In the final fixture of the 32nd round of La Liga matches, Getafe hosted Real Sociedad at Coliseum Alfonso Pérez. Both teams were struggling for form since the resumption of football in Spain: Getafe picked up just three points in the first four games back and Real Sociedad only managed one draw alongside three losses. In this tactical analysis, we will examine the varied tactics employed by both teams and conclude how Getafe managed to pick up all three points.
At the start of play on Monday night, Getafe sat in sixth position, two points and one place above Real Sociedad. With their sights set on a fifth-place finish and Europa League qualification, both of these sides were looking to put their poor form behind them.
Getafe made just one change from their 1-1 draw away at Real Valladolid, with Chema coming in at centre-half to replace Djené. They stuck to their rigid 4-4-2 in which all four midfielders are expected to work tirelessly in defence and attack.
Real Sociedad made three personnel changes and one formational change from their 1-0 loss at home to Celta Vigo last Wednesday. They switched from a 4-2-3-1 – which they had used in their previous three matches – to a 3-4-3. Alexander Isak replaced Willian José up front, Robin Le Normand came in for Diego Llorente and 19-year-old Jon Pacheco came in as a third centre-back, condemning Martin Ødegaard to the bench.
Getafe’s relentless press
We knew from the start that José Bordalás would set out to make life difficult for Real Sociedad. Getafe pressed all over the pitch with energy and intent – especially in the first half, in which they allowed just 5.6 passes per defensive action. When Sociedad had the ball in their back line, one of Getafe’s centre-midfielders (often Nemanja Maksimović) would take a more advanced position in between the lines as shown below. The four defenders would stay tight and narrow, ready to close to down Sociedad’s front three and also compete aerially.
When the central man of Sociedad’s back three had the ball, he was often short of viable passing options. Getafe’s strikers – Jaime Mata and 20-year-old Hugo Duro – would focus their press on the outside centre-backs of Sociedad’s back three. With Maksimović taking up a more advanced role, he could closely shut off the option of Sociedad’s one-man pivot – Igor Zubeldia. While Getafe allowed the opposition wing-backs slightly more time and space in this shape, Allan Nyom and Marc Cucurella were quick to close them if they received the ball.
In fact, it was this high energy press that resulted in the first goal of the game. In the still below, Cucurella gambled on leaving his positional base at left-midfield to apply pressure to Zubeldia, who had come deep to try and ignite a frustrated Sociedad. The speed at which Cucurella closed him, coupled with the positions of Getafe’s two strikers, meant that Zubeldia had no options other than goalkeeper Álex Remiro.
The Spanish goalkeeper had very few options. His body shape and Cucurella’s press meant that he couldn’t go short to his right, and Duro cleverly split the centre-backs Robin Le Normand and Pacheco. Remiro was forced to clear the ball with his weak left foot. This was a clearance he scuffed straight to Duro, who was brought down in the box for a penalty which Mata deftly converted. It was the energetic pressing of Cucurella that ultimately led to Getafe taking the lead.
Imanol Alguacil wanted his side to build up from the back, but this was made difficult by Getafe’s 4-3-1-2 pressing shape. It was made more difficult by the energy with which Getafe pressed the man on the ball. Sociedad were often forced backwards and then long towards the sluggish Alexander Isak, who failed to give Getafe’s back line any problems in the 65 minutes he was on the pitch. Real Sociedad were poor in the first half, they were sloppy in possession and physically dominated by a Getafe side who committed 22 fouls in the match.
We can see again from this Sociedad throw-in just how tightly Getafe sought to press. Mauro Arambarri stayed close to Merino in the midfield, Cucurella was ready to shut off the pass back to the thrower, and left-back Mathías Olivera stayed close to Januzaj who had dropped in.
Maksimović again came out of his central midfield base to close down the receiver. With the Serbian closing down this man, Getafe’s strikers did not have to. This allowed them to remain focused on shutting off the opposition centre-backs. Should the centre-backs find enough space to receive the ball, they would have little time and few short options. It was impressive how Getafe would squeeze their opponents all the way back and then forces them to play long.
Note the posotion of Monreal in the top right of the picture. If he dropped deeper and wider, he would be available for an easy lateral pass. Also, Nyom would have had to make the tough decision of following him much higher up the pitch, or staying back but allowing Monreal space. Sociedad were playing against a team who like to stay compact, if Monreal would drop and receive the ball in the highlighted area, he would have the whole pitch ahead of him and time to pick a pass. When Monreal is so high, it is easy for Nyom – he can stay close to his man and close to his defenders too.
Real Sociedad’s shape
Real Sociedad experimented with a back three for this game. If the wing-backs could stay high and wide, they could cause Getafe – who like to stay narrow – problems. It could also allow their flair players such as Adnan Januzaj and Mikel Oyazarbal to get on the ball in dangerous half-spaces.
However, the formation was largely unsuccessful. What would be their potent attacking threats were negated by Getafe’s shape and press, but also Sociedad’s inexperience with a formation of this kind.
Here, Pacheco had the ball and a small amount of time. Initially, the high press of Getafe’s strikers and Maksimović (already drawn upon) meant the defence had little time to pick their pass. Forward options were also shut off. Arambarri was able to stay close to Merino in midfield, who was the man the Sociedad tried to play through. The high work rates of Nyom and Cucuerlla on the wing meant that Sociedad’s wing-backs rarely had time or space – note Nyom tracking Monreal at the top of the picture.
Finally, the use of a front three played into the hands of Getafe. Oyazarbal and Januzaj were instructed to stay narrow and occupy the half spaces. They are dangerous players and with space in these areas they could cause serious damage. However, the two of them occupying these spaces massively suited the desires of Getafe’s back four to stay narrow (as shown above). The full-backs could easily get tight to Oyazarbal and Januzaj when they were in advanced areas. If they came deeper, they would be pressed. This also left Isak isolated against two centre-halves.
Real Sociedad’s attacking outlets
Despite the disjointedness of Sociedad’s formation. They experienced some joy on the right-wing when Januzaj and Joseba Zaldúa managed to link up. Cucurella was sometimes caught too high or too narrow, which allowed Zaldúa to break into the wide spaces unopposed.
In the picture above, we can see that Cucurella was much further from his man than Getafe’s other winger – Nyom – was. This meant that Zaldúa had a lot of freedom on the right-hand side. Januzaj’s initial narrow positioning kept the full-back tucked in and distracted Cucurella. In this still, we can the benefits of Januzaj playing narrower. One ball in behind would lead to a scoring opportunity for him. Unfortunately, the pass was overhit, but he recovered the football and passed it back to a free Zaldúa who put in a dangerous cross.
In the second half, Getafe were beginning to tire from their intense pressing regime. In this instance, the Sociedad back line beat the initial press and found Merino in space in midfield. Oyazarbal made a clever run from the right to a central area – he too was not picked up.
He managed to play Januzaj in behind who had timed his run perfectly and went through to put the ball in the net. Alguacil must be given some credit here for realising the potential of allowing Januzaj to play in those half spaces instead of on the flanks. His quick turn of pace allowed him to get in behind and into a position where he was able to shoot straight away – as opposed to having to look for a cross.
Getafe see it out
Getafe were tiring, and in the second half – especially after conceding – had to change their approach. They sat off more, with a PPDA of 12.1 in the second half, and aimed to play longer into the channels. These long balls prevented any form of Sociedad press on the back line, and they were hit into channel areas between often-absent wing-backs and outside centre-backs.
Long balls of this manner caused chaos in Sociedad’s nervous, inexperienced defensive line. These long balls were how Getafe transitioned and regrouped from defence to attack, but such transitions on Sociedad’s part were non-existent. Midfielders and wing-backs were awfully slow to recover, and this often left the Sociedad back three isolated against the athletic forwards of Getafe. Their strikers would come into the channels to win the first flick, and the respective winger would be running off of them.
Getafe realised the problems this caused their opponents, as over one-third of their second half passes were long. All in all, it was a long ball that was the undoing of Real Sociedad and cost them the points.
A hopeful long ball forward was chased by substitute Jorge Molina who pressured the Sociedad defence. Zubeldia, with time to control the ball, nervously headed out for a throw-in. As shown below, Molina raced to take and picked out Mata, who had gotten goal side of his Elsutondo. He dribbled the ball in close and scored the winner for Getafe. Rash defending by Zubeldia and the switching off of Elustondo cost Sociedad the game. It was a simple goal to defend, but the long ball had been causing the men in green issues all night.
This analysis showed that ultimately, a physical Getafe side were too strong for Real Sociedad. They emerged victorious in a cagey game, which was short on quality and clear-cut chances. Sociedad will be frustrated with their performance and their inability to breakdown Getafe, but most frustrating were the defensive errors that cost them the football match. What is their fourth loss in a row leaves them five points behind Getafe with six games remaining, and seven points behind fourth-placed Sevilla.
Getafe, on the other hand, will be very pleased with the hard-fought three points. Despite not approaching the game in a particularly captivating manner, their physicality, defensive solidity and low-risk attacking play got the better of Real Sociedad. The Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano against Real Madrid awaits for José Bordalás’ men. A positive result there on July 2 would mean that European football would continue to be a real possibility for them next season, and would also aid Barcelona‘s title hopes.