Valencia hosted Eibar in this week’s La Liga round 19 fixture. Heading into this match, Los Che were unbeaten in the last six matches in all competitions, winning three of them. They have remained hard to beat, but have struggled with too many draws – a problem which hurt them last season.
Meanwhile, after a terrible streak which saw them losing 7 out of 9 matches, Eibar improved with two wins and one draw in the last three matches in all competitions. They desperately wanted to get a point from this match to avoid sinking deeper in the relegation battle.
Valencia (4-4-2): Jaume Domenéch; José Gayà, Mouctar Diakhaby, Gabriel Paulista, Daniel Wass; Carlos Soler, Francis Coquelin, (C) Dani Parejo, Ferrán Torres; Rodrigo, Maxi Gómez.
Eibar (4-4-2): Marko Dmitrović; José Ángel, Pedro Bigas, Paulo Oliveira, Álvaro Tejero; Takashi Inui, Edu Expósito, Sergio Álvarez, Pedro León; Charles, (C) Sergi Enrich.
Eibar in possession
Valencia tried to press high in a 4-4-2. Their two strikers would press Eibar’s centre-backs, while the two central midfielders pressed the visitors’ counterparts. The wingers would try to stay close to the central mids to block central passing lanes and step out to press the full-back should either of them get the ball. The two ball-near midfielders would be higher, looking to press, while the ball-far ones stayed deeper to cover.
An Eibar player’s back pass would trigger Valencia’s intense pressing. Here, Wass quickly anticipated the back pass and immediately rushed towards Sergio, who was about to receive the ball.
Their pressing was based on midfield compactness and staggered positioning to take care of Eibar attackers’ flexible movements. The forwards also tried to stay close to the midfielders to help overload the ball side. Here, Wass’ pressing (mentioned above) combined with Soler and Parejo’s smart use of cover shadow forced Sergio to pass to Edu, something Parejo easily anticipated. The Valencia captain forced Edu to pass back to their defenders.
With a lot of players central and around the ball area, Valencia forced the opponent to progress through the flanks. Should this happen, Valencia players would keep pressing while covering all of the ball-carrier’s nearby forward passing options. In the example below, Maxi was pressing the ball-carrier, while Parejo’s marking and Wass’ alert movement helped Valencia win the ball back.
Eibar didn’t try hard to play from the back. They used a basic 4-4-2 formation in possession. However, their had trouble building up short as Valencia’s high press in a 4-4-2 meant they could match Eibar’s defence and midfield one by one. None of their double pivot dropped deep like a third centre-back to facilitate the short build-up. To help Eibar progress centrally, a centre-forward would drop to the space right behind Valencia’s midfield, thus open a passing lane.
In attack, the visitors tried to overload the left side of the pitch. León would join the overload by moving central and heading towards zone 14. He wanted to get the ball in the box with runs in behind the opponent’s defence. The two forwards attempted to make similar runs by roaming while still hanging on the shoulder of the last defender.
Meanwhile, Edu would combine with Inui and Ángel, who often stayed wide to progress through the left and send crosses in.
In addition, their left side overload would open up lots of space on the right for León and Tejero, who would then look to send early crosses into the box. The two were the most prolific crossers of the night (13 crosses from Tejero, 9 from León).
After losing the ball, Eibar tried to win the ball high up the pitch by counterpressing. They would commit men towards the centre, with the two central mids right in front of the opponent’s box. In the below example, Inui moved centrally to help his team win the ball back, while the double pivot were very high up the pitch.
In their own half, Valencia still defended in a 4-4-2 shape. The ball-near midfielders would be very compact – and staggered depending on the situation – to block central passing lanes, then looked to press to push the opponents all the way back. Here, after successfully using his cover shadow to block the passing lane towards León, Parejo stepped out to press the ball carrier. Soler and Rodrigo then took turns to press their nearby opponents, forcing them to pass back to their keeper.
Valencia in possession
Before Valencia scored the goal, keeper Doménech insisted on playing short goal kicks, facilitating build-up from the back. He is good with his feet, and could launch accurate lobbed passes towards either wing should he be pressed. During the first phase of build-up, a pivot (often Coquelin) became the third centre-back. Valencia are quite a pressing-resistant side, but coming up against Eibar’s high press was no easy task. The away side used a 4-4-2 formation out of possession, which would look more like a 4-2-4 during Valencia’s first build-up phase.
Eibar’s first aim was to isolate Valencia’s technically-gifted double pivot. The centre-forwards would try to block passing lanes towards Coquelin and Parejo, while the wingers pulled narrow to cover passing lanes through the half-spaces. The double pivot were close to front players to help closing down Valencia’s counterpart, while still keeping an eye on Rodrigo’s familiar dropping movements.
Should there be passes towards Valencia’s full-backs, León and Inui had to anticipate them and move wider to block passes from them towards their wingers. In the following example, Inui’s smart anticipation and movement forced Paulista to pass back to his keeper, triggering intense pressing from Eibar.
Valencia’s full-backs, thus, had to come deep to support the ball circulation. Often, Valencia could still manage to get past the high press. Parejo and Coquelin’s constant movements ensured they received the ball after a few passes between the back four. Eibar’s high press was flawed because their forwards’ use of cover shadow was not effective enough to cover different passing lanes towards Coquelin and Parejo, both of whom showed great spatial awareness. Soler and Ferran sometimes dropped deep and central to provide extra passing lanes. They could be found by passes through the half-spaces from the sided centre-backs – another benefit of having a pivot dropping like a third centre-back.
When receiving the ball, Parejo and Coquelin could both launch quick ground passes towards the flanks. Valencia have technically-gifted and pacey full-backs and wingers, and could combine through the wings with overlapping/underlapping runs. From there, they would try to beat their men and/or send crosses towards Maxi or Rodrigo. They attacked more on the right than on the left, as right-footed left winger Soler often moved inwards.
Valencia also used long passes towards their two forwards to bypass Eibar’s pressing. Maxi in particular was dominant in the air, winning 7 out of his 12 aerials. After winning second balls, Valencia’s skillful attackers could use quick combinations to create danger.
Valencia did not create many quality possession spells throughout the match, but one such spell brought them the only goal of the match. Quick short passing circulation on the left opened up space for Wass on the right. Upon receiving the ball, the Danish launched a wonderful cross towards Maxi, who once again showed his aerial might with a great header into the corner.
Second half changes
After the goal, Valencia gradually kept less of the ball, looking to beat the opponent on the counter. Keeper Domenech now mainly used long goal kicks. They were still intense with their pressing, but would look to launch quick counter attacks almost every time they won back the ball.
Eibar is not a strong side in possession – this was shown yesterday. They played short more in the second half, but Valencia’s compact shape forced them to attack through the wings. They didn’t have a lot of interesting solutions and continued to rely on early crosses, but couldn’t create much danger. They were not patient enough in attack.
In the 83rd minute, defensive midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia replaced Rodrigo, meaning Valencia attempted to shut down the game with the solid 4-1-4-1 formation. They successfully did so, and the match ended 1-0.
In the end, this analysis showed that Valencia deserved to win this match. They had a good short build-up game, created few chances but utilised them well enough to score one goal, and were able to shut down the game with their defensive solidity. They are back to winning ways, and are now level on points with fifth-place Sociedad and four points away from the Champions League Qualifications spot.
For Eibar, this was an encouraging performance. Their pressing scheme was quite impressive, but they still showed a lack of creativity going forward. That is something they’ll definitely need to improve if they still want to play in La Liga next season.