Getafe sits fifth in the La Liga table, just a point of third place and a large part of that has come from the industrial performances of winger Marc Cucurella. The 21-year-old has occupied the left-wing role for the majority of the season for Getafe, adjusting to the intense pressing style of play that has been so effective for them this season, and being able to show his versatility of his game being able to play as a left midfielder or his normal position of left-back.
This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of Cucurella’s strengths and contributions to the Getafe side this season as well as looking and where he can fine-tune his game in order to thrive at the next level and maybe another return back to former club Barcelona. With an aging Jordi Alba regressing as the seasons go on, maybe Cucurella can tempt Barcelona back and provide the competition alongside Junior Firpo for the starting role as the next left-back for the foreseeable future.
Standing at 172 cm, Cucurella is not a player that is known to portray physical dominance during games. A factor of his that he has been able to show throughout the season, is his ability to effectively work in the press, showing high levels of stamina to cover the left-hand side of the pitch: Being able to venture forward with pace and get crosses in as well as being able to track back and cover the opposition runners.
As seen by the heatmap below, Cucurella hugs the left touchline vigorously, constantly located in areas down the left flank, Getafe tactics usually require him to get in behind the oppositions right-back and right centre-back or to isolate the former player and create a 1v1 situation where he can get a cross into a dangerous area.
Originally coming through the ranks as a left-back, analysis has seen that Cucurella has been molded over the last two seasons at Eibar and now Getafe as a left-winger. Utilising his ability to get forward quickly with his natural pace to cross the ball frequently and consistently. The pace that Cucrella possesses means that a simple ball over the top is usually an outlet for him to use this pace to get away from his marker and drift a cross into the penalty area.
The versatility of Cucurella also means that within the team he often operates as a defensive winger, aimed with pressing high up the pitch against the opposition full-backs, with the intent to win the ball and in turn hold up play or more so in Cucurella’s case. Drive to the byline and deliver crosses into the penalty area.
Off the ball movement
The work rate of Cucurella is something that is evident from the outset of every game, always looking to press high up the pitch and very rarely showing any signs of fatigue or slowing down. His durability has seen him feature in 26 games this season and 2458 minutes without taking into account his features in the Europa League and Copa Del Rey.
Cucurella’s primary position when Getafe is in possession of the ball is to drive into the widest position on the field possible. By rushing to get into this area, Cucurella can receive the ball and directly engage in a 1v1 situation.
As the image above shows, Cucurella with Getafe on the attack has his run set in the direction of the left corner flag, running down the channel, which widens the further forward he runs creating more space for the player in possession to find him in open space to get in the cross.
Alternatively, Cucurella will opt to run in behind almost as a third striker widest of the two central strikers that operate further of the three. Very reminiscent of the left-wing role taken up by Atletico Madrid.
Seen in the image above Cucurella is able to determine where to be in order to be at the end of plays that will place the team in an advantageous position. Driving into the space between full-back and centre-back in countless examples, Cucurella picks up these pockets of space to create goal-scoring opportunities.
The impact of his willingness to get into these positions means that should Getafe lose possession of the ball they have a solid base of three in midfield and four in defence whilst Cucurella is in the process of tracking back. On numerous occasions, Cucurella will provide a third option in the forwards jockeying inside that area shown above. Picking up a pace that is overlooked by the retreating centre-back and usually out-of-position full-back.
Tenacious, constant and direct
When not attacking, Getafe’s tactics are to press with high and aggressive intensity. Getafe players are tasked with pressuring the opposition into making mistakes, setting up with a high line to position themselves as far up into the opposition half as possible.
During the course of the season, Getafe has the highest passes per defensive action (PPDA) per game at 190.40. This means, per minute they allow 2.12 passes from the opposition before the next defensive action. A considerable amount less than the average of 5.5, meaning Getafe is a constant threat, closing down the opposition with high intensity through games this season.
However, they suffer in the most losses of possession in the league, their long balls into the centre-forwards aren’t always accurate so loose balls are always up for grabs. Facing a league-high 41.48 loose ball duels a game, the players must be tenacious in tackles and in their spatial marking in case of ricochets and obscure bounces of the ball off players.
Cucurella, a tactical sponge in this system follows suit, averaging 7.69 recoveries per 90 with 49% of recoveries being within the opposition half. How Cucurella is able to do this is a compilation of his pace, aggression and closing down. Rather than anticipating the direction of passes by jockeying within the vicinity of opponents. He charges down the ball carrier and closes down the pass or dribble at its point of creation.
He doesn’t allow the ball carrier a moment on the ball, forcing the ball to be lost high up the field and for him to instantly be on the front foot and create chances. The example below shows, that within the first two minutes, Cucurella has drifted into a central position and continued his press into the Celta Vigo player to force him to change his option of pass which may result in an inaccurate pass or the ball will bounce of Cucurella with three players included himself within close proximity to win the ball and start an attack already within Celta’s final third.
This aggressiveness does result in a multitude of cards, however. Receiving six cards in 26 games so far this season. An average of a card every 4.3 games. A decent return, but the 1.8 fouls per 90 does suggest that the decision making and the tenacity of his tackling may need some fine-tuning if he is to excel to the next role of the game.
Sometimes rash in the tackle, often committing too soon or falling to ground pre-emptively and usually taking the opposition down with him, some may call this cynical other’s immature. What is evident is that these sorts of things aren’t necessary to his game and should be removed for him to excel at the next level.
Operating as a defensive winger, Getafe’s tactics regarding Cucurella stem from their pragmatic approach to games. He is tasked with closing down the time the opposition right-back and occasionally the right-wide midfielder has on the ball. Where Cucurella is so effective in this aspect in comparison to some of his other teammates who operate on the other flank is his pace first and foremost, as well as his ability to win the ball.
In transition when the opposition is on the attack, Cucurella’s tenacity also follows him in his efforts in providing cover and tracking back when the ball has been lost. No matter from a corner as can be seen in the image below.
Cucurella is at least five metres behind the ball carrier on the counter, yet instead of pursuing and trying to occupy the space to either keep the player as wide as possible or to present himself in a space where he can cut out the potential pass. He continues to drive and attack the player in order to win the ball back.
With four assists this season, Cucurella’s ability to set up teammates with goal-scoring opportunities has been evident this season. One of the biggest assets in his game the major factor as to why he works so effectively in Getafe’s team is his ability to cross and get crosses in early for the strikers to get on the end of.
Getafe average 16.75 crosses a game the fifth highest in the league. A pivotal component in how they play. Cucurella attempts 3.04 crosses per game with a success rate of 33.7%. A high return for crosses and within touching distance of efficient crossers such as Gareth Bale (36%) and Jesus Navas (35%).
Where Cucurella is so effective at crosses, is his willingness to get the ball out of feet as quickly as possible. The image below illustrates that Cucurella often gets crosses in before the oppositions have a chance to set up their defensive approach in the penalty area. None of the markers are stationary to the cross instead they are reacting to the cross rather than anticipating and waiting to clear the ball from the penalty box.
Whilst on the run with the ball, before taking a touch to bring it under control. Cucurella crosses the ball first time in order to catch the defenders off guard and not in a sturdy stance to deal with the ball if hit with conviction. Unfortunately on this occasion, the cross wasn’t struck with a solid contact and the defenders are able to clear the ball.
75% of the assists that Cucurella has provided this season have come from crossing opportunities where defenders weren’t able to set up their approach to clearing the ball, they have lost their player and they’ve managed to get in front of them and nick a goal in.
Operating within Getafe’s system means that passing in the team is not a focal point, they rank the lowest in the league with 259.04 passes per 90. Which makes his qualities of being able to dribble with the ball important to the way Getafe play.
Cucurella’s speed with and without the ball aids the Getafe team in being able to quickly transition up the pitch when they win the ball back, for the team to exploit. The ground that Cucurella can cover in a short time to advance the counter-attack and create the early cross for teammates.
Getafe, should they finish in the Champions League places, will look to keep the majority of the team that was able to take them there. Marc Cucurella will be one of the first names that they will be persisting to keep at the club. His talents from Barcelona initially as a left-back developed into a tenacious and industrious player over his time at Eibar and Getafe.
Barcelona’s deal with Getafe, didn’t include a buy-back clause so if they are interested in bringing back their former player for the third time then it will provide a costly addition. However still only 21, Cucurella does provide a solid long-term option for any club that wins his services.
Hopefully, Getafe are able to keep him should they finish in the Champions League and he has the chance to display his talents against the continental elite.