between these lines opened them further, giving the defenders little cover, stretching their positioning further while Moreno makes a run in the half-space. Moreno made it all the way to the penalty area, but was unable to convert on that occasion.

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

Sevilla on-the-ball

Sevilla built from the back in a 3-4-3 formation, with Fernando often dropping from the midfield which allowed for both Sevilla full-backs to push to the midfield line in a bid to overload the wide areas.

As we can see below, this drop into a 3-4-3 had Sevilla’s shape stretched across the Villarreal midfield line, which they are out-numbered by. This made it more difficult for Sevilla to link defence to attack, leaving a wide overload as the only viable option to attack Villarreal.

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

Sevilla’s equaliser came from a counter-attack, engaging a two-man wide press with the full-back and winger. Chukweze recovering his defensive position isn’t quite where he needs to be in order to out-number the Sevilla wide attack and block the passing lane inside to the oncoming midfielders.

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

When Banega drops his run, Sevillaget between the gaps of the wide press, out-numbering the press while the striker and oncoming midfielder pin the defence and recovering midfield, leaving space for the right-winger to come inside and have a free shot at goal, smashing the ball in the top-left corner.

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

Villarreal tough nut to crack

Villarreal also went for the wide press approach, which was a more suitable approach for Villarreal considering Sevilla’s lack of numbers in the midfield. Sevilla’s attacking tactics were rather un-creative as Sevilla were out-numbered in the middle of the field, forcing them wide with extra support on the by-line from both full-backs.

However, both pushing full-backs hugged the touchline, as did the wingers, rather than one coming inside to support the midfield. This made things easier for Villarreal in defensive tactics, as their natural shape caused problems for Sevilla to play-out through the centre, which in turn forced them wide, where the lack of variety in positioning in movement made it easy for Villarreal to defend.

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

This eventually led to Sevilla’s play-out shape being completely separated between defence and attack.

As we can see below, Fernando and Banega have had to drop back to get midfielders on the ball, with a proper wide overload structure which was missing before waiting to be played in, but ended up completely isolated from the rest of the team; the midfield was practically non-existent.

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

Conclusion

Overall, Sevilla got their offensive tactics all wrong, lacking adaptability in the midfield to respond to a solid Villarreal block. Instead they played into their hands, over-committing and being broken upon from the counter-attack.

Following what has been a solid run for Sevilla, the past week of fixtures has brought them back down to earth, and should now consider their tactics going forward in terms of adaptation, having been let-off by other teams in La Liga previously.


Total Football Analysis Magazine #16: December 2019

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