The La Liga round 37 fixture between Getafe and Atlético Madrid was important for both sides. Already earning a spot in the UEFA Champions League next season, Atleti was looking to maintain their third place, while Getafe was trying to win as many points as possible in their final two matches to secure a UEFA Europa League position.
Getafe (3-5-2): David Soria; David Timor, Djené, Erick; Mathias Olivera, Marc Cucurella, Mauro Arambarri, Nemanja Maksimović, Allan Nyom; Jaime Mata, Hugo Duro.
Atleti (4-4-2): Jan Oblak; Manuel “Manu” Sánchez, Felipe, Jose Giménez, Santiago Arias; Koke, Saúl Ñíguez, Yannick Carrasco, Ángel Correa; Marcos Llorente, Diego Costa.
Atleti in possession
Since football returned, Atlético Madrid have displayed a more short-passing oriented style with more patience in the build-up, maybe to reduce the number of physical battles after such a long break. In this match, they tried to do the same thing, but their build-up was often disrupted by Getafe’s press.
The hosts pressed in a 3-3-2-2 mid-to-high block, which was not that different from their usual 4-4-2 as one might think. The forwards would start close to Atleti’s centre-backs to press instantly when needed, while the CMs didn’t start that close to the opponent’s double pivot, as they have to cover some other passing lanes, but would press the double pivot when either of them had the ball. A back pass would trigger intense pressing from Getafe, which was intended to force long balls.
The forwards and the two CMs created a 4v4 against Atleti’s centre-backs and double pivot, with extra cover from Arambarri, which ensured Atleti couldn’t create numerical superiority in the centre. Atleti, thus, was often forced to go wide. Getafe’s ball-near wing-back would start deep but rush forward to press Atleti’s ball-near full-back should he receive the ball, which required great speed, work rate and tactical awareness – something both Olivera and Nyom possess.
The back three and the ball-far full-back would form a temporary back four. Against Atleti, it was more effective than a usual back four due to having one extra physical centre-back, which gave Getafe a needed aerial advantage over the opponent’s physical front two. This made even more sense given that Atleti tried a lot of long balls due to being pressed aggressively at the back. In addition, a back three meant that a centre-back (mostly Timor, naturally a midfielder) could follow Llorente’s dropping movements and reduce space around the ball when Atleti tried to combine on the right side.
It was hard for Atleti to play through the centre as Getafe’s three central midfielders have an extremely high work rate. Moreover, wide build-up was more ideal as the full-back would typically be pressed by Getafe’s ball-near wing-back or CM, neither of whom was close to him. Atleti’s left-back Manu was not very involved in the team’s possession game as the side mostly attacked through the right. Saúl and Koke would overload that side, while Carrasco usually moved centrally (typical of Atleti’s wingers under Simeone). Getafe having only one wide player on each wing also made Atleti’s progression through the wide areas a sensible choice.
To deal with Atleti’s right wing overload, Getafe’s midfielders would also overload that side. Aggressive man-oriented pressing around the ball side led to Atleti having to resort to long balls. This is displayed in the below example. Here, ball-near wing-back Olivera also pushed high to support the press. The only players not involved in the press are the ball-far wing-back and the back three.
Should Atleti get to Getafe’s half, the home side would retreat to a 5-3-2 mid-block, shifting according to where the ball was. The shape’s good horizontal and vertical compactness helped them neutralise Atleti’s right wing overload easily.
With difficulty building up through the centre and the old Costa nowhere as influential in the team’s play as he once was, Atleti relied heavily on the Arias – Correa – Llorente trio on the right. They showed a great understanding of the others’ movements and combined effectively. Arias mainly hugged the touchline and make overlapping runs, while Llorente and Correa moved around the right half-space and wing, constantly switching positions in the process. Here, Correa was wider than Llorente and was dropping to provide a passing lane for Arias. As Correa got the ball, Llorente instantly made a run into the space that Olivera left behind, then beat the ball-near centre-back near the goal line and sent in a cutback pass.
That’s a typical Atleti attack since football returned: the right-back and Correa (who would drop) would drag the opponent’s wide players with them, opening space on the wing for Llorente, who would face the opponent’s centre-back (and not the left-back who usually has more pace). Llorente would use his strength, technique and speed to beat his man and send a cutback pass/cross in. Having the nominally defensive midfielder at the front has changed the face of Atleti’s previously sluggish attack. He is extremely athletic and combined well with the likes of Carrasco and Correa. In the second half, he combined with Carrasco to score the opening goal.
Below is an example showing great movements between Atleti’s right wing trio. Timor stepped out to close down Llorente. Arias combined with Llorente, then made a run into space behind Olivera. Correa dropped a little deeper to provide a passing lane for Llorente, dragging Djéne with him. Llorente sent a through ball towards Arias’ run instead, and Djéne was now unable to help Olivera. Arias’ cross found Costa, but the Spaniard failed to score from close range.
Getafe in possession
Atleti defended in their usual compact 4-4-2, which have been notoriously great at stopping central progression. Against a Getafe side who are very un composed on the ball, Atleti’s front players look to press high and force long balls.
Getafe’s play on the ball was relatively simple. Chance creation relied a lot on winning the ball high up the pitch through a high press or winning a second ball – deliberately created through long balls from deep (30% of their passes in this match were long). Should Atleti win a second ball, Getafe would then counter press intensely, win the ball back and then start launching long balls again. Getafe wanted to create a chaotic match, which plays to their physicality and hides their technical incompetence.
The below example is typical of Getafe’s build-up play. Keeper Soria sent a long ball towards Duro. Here, there were four Getafe players around the ball who could look to win the second ball.
Upon winning the ball high, they would then quickly get the ball out wide – one forward would often move wide to provide support – and send a cross into the box. The central mids would join the forwards to attack the box in numbers. That was displayed in the example below. Cucurella and Maksimović were making runs into the box to get to Nyom’s cross. If they lost the aerial duel, they could instantly crowd the area around the ball and counter press. Nyom was the most prolific crosser of the night, and his crossing was typical of Getafe’s play. He tended to cross the ball quite early, and usually with very low accuracy (1 accurate cross out of 6 attempts). Getafe’s crossing accuracy in this match was 37%, which was probably higher than their usual standards. This approach did help them create a few chances in the first half.
In the second half, Llorente managed to open the scoreline for Atleti against the run of play. Bordalas decided to make three changes and turn back to using the 4-4-2. Ángel Rodríguez and Jorge Molina came in to become the new striker duo, while Duro became the left winger, and Cucurella and Nyom were the full-backs. The 4-4-2 was more effective at pressing Atleti’s full-backs.
Here, Atleti were progressing the ball through the right wing. Right from the start of Los Colchoneros’ build-up, Duro could position himself much closer to Arias than the likes of Olivera and Cucurella in the first half. However, this change in tactics didn’t really help Getafe create good chances in the second half. Thomas Partey replaced Saúl, and his silky-smooth passing immediately gave Atleti rhythm and control in their game. He was the one who started the counter that led to the second goal, and ran into the box to finish by himself. Atleti was the more dominant side in the second half, and deservedly won 2-0.
This analysis showed that Atleti deserved to win this match. They really struggled against Getafe’s press in the first half, but scored an important goal at the start of the second to take control of the match. Partey’s influence since coming in was quite visible. Now, the team’s main focus will be on the upcoming UEFA Champions League fixture against RB Leipzig.
Meanwhile, another loss after football returned made Getafe’s European dream even less attainable. Despite negative results recently, Getafe’s pressing scheme still has been quite impressive. In this match, their pressing style made things so difficult for Atleti. They became wearier towards the end of the match and had to accept a home defeat.