Right before the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe caused the major of the sport’s competitions to reach an unexpected pause, Getafe was quietly putting together a truly impressive season.
The small club located in the south of the Community of Madrid is so far on par to meet the highest ever finish in the La Liga table set last year when they ended the season as the 5th team.
This year, Getafe is once again in 5th place, tied in points with Real Sociedad and one point clear of Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. More impressively, the Spanish club has recently advanced in the last 16 phase of the 2019/20 Europa League, by knocking off last year’s Champions League semifinalist, Ajax.
Much can be said and written about the effective defensive block that Pepe Bordalás likes to use in his tactics, their pressing system or even their counter-attack scheme. Instead, this tactical analysis scout report will look to break down Getafe’s set-piece tactics, and how Bordalás’ squad is using them to win points.
Context with numbers
With 46 points up to date, Getafe is sitting in 5th place of the La Liga table. To accomplish this, Getafe has so far scored a total of 37 goals, which would rank Bordalás’ as the 8th most productive team in the competition.
However, out of those 37 goals, eight goals are scored from set-pieces. In that category, Getafe ranks as the 3rd team in La Liga, behind only Barcelona and Sevilla, each with 10 goals scored from set-pieces.
Furthermore, in terms of xG (expected goals), Getafe has produced a total figure of 34.83. The +2.17 G-xG difference would mean that Getafe is doing a better job at converting goal scoring opportunities into goals scored than an average job.
For context, only 6 out of the total 20 La Liga squads this year have a positive G-xG figure.
The numbers are more interesting when we break them down by game situation. From open play, Getafe has only managed to produce an xG of 22.73. From set-pieces, not counting here direct free kicks or penalty kicks, Bordalás’ side has put together an xG of 8.36.
The disruptive near-post runner
The principle of this corner-taking scheme is not too complicated, but can and has proven to be effective.
One Getafe attacker will make his run directly towards the near-post area, taking one marker with him and away from the rest. The run is also intended to catch the attention of the near-post zonal defender that teams usually deploy to defend against corners.
Here’s a prime example of how this strategy in effect looks like. The highlighted Getafe attacker is the one that moves first.
This is done, on purpose, for a few reasons. The first one is that, for the strategy to work, the runner’s marker and the near-post defender have to be, if possible, moved before the ball even gets put in play.
The second reason is that by moving first and being the only one to start his run, the attention of the other defenders will automatically be drawn to the runner. This could serve in relaxing the other markers in the box, thinking the ball will target the Getafe runner. The other attackers might benefit from this moment of confusion, moving more freely.
Here is the same example, after the ball has been set in motion. The near-post defender is drawn out of his position and closer to the Getafe runner.
Even more importantly, the attention of two other Ajax defenders is set on the runner as well. What this does is afford the possibility for the two respective Getafe players to sneak by towards the far post.
The scheme of his strategy is that the ball gets played directly at the near-post runner, who will then play it with his head towards the far post for his open teammates sneaking behind the defence.
However, this is merely one version of this play. There are various other ways Getafe could utilize this same principle and implement it in their corner-taking tactics.
In this other example, we can already spot a few differences. For once, the defence has not one, but two near-post zonal defenders waiting to clear the ball before it could reach danger. This, if executed properly, would only go to serve Getafe, as they can now take three players out of play – the zonal defenders, as well as the runner’s marker.
The second difference we can spot is that along with the near-post runner, the other attackers are now moving before the corner is taken as well. It’s unclear yet how exactly, but we can sense that a different strategy is coming.
Post-play, we can spot the actual different version of the strategy in full effect.
The ball is still played for the near-post runner to play it over his head towards the goal. However, this time, the strategy is used to free up a secondary runner at the near post, instead of the far one.
Four different opponents are virtually taken out of play, as they get to watch how the ball moves from one Getafe attacker to the other and then get sent in the back of the net.
The goalkeeper is also left confused and without reaction. If the corner had been played directly for the shooter, he would have enough time to brace for the shot. However, by playing the corner through a proxy, the original near-post runner, the goalkeeper’s time to react and understand what’s happening is also lowered considerably.
In this other variation of the principle, two Getafe attackers are showing themselves as near-post runners. Their opponent is using a zonal defence, so all they have to do, one of them in particular, is catch the attention of the near-post controllers.
The original near-post runner takes with him three zonal defenders. That leaves secondary runner behind him in wide open space to attack the cross.
Unlike the first two examples, this time the corner gets played directly for the secondary runner who, freed up by the use of the same principle, gets only to complete the formality of sending the ball in the back of the net.
Playing for the far post and the second ball
Another principle, this time used more often and to more effect on free kicks rather than corners, is the sending of the cross directly towards the far post and further away from the goal, where a Getafe player can send it back towards the goalmouth for his teammates to attack.
The principle is used for two main reasons – first of all, the far-post area is usually defended with less care and attention. This means that the target of the cross wouldn’t face the same kind of opposition and would have a more accessible way of meeting the ball.
The second reason would be to create confusion among defenders. By forcing them to defend not once, but twice on the same play, Bordalás is betting on that movement of the ball to create enough confusion that would allow his attackers to operate more freely and open inside the box as they wait for the second ball.
This is how the principle looks like, as implemented in Getafe’s set-piece tactics. The free-kick is taken directly towards the far-post area, where one Getafe attacker will wait for it, ready to put it back in play.
In support of that attacker, Getafe will usually send one runner towards the now near post, and another would look to sneak behind the defence, as the perspective changes and he can now attack the far-post area in open space.
A third option would typically stay in a depth position, ready to play the ball if the defender was to bounce it back his way.
Perhaps a no better example for the effectiveness of this principle when used right is the first goal Getafe scored against Ajax, in their Europa League fixture.
The free kick spot is positioned centrally. Normally, this would present Getafe would some difficulties in utilizing this principle, as it’s hard to attack the far post when the ball comes from a central position.
However, the two highlighted players in the frame above will turn out to be extremely important pieces in this variation Getafe uses to destabilize the defence of Ajax.
The would-be far-post runner, in this case, is widely positioned to the near-side of the play. This, alone, is confusing enough for the defence to realize. Let’s watch as the play evolves.
Instead of taking the free kick directly towards the box, Getafe is playing it to the side, where the highlighted player has been waiting. By moving the ball to the wing, from its original central spot, Getafe can now make use of the far-post strategy by aiming the cross in that direction.
The ball reaches the far-post attacker all by himself, and he is free to play the second cross towards the now far-post runners sneaking open behind the defence.
On just one play, Getafe has forced their opponent to switch their attention a total of 3 times. Once, they had to switch from the central free-kick spot towards the wing, where the crosser was waiting. Secondly, they had to react to the runner sneaking at the far post that was waiting for the cross.
Then, as the icing on the cake, they were forced to react to a second cross, headed just like the first one to the now-switched far-post area.
It’s virtually impossible to expect a defence, any defence for that matter, to hold up to this type of confusion. Getafe took their set-piece principle and adapted it to the game situation. Forced to improvise by the original free kick spot, they applied that principle to a now open play cross.
The brilliant way they executed their strategy caught the Ajax defence completely off-guard, and unable to prevent Getafe from scoring the first goal of the meeting.
Two free-kick takers for two different scenarios
One other visible set-piece tactic in Getafe’s game is the use of two free-kick takers that would wait at the spot.
One of the players would be right-footed, while the second one would obviously be a left-footed player. Here, the principle is a little more complex.
This affords Getafe the option of playing either an inswinging cross, or an outswinging one, depending on how they feel on the moment and what they are looking to attack.
Normally, the inswinging cross would be played over the defence. What this means is that usually the target of the cross will attack the far post, and the crosser, who would be a right-footed player from the left side or a left-footed player from the opposite, would send it high towards that far-post area.
Up above is the perfect example of the inswinging cross and what it aims to achieve. The highlighted player in the box is the target of the cross, and he will attempt his run at the far post of the goal.
The inswinging trajectory of the ball is aimed to prevent the goalkeeper from leaving the goal and claiming the ball. Meanwhile, the height that the crosser is tasked to reach with his cross is so that none of the near-side defenders can clear the ball before it could get to its spot.
On the other hand, an outswinging cross is usually used when Getafe feels like they can get one clear runner behind the defence. Contrasting the cross explained earlier, an outswinging trajectory is supposed to get the ball behind the defence, rather than over it.
The crosser isn’t asked to reach the same height in his cross as earlier, but rather he is asked to curve it enough to reach the area behind of the defensive line quickly.
The attacking player can make his run towards either post, as he feels on the moment. However, it’s important that there is a level of communication between the runner and the free-kick taker, usually non-verbal, so the two get on the same page and can execute the play properly.
In this example above, from the same left side of the field, a left-footed player will now take the free kick.
The highlighted runner is the one that will aim to get behind the defence as quickly as possible, where he could meet the ball in great position to score from.
In turn, the crosser, who will be sending the ball on an out swinging trajectory, is asked to instil velocity rather than height. This is so that the ball would travel faster and therefore reach its destination before the defence can adjust.
Implementing set-piece tactics in open play situations
In a table of number of passes played by each team in the 2019/20 La Liga season, Getafe would rank last.
Bordalás’ squad averages only 298.5 passes attempted per 90 minutes played. That’s an average of 30 less pass attempt than the closest team to Getafe in that category, Granada, who averages 328.1 pass attempts per 90 minutes.
However, as shown by their ranking in the official table of La Liga, that low number of passes doesn’t reflect anything other than the fact that Bordalás’ squad is more direct in their approach, and more effective in their results.
Getafe attempts an average of 21.5 cross attempts per 90 minutes, the 4th highest average in the league. Even more importantly, the cross rate as reflected in the total number of pass attempts for Getafe is of 7.2%. That number is, by far, the highest in the league.
Another thing that Getafe does effectively is take open play situations and treat them as set-pieces. We’ll take one of those situations and break down exactly how they are able to do so.
In the example shown above, Getafe is playing the ball off a throw-in. A throw-in is a play stoppage, but not a set-piece. However, Getafe is aiming at creating a scenario in which they can use it to their advantage and utilize the principles of a set-piece.
The left-back is playing the throw-in to the isolated attacker in the corner of the field. More importantly, he will then continue to move in the direction highlighted. He will do so to draw the attention of the closest marker.
In turn, the third Getafe player highlighted in the frame, Marc Cucurella, the loanee from Barcelona, will look to draw back in the open space created to receive the ball from the forward in the corner.
Freed up by the movement of his teammates, Cucurella can now send the cross in with nobody to stop him, just as if he was taking a free-kick.
Meanwhile, Getafe has tactically positioned attackers inside the box to wait for the cross.
The highlighted player, Allan Nyom, will attack the far-post area of the box. Nyom, who reaches 1.89 m in height, will be marked by the left-back of Leganés, Kévin Rodrigues. Rodrigues reaches only 1.70 m in height and is not close to being a match in the air for the much more dominant player of Getafe.
Nyom is able to win the aerial duel cleanly and easily and he sends the ball past the goalkeeper, reaching the back of the net.
With the whole continent being forced to adjust due to the Coronavirus outbreak, it’s unclear yet when or how will European football resume.
Which means that for now, Getafe’s fate is up in the air with the rest of the world, as they continue to fight for a Champions League spot in the La Liga table and are still to play the first leg of their Europa League fixture against Inter.
But if there’s one thing we have learned so far this year, is never to count Pepe Bordalás side out. This tactical analysis intended to look at Getafe’s set-piece game, but that’s only a part of the puzzle. As evidenced multiple times this season, Getafe has proven they can take on the bigger clubs of the continent and win.