With the suspension of Liga MX, a lot of clubs were happy to see the end of the season. New rules meant relegation had been scrapped for the next 5 years so there were limited implications for clubs. One man who will be devastated to see the end of the season is Necaxa frontman, Mauro Quiroga. Quiroga had already netted 18 times this season, in just 32 games. His best tally for a season, even at the age of 30.

Quiroga was never able to settle during his stints in Spain, with Las Palmas & Deportivo Alavés, and ultimately was never able to help either team reach La Liga. He did have his opportunities to play against Real Madrid and Barcelona, unfortunately in the form of their ‘B’ teams. Since moving to the city of Aguascalientes, Necaxa fans have embraced Quiroga like their own. However, Necaxa fans may question whether they will ever see their star striker in red and white again. His impressive season has drawn interest from Liga MX giants, Club América, and Necaxa will have a tough time keeping hold of him.

This tactical analysis, in the form of a scout report, will use statistics and analysis to create an accurate evaluation of Quiroga’s traits. We will also discuss Quiroga’s importance to Necaxa and their tactics, and how clubs aim to stop him.

Positioning

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

The heat map above gives us an indication of Quiroga’s movement and positioning. The analysis shows that Quiroga remains very central throughout his games. He rarely strays out of the width of the 18-yard box and spends a lot of time in the box.

This is supported by his average of 3.81 touches in the box per 90, the 12th highest for all strikers. Straight away we are seeing a clear picture that Quiroga is an out and out striker. He also has a lot of movement in between the half-way line and the box, suggesting dialogue with the midfield is a key part of his game, a concept we’ll revisit further down the line of this tactical analysis.

Goalscoring Ability

As mentioned, Quiroga is very active in the box and this is supported further with his 18 goals this season. Quiroga is very clinical in the box, converting just under 25% of his shots. Being the second top goalscorer this season, an understanding of how Quiroga scores his goals would help us to understand the type of player he is.

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

The above map shows all of Quiroga’s shots for this season. It is evident he is a player who gets his business done in the penalty area, as suggested earlier with his heat map. We can see that all Quiroga’s goals this season have been scored in the penalty area. Further to this, out of his 79 shots at goal, only five have been attempted outside of the box. Quiroga is much more comfortable in the box and it’s where he seems to find his success. As mentioned earlier, this is the most Quiroga has scored in a season, so the question is, how has he become so effective in Liga MX? A tactical analysis will aim to evaluate Quiroga’s goals from this season and explore why he has been so successful.

After watching Quiroga, it became apparent that he is a real handful to mark. At 6’2”, he can impose himself against centre-backs but is also able to find pockets of space. 

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

The picture above is a perfect example of how Quiroga scores his goals. As Necaxa build-up, he does not leave the centre of the pitch. He remains slightly deeper than the defenders as they begin to drop as Necaxa progress. Quiroga uses his intelligence to penetrate the box at the exact moment Jairo González delivers the ball.

Now, as Quiroga remains deep, when he makes his run into the box neither centre-back is able to track him. He probes the gap between each centre-back and creates space for himself. By the time the ball is delivered, Quiroga is on his own, as another Club América defender tries to get back. By creating this space and with the excellence of Jairo González’s delivery, Quiroga headed Necaxa in front.

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

The above analysis also shows Quiroga utilising this tactic again to gain an advantage. In the first analysis, we see Quiroga again hanging back, not committing too early. He leaves enough space between him and the defenders to pick his run. Now, Toluca’s defenders aren’t doing too much wrong here. They are dropping to deal with the imminent delivery into the box and have a good gap between each other. However, Quiroga’s intelligence gets him the goal here, as he drops in between both defenders and fires Necaxa ahead.

Quiroga is not only useful in the box, but he is also able to split defenders further down the pitch. Again, he is in-between the two defenders, this time much closer to the halfway line. Quiroga deliberately stands offside, behind the two defenders, making it hard for either to pick him up. Once Quiroga notices a possible opening, he quickly uses a curved run to get back on side and present himself with an opportunity. Much like before, the Monterrey defenders are very narrow and the space in-between them is limited. However, in the short time the ball was played, neither defender was able to react to his movement as he raced towards the goal to bring Necaxa level.

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

A lot of Quiroga’s goals come from using this tactic, however, there is an even more apparent trend. Quiroga is extremely effective with his head in front of the goal, with 10 of his 18 goals being headers. Quiroga has the most headed goals in Liga MX, averaging 0.31 per 90. Out of his 79 shots this season, 52 of those have been headers, clearly highlighting his aerial ability.

Aerial Threat

Often referred to as a dying art, Quiroga is single handily trying to resurrect the headed goal. With 10 headed goals this season, he leads the way in this one. Quiroga does not only score headed goals, but he also uses his aerial threat to aid the team. Necaxa have identified this as a key tactic as they engage in 44.44 aerial duels and attempt 39.81 long passes per game. Kudos to Necaxa here as they win around 53% of those duels and there is no doubt that Quiroga plays a huge part in this.

The chart below shows the number of aerial duels per 90, and % won for Liga MX strikers. Quiroga is the most competent here, winning 55.90% of the 12.85 aerials duels he attempts per 90. For Necaxa and Quiroga to attempt these tactics so often, there must be a beneficial outcome.

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

A good example of Quiroga using his aerial threat is in his last game vs Santos Laguna. In this match, Quiroga attempted 19 aerial duels and won 12 of those. Now Quiroga did not score in this match and only had three shots all game. His aerial ability, therefore, was being used elsewhere on the pitch. After watching Quiroga’s aerial duels from this match it became clear of the tactics Necaxa were trying to use.

As mentioned earlier, Quiroga remains very central and does drop deep on occasions. This is particularly highlighted when Necaxa utilise the long ball. On several occasions, we can see Quiroga comes shorter to win headers. As shown below, Quiroga often tries to win his headers on the run. By doing so he is able to use the momentum to flick the ball on. Playing in a 5-4-1 formation, this would seem very ineffective. However, the analysis below shows that when Quiroga comes deep the team transition into a 3-4-3 formation to accommodate for him.

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

The analysis shows that when Quiroga engages in an aerial duel, his two wingers become inverted. The purpose of this is to latch onto any balls that Quiroga flick’s on. Quiroga often flicks his headers on as opposed to bringing the ball down. He attempts to flick the ball on, in that hope that one of his teammates can collect the ball in the space circled behind him.

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Again, in the same game, we see Quiroga dropping short to win a header as his wingers continue to progress. As Quiroga wins over 50% of his aerial duels, these tactics make a lot of sense. Necaxa believe that they can use his aerial ability to catch teams out and they effectively use Quiroga as a target man.

The term target man has become associated with a big striker who is usually unable to move and is best suited to winning headers. Quiroga is much more than a target man, regardless of his aerial capabilities. Whilst his main objective is to score goals, Quiroga also has a key role in his team.

Role at Necaxa

Futsal is a small-sided, fast-paced football game originating from South America. Futsal is also a very tactical game and each player has a role. One of these roles is known as a ‘Pivot Forward’. Like Futsal, Quiroga also developed in South America so a comparison seems very fitting here. A pivot forward is the most advanced player on the pitch, required to bring his teammates into attacking movements. This is something Quiroga does exceptionally well through his dialogue with the midfield.

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Above, we can see a perfect example of how Quiroga comes deeper to involve his teammates. The midfielder, Delgado, plays the ball into Quiroga’s feet and he is able to hold the defender off. The next part is what makes Quiroga effective, as he lays the ball off to Delgado and continues his run forward. Quiroga takes a defender with him by coming short for the ball. By doing so, he creates a pocket of space behind him which the midfielders can run into. 

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Again, we see another great example of Quiroga utilising this tactic. This time he comes deep for the ball, however, the defender slightly hesitates. Initially, the defender looks to get closer to Quiroga, however, he soon realises the gap is too big. Quiroga is intelligent enough to see the space he’s created and plays a pass around the corner to his winger. This shows another example of how Quiroga brings his team-mates in the game with one simple movement. The slight hesitation from the defender puts him on the back foot and makes it much harder to react to Quiroga’s pass. 

How do teams stifle Quiroga?

With 18 goals this season, it would suggest that not many teams have managed to successfully stop Quiroga. However, with Necaxa’s preferred style of tactics, teams have been able to nullify Quiroga’s effectiveness. Quiroga’s last game against Santos Laguna is a useful example. In this game, Quiroga won 12 of his 19 aerial duels, however with little impact. Necaxa struggled to create chances in this game, mainly due to Santos Laguna’s defensive shape. Teams understand that it is difficult to stop Quiroga winning headers, however, they can prevent the next phase of play.

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Mauro Quiroga 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Above, we see two examples of how Santos Laguna were able to suppress Quiroga. As mentioned, Quiroga won a majority of his headers and Santos were happy for him to do so. The analysis above shows how Santos Laguna ensured they had protection in the pocket behind Quiroga.

Both examples show one defender duelling with Quiroga in the air. However, in both instances, they have several defenders around the ball. Every time Quiroga won a duel, Santos had players there to clear the danger before a Necaxa player. This was a common theme throughout the match and ultimately led to Quiroga having little success. 

Conclusion

The tactical analysis demonstrates that Quiroga is an architect of his own success. He is willing to penetrate the box and engage in duels others would shy away from. His fine goalscoring form is partly due to his intelligence but also Necaxa’s willingness to play to his strengths. He is very competent in the air, but his game has much more than that.

He starts many attacking moves and often finishes them off. Teams are aware of the traits Quiroga possesses and some have successfully reduced the effectiveness of his tactics. However, it is clear to see why Quiroga has been such a success in the Liga MX. He has certainly proved he has the ability to compete in this league, and Necaxa will be hoping he will continue to lead this team forward.

Todd Atkins