This season, Belenenses have gone through highs and lows with three different managers. They started the season with Silas, who was removed after a poor spell, and replaced by youth team manager Pedro Ribeiro. Ribeiro then left on special circumstances, which led to current manager Petit being hired. This tactical analysis will analyse these three managers this season, and assess their different tactics which they have implemented this season. In part one, we will be looking at the build-up play differences, as well as a statistical breakdown of each manager this season.
We will start this analysis by comparing the statistical side of all three managers this season using radar. Starting with Silas, we can see where things went wrong.
Offensively, the team had the worst expected goals per 90 out of any team in the league. This means that they essentially were not creating high quality chances, and struggled to manufacture any opportunities across games. Corresponding with this, Silas’ Belenenses also took the least shots per 90 in the league, showing their inability to make shooting chances.
However, there were also positives, including the number of progressive passes being the highest in the league. This means that they moved the ball up the field more than any other team, and so ball progression was not the issue, and neither were final third entries. The fact of the matter is that they struggled to break down teams once they settled into their low block, which resulted in high levels of possession as shown.
From a defensive point of view, the major stand-out is the number of shots conceded, which indicates the opposition were given time and space on the ball in the final third. Despite this, many of the shots were low in terms of their expected goals as shown, which suggests that despite the opposition being able to shoot, it was mostly outside of the box or in situations unlikely to produce a goal.
The final point which will be made in this section on Silas is the fact that his Belenenses’ team often had an expected goal count near half that of their opposition, which is a key factor in considering why he lost so many games and was sacked.
Next, we move onto Ribeiro who took over for the majority of the season.
Arguably, these radars are worse than his predecessor. Offensively, the team was below average in all metrics used but did improve in key areas statistically. Their xG was higher, and so was their xG per shot, which shows that the problems Silas experienced with creating bigger opportunities were starting to get fixed. The radar also shows that the team became less progression and possession based, favouring a Liverpool-esque counter-attacking and high pressing style, as will be covered later in this analysis.
Moving onto the defensive radar, the point about high pressing is shown, as Belenenses were second in the league for defensive duels per 90 (70.1) and pressing rate (PPDA of 7.9). This is massively different from Silas, as it shows not only their willingness to engage in defensive duels but also the effectiveness of doing so as shown through their high PPDA.
This opened up more issues from a defensive standpoint though. As we know, as you commit yourself more, you leave more space behind you to be exploited, and this is highlighted in the xGA and xGA per shot. Under Ribeiro, Belenenses were the worst in the league for both metrics, meaning they conceded a lot of big chances every game.
Eventually, the results could no longer be excused, and with Ribeiro averaging one point per game, it is easy to see why Belenenses were willing to let him go.
This final set of radars, which are the most impressive, belong to the current manager, and former Bundesliga player Petit, who has done very well to resurrect Belenenses this season.
Offensively, there is a noticeably different playing style which favours a more direct style with a relatively high volume of crosses. The team was now averaging 1.01 xG per 90, and were converting more of their chances, with this perhaps being stimulated by the introduction of a household name such as Petit.
Defensively is where we see the massive improvements though. For the first time, the xG of the manager is greater than his xGA, which is a good indicator that the team is doing enough to win games on a consistent basis.
The decrease in PPDA reflects the relaxing of the high press style previously implemented by Ribeiro, but the figure is still acceptable and shows they do still press. In terms of their new pressing style, it could be likened to the philosophy of Man City manager Pep Guardiola, in which being sensible is key. However, Petit has also focused on the organisation of his deep block which has shown massive improvements with the team averaging the lowest xG per shot in the Liga NOS, showing the huge improvements Petit has brought to Belenenses this season.
Build Up Play
The other area which this tactical analysis will cover is the visible differences in build up employed by each of the three managers.
Starting with Silas, we see he often utilised balls out wide to his wing-backs, who would play the ball into the roaming 10, or one of the deeper midfielders depending on the position of the opposition’s defensive block.
The first image clearly shows the 3-4-1-2 (similar to that of Serie A side Atalanta) deployed in the build up phase by Silas who prioritises the role of the wing-backs in building from the back. The first image shows an example in which a ball from the wing-back to the number 10 is not possible. The resultant of this is that once the ball was fed through to the wing-back, it was played into the central midfielder who would look to either spray a long pass, recycle possession or progress the ball to the 10 or one of the strikers.
The second image though, highlights the ideal situation in which there is a clear route for the ball from the wing back to the 10. The space is created through the 10 dropping behind the strikers into an unmanned space. Because Santa Clara used a 4-4-2 medium block, there was plenty of space between the lines, which was effectively exploited in the build-up phase by Silas’ men, which allowed for final third progressions.
Moving onto Ribeiro, as mentioned before, his philosophy was much more based around a high pressing style. Often enough, the ball would be won back, and following this the team would look to progress as quickly as possible rather than recycle possession. However, on the occasions that they did find themselves having to build out from the back, this was their most common plan of action:
As opposed to building with a 3 at the back, Ribeiro used a 4-2-3-1 with one of the central midfielders dropping deep to collect the ball. Along with this, both the full-back and the winger would drop deeper to create space for themselves. Once the ball is played through to the winger from the deep midfielder, the fullback looks to underlap and provide an option going into the half space.
Again, it is important to stress that Ribeiro’s side often did not play out from the back and were much more of a “scruffy” side who looked to attack at every opportunity as opposed to retaining possession.
Finally, we will move onto Petit, whose build-up is similar to Silas.
As shown in the image above, Belenenses reverted back to the three at the back under Petit which Silas used as the beginning of the season. His build-up play was also similar, in that both utilised passes from the wing-back to build out and progress the ball. Petit instructed his players to provide support tight to his players, which is most likely the result of training drills in small areas. The eventual progression in this instance is to the winger who makes a darting run in behind, as opposed to the ball being played to number 6, which would have been the most likely pass under Silas, which shows more of an urgency to get forward quickly, and less so to retain possession,
Across this analysis, we have looked at the statistics of all three Belenenses managers this season, as well as analyse their different build-up plays. Whilst Silas and Petit were similar, Ribeiro was evidently very different in his style, and changing between three styles in one season is a very difficult task, so whilst all the managers may not have shown off their true potential this season, we have seen enough to know how each wants to play football. In part two of this three way analysis, we will look at how each manager looked to use transitions effectively, along with their defensive setup