Another week of La Liga football sees Cadiz welcome La Liga leaders Real Sociedad. The home team have been a surprise this season with them sitting in top six before this encounter. La Real are surprise leaders of the La Liga after nine games with usual leaders Barcelona outside the top 6.
It was early awaited contested to the much talked about Cádiz’s 4-4-2 block and La Real’s tremendous positional play. In this tactical analysis, we will give an analysis of the tactics used by Cádiz and Real Sociedad.
The home team lined up in their usual 4-4-2 formation. The home team had 5 changes from the heavy loss to Atletico Madrid. Marcos Mauro came in for Juan Cala at left centre-back. Jairo Iquierdo came in for Anthony Lozano. Jon Ander Garrido came in for Augusto Fernández at left centre-midfield. Malbašic came in for Álvaro Negredo and pair with Álex Fernandez as the front two.
The away team’s manager, Imanol Aguacil, lined up his team in his usual 4-1-4-1 formation. He made 3 changes to the team that won against Granada. Zulbedia came in for suspended Robin Le Normand. Alexander Isak came in for Willian San-José as the lone striker. Ander Guevara came in for Zubimendi as the single pivot.
In the most part of the first half, Cádiz sought to block spaces rather than high-press. They did this by sitting a mid-block and blocking space. They blocked space by sitting in a 4-4-2 which later morphed into a 5-3-2 and a staggered 6-2-2. In both of these formations, the main aim was to block central spaces and therefore hinder central progression.
In the 4-4-2, Cádiz’s first step to blocking the central progression route was to man-mark the single-pivot of Real Sociedad. At all times it was paramount to man-mark the single pivot.
Above, we could see the ball-near striker pressing the ball-carrier. As soon as he starts his press, the ball-far striker moves diagonally to block the passing lane to the single-pivot.
In continuation of defending the central spaces, the wingers tucked in to defend the halfspaces and subsequently made the shape narrow. This is to prevent the progression through the halfspaces. This subsequently left spaces in wide areas. The midfield pair stayed compact centrally with at least one man-marking a Real Sociedad player.
Real Sociedad at first aimed to progress through wide overloads. Cádiz defended these wide overloads by shuttling their block towards the byline and remain compact.
On the right, the right-winger moves up to press the fullback, Nacho Monreal, as soon as he receives the pass. The ball-near striker presses from a curved angle on the ball-carrier. The ball-far striker still maintains central protection by blocking the central passing lane to the single pivot.
The ball-near central midfielder presses the opposition’s ball-near central midfielder. This subsequently pushes the build-up back to the centre-backs. All these are shown in the image above
On the left, the positions and markings are quite different. The ball-near striker blocks the inside passing lane to the single-pivot by pressing the ball-carrier at a certain pressing angle. The winger moves wider to mark the fullback holding width. The leaves the halfspace vacated as it was originally defended by the winger. The opposition ball-near winger moves in-field to the vacated halfspace but he’s marked from his blind-side by the ball-near fullback.
As the 4-4-2 becomes narrow, it left spaces around the wide areas. Cádiz solved it in two ways, either by expanding their 4-4-2 block horizontally or switching to a 5-2-3 mid-block.
In the 5-2-3 mid-block, one winger joins the strikers to act as a three-man first line of pressure with narrow positioning. The other winger drops deep to act as an auxiliary winger while the fullback act as an outside CB. All these are shown in the above image.
In the staggered 6-2-2 above, it’s more of a man-marking set-up. The interiors of La Real’s midfield are specifically man-marked as the defensive midfielder drops to man-mark the right-interior. The left-winger drops to mark the opposition fullback while Cádiz’s fullback marks the left-interior. The single-pivot is also man-marked.
Real Sociedad’s use of central overloads and combinations
As mentioned earlier, due to the spaces in the wide areas, Cádiz sought to stretch their block a bit more horizontal in order to deal with. Real Sociedad counter it by overloading the central areas.
Real Sociedad overloaded the central areas regardless of the on the ball formation. They switched between these three shapes – 4-3-3, 3-2-5 and 3-1-6 shape. A common theme with these shapes is that gave them the avenue to overload the central shapes as they made their wide forwards play narrower by staying the halfspaces. Although the front three switched positions, they still stay in-between the lines in other to overload central spaces and provide passing options. This is in addition to the central midfielders who already occupy the halfspaces and central areas thereby totalling 6 players staying centrally.
Above, we see the 4v2 central overload. The inside forwards and the midfielders stay centrally to overload the central spaces.
This overload on central spaces led to more passing options centrally. The stretched block of Cádiz allowed more space and time for Real Sociedad players in central spaces which subsequently allowed for an easy progression through combinations especially third combinations and vertical sequence of passes.
An example is of this is the image above. The third man moves towards and away from the ball, Isak follows this movement and drops into the space between the opposition midfielders. The ball-carrier spots this pass and makes a vertical pass to Isak who completes the combination by making a lay-off pass to Merino.
In the image above, Real Sociedad progress through a sequence of progressive vertical passes through central areas and move it out wide for a cross from the fullback. In this scenario, the vertical passes were easy to beat initiated as Cádiz stopped man-marking the single pivot and allowed him to move and create a passing lane.
Guevara moves to lose his marker and create a passing option. The ball-carrier finds him with a vertical pass. In these sequences of vertical passes, David Silva was very instrumental as he was proactive with his movement. As soon he spots the first vertical pass, he moves to occupy space and act as an immediate passing option for Guevara. He receives it with good body orientation which allows him to turn and drive at the opposition.
Real Sociedad’s exploitation of wide spaces and the spaces in behind
As mentioned earlier, spaces were created on the flanks as a result of the Cádiz’s narrow shape. Of course, these spaces were exploited by Real Sociedad by positioning the fullbacks wide. The full-backs’ position on the flanks varied with the different phases of play.
In the first phase of play, the fullbacks are positioned wide but deep. Real Sociedad used their fullbacks as an outlet in beating the seldom high-press of Cádiz.
Cádiz pressed in a 4-4-2 narrow high-press. The front two pressed went high-up and stayed narrow in order to prevent short build-up through the single pivot. The wingers tucked in and stayed in the half-space. The midfield pair of Cádiz man-marked the interiors of Real Sociedad.
In order to bypass the press, the fullbacks were positioned behind the wingers who tucked in the halfspaces. Sometimes, the fullbacks positioned in the blindsides of the opposition wingers. The wide forwards pinned Cadiz’s fullbacks which allowed the Real Sociedad’s receive in time and space. In the image above, you could see the goalkeeper picking out the fullback who receives easily in time and space.
In the second phase, due to the central overloads of Real Sociedad, Cádiz stayed narrower. This allowed the spaces around the wide areas. Real Sociedad exploited it with a simple diagonal pass to from the ball-near centre-back to the ball-far fullback
In another scenario above, a winger pushes up to nullify the back three numerical build-up shape of Real Sociedad. However, this creates a 2v1 on the opposition’s fullback as the fullback and inverted winger overload on the fullback. Real Sociedad exploit this by playing a similar diagonal pass to the overload on the flank.
Apart from the exploitation of wide spaces, Real Sociedad also sought to exploit the spaces in behind This is because they had penetrative runners in Monreal, Oyarzabal, Isak and Cádiz held a fairly high-line at times.
Monreal and Zalbua offered penetration from the flanks. The penetrations from the flanks could either come in the second phase or third phase. In the image above, we could see the penetrative run from Monreal in the third phase as he tries to latch on to David Silva’s pass
Oyarzabal and Isak mainly offered penetration from the central or half-spaces. Although, they also provided penetration from wide areas especially in moments were they rotated positions. In the image above, we could see Isak and Oyarzabal making a penetrative run for Merino’s over-the-top pass.
Another comprehensive performance from La Real which solidifies their spot at the top of the La Liga table. They defended well, limiting Cádiz to low-quality shots. They also attacked ferociously and created numerous chances but were undone by the offside flag, poor play in the opposition box and poor finishing. La Real should improve their finishing going forward.
Cádiz didn’t defend well and made sporadic decisions when defending against La Real’s shape. They should have continued defending the central spaces rather than trying to stretch their block to defend width. They tried to exploit the spaces behind La Real’s block but it wasn’t successful due to La Real’s keeper anticipatory skills, backline’s recovery pace and offside trap.