Real Sociedad tallied a goalless draw at home with Sevilla in their match at the Anoeta Stadium in round 37 of LaLiga. Both sides failed to penetrate the other’s defensive system while Real Sociedad attempted to build up from behind but were confronted by the ideas of high pressure from the Sevilla team in the first half of the match.
In the second half, Real Sociedad tried to apply the high pressure themselves to take advantage in the final third but all ideas of both coaches failed to produce any chance for their teams.
In this tactical analysis, we will try to showcase the tactics of both squads in this game.
Coach Imanol Alguacil decided to make some changes in the formation in comparison to the last match against Villarreal, as the duo of Aihen Muñoz and Joseba Zaldúa played instead of Nacho Monreal and Andoni Gorosabel.
Besides, he decided to bring back the Brazilian striker Willian Jose to lead the offensive line instead of Alexander Isak in the formation of Real Sociedad.
On the other side, Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui made some changes compared to the last victory match against Mallorca, with the most prominent being defender Diego Carlos sitting on the bench for Sergi Gómez.
In addition to the absence of the Argentine duo, Ever Banega and Lucas Ocampos were left out in favour of Nemanja Gudelj and Suso.
Sevilla applied the ideas of high pressure to the Real Sociedad defence when they tried to build from the back and progress the ball forward to try to penetrate the away team’s structure.
Lopetegui chose the 4-2-3-1 formation to achieve the numerical superiority against La Real, especially in the midfield area with Oliver Torres who was often leaving his position and dropping deeper on the pitch.
The Andalusian coach chose to apply high pressure whenever his team lost the ball in order to recover it in favourable positions. And he did this by forming numerical superiority and trying to make Sociedad’s build-up play difficult, as we will see in the next examples.Here we see when the ball was with goalkeeper Miguel Ángel Moyà, the Sevilla team is present in the defensive third of Real Sociedad, and each player faces his counterpart in the opposite team.
This reduced the possible solutions to the goalkeeper and made him turn to the long ball that was cut by Torres in the middle half.
Here we can see Martín Zubimendi heavily marked in by Youssef Al-Nassiri when he was trying to drop between the two-centre backs to support the ball progression. And alongside the numerical superiority again from Sevilla players in the first third to make the progression difficult, this was quite an effective tactic from Lopetegui.
Sevilla were controlling the main build-up pieces of their opposition, in particular, Mikel Oyarzabal and Mikel Merino at the start of the game by Real Sociedad.
Here, when Oyarzabal returns to the first third to assist in the ball progression, we find the French central defender Jules Koundé sticking close to him, which made him return the ball back to the backline since he simply didn’t have the freedom to move forward.
Besides, the Sevilla players are positioned correctly in the spaces to cut the passing lanes between Real Sociedad players.
The man-to-man pressure style was also present for Sevilla on Real Sociedad in the defensive third to force the goalkeeper to play vertical and long balls. Above we note each player Sevilla player marking one Real Sociedad player, and it caused great issues for the opposition’s build-up.
Despite the strong pressure from Sevilla, Alguacil tried to find solutions for their problems as the game went on.
Real Sociedad’s options for the build-up play
The coach chose to start the match in a 5-3-2 system with a trident of midfielders positioned deeper, and tried to use them to build attacks, along with an attacking duo up front.
They were also focusing heavily on the left-wing, Aihen Muñoz in particular, who was moving vertically between the defence and the centre to become a key piece in progressing the play, as we will see in the next examples.
Here we see that Real Sociedad decided to abandon the idea of penetration from the deep and switched to the wings. When the ball went to Muñoz, he caused issues in Sevilla’s formula since the right-back Jesús Navas came out to meet him and that, in turn, emptied the space behind him which Zubimendi promptly exploited.
The initial insistence on progressing the ball from deep and through the centre was evident in the positioning of the Sociedad players, and here we see that with the choice made by Diego Llorente. He decides to go for Oyarzabal despite Joseba Zaldúa, the right-back, being open in a better place to complete the attack.
The build-up of the attacks from Real Sociedad’s defence was mostly from Llorente on the right side whenever the right-back moved up, and he would burst forward into space waiting for a teammate to open himself for a pass in the vertical line.
Here, when the ball was with Llorente, we see Oyarzabal drop down to offer a solution to get the ball out of the first third. But equally, we see him under high pressure applied by Sevilla, which was the case with all of Sociedad’s midfielders.
In the above picture, we can discern that Real Sociedad remained determined to penetrate through the centre as 71% of their attempts were through that channel, while neglecting the right side completely, along with some moves going through the left side.
Here we see that coach Alguacil may have found a way to escape Sevilla’s pressure by simply expanding the pitch, but was also instructing the left-wing Muñoz to drop deeper to make that happen and achieve the numerical superiority.
And one of the most important players of the Sevilla team during this clash who contributed significantly in achieving numerical superiority and applying high pressure was Óliver Torres.
Óliver Torres’ role
Although Torres was technically an inside forward of sorts on the left side, he was very active in moving both horizontally and vertically to offer a solution in the build-up phase of Sevilla.
But his presence in the deeper areas of the pitch and in a position similar to the deep playmaker was one of his most important features in this clash, as we will notice in the next examples.
Here we can observe his position almost in a centre-forward position, in front of the Real Sociedad’s defensive line, in an attempt to try to offer a vertical solution if necessary and to use the space behind the opposition pivot players.
But then we can see a complete opposite here as he first receives a pass from his colleague Jordán in a deeper area, giving striker Youssef En-Nesyri the opportunity to move vertically towards the goal and escape the pressure from Real Sociedad players.
Torres had a successful pass rate of 82%, which made his presence in deeper areas when receiving the ball crucial to find a solution to penetrate Real Sociedad’s defence.
We can notice his deeper positioning that gave freedom to Real Madrid loanee Sergio Reguilón to advance on the left side and expand the stadium.
Torres was not exclusively used in an offensive role, rather he was clearly contributing to the high-pressure approach during the defensive phase too.
Here we see his positioning in the centre of the stadium instead of the left side, in an attempt to cut the channels in the build-up phase of Real Sociedad, which is his most prominent role during the defensive phase.
Sevilla as a team tried to use the ball more directly to switch to the last third, as we will see in the next section of this tactical analysis.
Sevilla with the ball
The most important and most prominent feature of Sevilla’s players when in possession of the ball is to constantly move to provide the ball-carrier with various different options.
The wingers would often cut inside into their half-space or even turn to a second-striker to create spaces on the flanks, as we will see in the following examples.
Here when the ball comes to Franco Vázquez, we notice the left-wing Torres moving to the centre or rather towards the half-spaces, with Reguilón advancing to expand the pitch.
But when that didn’t work, they were patient enough to wait until the right moment presented itself. Here when the ball was with Jesús Navas, no one approached him to receive so he decided to return it to Koundé and start from the beginning due to the lack of good movement to progress the play.
Here in the image above, we can accurately observe the process of expanding the field by Sevilla, but the position of Vázquez and Suso, the ball-carrier, makes it difficult to penetrate the five-man defence of Real Sociedad.
He tried to attack hold onto the ball for a long time, especially when reaching the final third, but La Real’s high pressure was sometimes too much to handle.
Sociedad’s high press
Real Sociedad’s coach Alguacil decided to apply high pressure, especially in the last half-hour of the match, in an attempt to surprise the Andalusian team and take the three points.
The duo highlighted below were tasked to put pressure on the wide areas and act as support for their midfielders, as we will notice in the following examples.
Here we note Merino’s progression towards the offensive duo, with Zaldúa advancing as well, to get the shape closer to a 4-3-3, and to close the spaces and not give the opportunity to progress the ball by the Sevilla team.
Here we notice the high pressure of Real Sociedad players in the final third of the pitch to not give opportunities to advance the ball by Sevilla players.
Constant pressure on Ever Banega preventing him to come out with the ball was an important part of those tactics.
Here we note the direct movement of Real Sociedad to press Banega when he received the ball, to make it difficult for them to build patiently from the back and forcing them to go long.
The match ended with Sevilla as the happier of two teams since they locked in the fourth place in the table and participation in the Champions League with 67 points. Behind, of course, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, while Real Sociedad are now sixth with a tally of 55 points.
We tried in this analysis to show how this match turned into a goalless draw despite the brave attempts of both teams.