Asier Garitano’s side Alaves went head to head against Albert Celades’ Valencia on Saturday in the 27th round of La Liga 2019/20. Valencia travelled to the Mendizorrotza Stadium looking to better their relatively dry spell against the thirteenth-placed side in the league. The two sides came up square at the end of the fixture, with a goal each.
In this tactical analysis, we will look at how the teams lined up, how the play progressed and how Valencia were fortunate enough to survive with a draw despite the initial lead.
Alaves lined up in a 4-4-2 system with Fernando Pacheco in front of the goal for the home side. Ximo Navarro occupied the right-back position whereas Rubén Duarte was deployed at the other flank. The central duo of Victor Laguardia and Rodrigo Ely were assigned to limit Valencia’s attacks. Similarly, the four-man midfield consisted of Edgar Mendez, Ljubomir Fejsa, Victor Camarasa, and Luis Rioja. The two men leading the attack for Asier Garitano’s side were Lucas Pérez and Joselu.
Valencia lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Jasper Cillessen in goal. Gabriel Paulista and Mouctar Diakhaby formed the centre-back duo, with full-backs Daniel Wass and Jose Gaya covering the wide areas. The single pivot was Geoffrey Kondogbia, deployed to provide an effective transition from defence to midfield. Alessandro Florenzi, Carlos Soler, Dani Parejo and Denis Cheryshev completed Valencia’s midfield and Kevin Gameiro played as the lone striker.
Alavés’ style of play
Struggling to provide the end product, Alavés went into this clash looking to improve their run in the Liga. Initially, Alavés looked to adopt a defensive shape and sit back to wait for Valencia to get caught on the counters. Alavés were patient with their defending, thanks to their excellent positioning to cancel out incoming balls and crosses for Kevin Gameiro.
Alavés played with a high defensive line, forcing the opposition to sit in their own half as the game progressed. As a result of their attempt to play high up the pitch, Alavés managed to win a high number of balls while pressing offensively. With comparatively low spells of possessions, Asier Garitano’s side still managed to get comfortable defending as Valencia looked to go all-out in the initial minutes. The Laguardia-Ely combination at the back worked wonders for Alavés, winning both the ground and aerial duels in the process. Alavés were comparatively better at winning aerial duels, limiting Gameiro’s chances to receive crosses and shoot in the opposition box.
In the instance above, Ely (behind Gameiro) tracks the striker’s movement to mark him, whereas Laguardia makes a deep run to avoid the potential cross to reach Gameiro and limit the threat.
In addition to their attempts to counter-attack in the initial minutes, the left side of the defensive line was seen as functional as a result of the exchange of passes between Rodrigo Ely and Rubén Duarte. The passes were made to exploit the opponent’s right flank as Duarte frequently carried the ball to advanced spaces in the opposition half.
Alavés had a healthy number of shots when they had possession as they managed to get the ball forward directly. Considering the number of men present in the opposition midfield, Alavés preferred to proceed from the wider areas and used the wide full-backs and wide defenders well. As a result of the successful execution of wide-play, Alavés were able to land diagonal crosses and passes to the box frequently. Edgar Mendez and Luis Rioja made the play wider by allowing moves to release their respective full-backs to advanced spaces. As a result, Alavés’ passes were usually lateral except for the ones that they intended to attack vertically.
The pass map directly indicates Alaves’ attempts to go wider, to make things harder for Valencia, who were looking to trap them centrally with their midfield.
The forward duo of Lucas Pérez and Joselu were fed numerous balls, as Alavés began to build from the back, despite being a goal down. As a result, Alavés were able to manage 11 shots with an xG of 1.23. Some rustic finishing and not being able to exploit Gabriel Paulista and Mouctar Diakhaby meant Alavés scored only one despite having more shots on goal and better-attacking module than Valencia.
Valencia’s style of play
Playing with a 4-1-4-1, Valencia looked to take advantage of their midfield presence ever since the start of this match. With Geoffrey Kondogbia serving as a cover for the centre-backs and provider to the four-man midfield, Valencia could afford to sit back and wait for Alavés to get out-numbered in the middle. The main man, as usual, for Valencia was Dani Parejo, who was instrumental in build-ups and circulating the ball in spaces.
As the picture suggests, Dani Parejo acted as a deep-lying creator, frequently linking up with Carlos Soler to give Valencia a numerical advantage in the forward area. With 82 pass combinations made, Dani Parejo received the ball from deep-lying Mouctar Diakhaby and Geoffrey Kondogbia to make moves towards the vertical end. With Dani Parejo and Geoffrey Kondogbia attempting to make passes to the final-third, Valencia tried to counter Alavés’s ideas of advancing play laterally by attempting to penetrate from the centre.
Kevin Gameiro, despite the attempts, was not effective enough to penetrate Alavés’s defence. As a result, Valencia had to depend on set-pieces to create their chances at goal.
In the above instance, Dani Parejo comes deep, to position himself to receive Kongdombia’s pass. The move ultimately results in Parejo passing to the run making forward in the void shown above.
Valencia’s plans of playing with short passes in the midfield were cancelled by Alavés’ ability to intercept between plays and their strategy to force Valencia to shift their possession within the central area, therefore limiting Valencia’s number of shots on goal. The only goal came from Dani Parejo’s boots, who netted a brilliant free-kick to give Valencia the lead.
Despite the first-half lead, Valencia were not able to contain Alavés as they had a high shot frequency and were finding spaces to exploit in Valencia’s defence. The centre-backs had hard time dealing with Alavés’s long aerial balls and hence conceded in a similar fashion- lack of positional discipline and aerial prowess.
In the instance above, all the Valencia defenders concentrate towards the incoming ball, without a marker for two players towards the shown void. This is the instance Valencia conceded.
As the league gets to a competitive stage, Valencia are four points short of the Champions League qualification spot. Albert Celades’ side struggled to deal with Asier Garitano’s side in this particular fixture and were not able to create something out of their own. Alavés, on the other hand, will be looking to take the positives from this clash to advance their league position and close the gap on the tenth spot.
As this tactical analysis talked about, Asier Garitano’s side are one of those sides in Liga which can trouble their opponents with adaptive tactics that circle around being able to play without the ball. Valencia failed to create despite Dani Parejo’s fine performance, which will be a tactical point to figure out for the goals to come in.