After a pulsating match-up between Napoli and Real Sociedad which eventually led to La Real’s qualification for the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League. Real Sociedad welcomed Eibar in their La Liga match-up looking to continue their reign on the top of the La Liga table as they are levelled on point with Atletico Madrid.

The match-up was chaotic as both teams pressed aggressively and fought for loose balls. The high tempo meant that transitions were the order of the day. The match-up ended in a 1-1 with La Real unable to convert their chances. In this tactical analysis, we will give an analysis of the tactics employed by both teams.

Lineups

Real Sociedad lined-up in an usual 4-2-3-1 formation. The regulars –Oyarzabal, David Silva and Portu – didn’t make the starting line-up. Ander Barrenetxea, Roberto López and Martin Merquelanz were brought in to replace them respectively. Eibar lined-up in a 4-4-2 formation.

La Liga 2020/2021: Real Sociedad vs Eibar – tactical analysis - tactics

Eibar’s press

For a mid-table team like Eibar, pressing is a go-to avenue for creating chances and gaining some level of control against superior teams. Eibar was able to use their press to create chances, sustain pressure and ultimately achieve some level of control.

In creating chances, Eibar sought to press high aggressively. The high-press was possible as La Real opted for a short passing build-up for the most of the first forty-five minutes. Eibar pressed in high aggressively in a 4-4-2 looking to gain territory, turnovers and subsequently create chances.

La Liga 2020/2021: Real Sociedad vs Eibar – tactical analysis - tactics
4-4-2 press

Eibar pressed against different build-up shapes. In the goalkeeper build-up, they pressed against a 4-1 + the goalkeeper. The centrebacks stayed wide in the box and the fullbacks stayed wide but deep. The pressing trigger was a pass from the goalkeeper to the centrebacks. The ball-side striker in the 4-4-2 presses the opposition centreback aggressively.

The on-the-ball centre-back has two options, either he makes an outside pass to the fullback or a reverse pass back to the goalkeeper. In the scene, where he makes a back pass to the fullback, the ball-side winger presses and forces the fullback into making a quick decision such as playing a long-ball or a line pass.

In the scene where the centre-back takes the second option and makes an inward pass to the goalkeeper, the pressing striker continues his press towards the goalkeeper as shown below. As he presses the goalkeeper, he arcs his run so as to block the passing lane to the back to the centre-back. The ball-side winger positions so as to have a good pressing distance to the single pivot in case of a line pass to the centre-back and the ball-side fullback.

La Liga 2020/2021: Real Sociedad vs Eibar – tactical analysis - tactics

In the case where the build-up is funnelled wide, the ball-side winger presses. The team stays compact around the wide areas so as to cramp the spaces. The far-side winger inverts and stays central to block central passing lanes. The ball-side pivot pushes up to mark the nearest inside passing lanes.

As the game progressed, Real Sociedad switched to a 3-1 build-up as Eibar dropped and ceded more territory. Eibar adapted to it as the ball-far striker man-marked the single pivot. The ball-near striker pressed the inside centre-back whenever he had the ball. This forces the inside centre-back in the back three to make an outside pass to the wide centre-backs. The ball-near wingers were responsible for pressing the wide centre-backs.

La Liga 2020/2021: Real Sociedad vs Eibar – tactical analysis - tactics

In establishing control, Eibar sought to counter-press aggressively. They pounced on every loose ball and engage in a lot of duels. They gave La Real little time on the ball and forced them to make rash decisions with aim of winning turnovers for transitions or halting their attacks. However, La Real was able to relieve themselves of pressure as they had the outlets with decent technical levels to hold-up the ball.

As the game progressed further, Real Sociedad opted for goal-kicks rather than short-passes in the first phase. This lead to the game being chaotic and end-to-end as the ball both fell into favourable conditions for both teams to attack

How Real Sociedad sought to bypass Eibar’s press

Eibar’s press was aggressive and intense as it aimed at giving La Real little time on the ball. Therefore, La Real needed good technical level, exploitation of space and numerical superiorities in order to bypass the press.

In goalkeeper build-up, La  Real were able to bypass the press through different routes. First, they could bypass the press through their single pivot. As mentioned earlier, the single pivot was always man-marked to block the central passing lane towards him. However, in certain moments as shown below, the single pivot was able to find gaps in Eibar’s press and subsequently exploit those gaps by finding passing lanes.

La Liga 2020/2021: Real Sociedad vs Eibar – tactical analysis - tactics

Apart from this, the interiors were able to find gaps and create numerical superiorities between the first line and second line of pressure. This facilitated the execution of third man combinations to find the single-pivot at a body orientation facing the opposition goalpost.

La Liga 2020/2021: Real Sociedad vs Eibar – tactical analysis - tactics

In wide areas, the interiors dropped into the halfspaces in provided passing lanes and subsequently pull away from their markers and create space for the dropping forwards. La Real was able to use the halfspace to play out of the press due to the movements of the interiors who helped in creating these gaps.

As mentioned in the previous section, La Real switched to a 3-1 build-up which happened mostly in the second phase build-up. The 3-1-6 shape in the second phase gave them optimal coverage of the pitch – width, height and depth. As explained earlier about Eibar’s press against La Real’s 3-1 build-up shape, La Real was able to exploit it by finding the fullbacks who were free men. La Real was able to play passes from the inside or wide centrebacks to the ball-far fullback as Eibar’s wingers focused on pressing the wide centrebacks which opened up the passing lanes to La Real’s fullbacks. In other situations, it could be an outside pass from the interior dropping deep to create the vertical passing lane for the outside centre-backs as shown below

La Liga 2020/2021: Real Sociedad vs Eibar – tactical analysis - tactics

The fullbacks were able to receive in space as the wide forwards were able to pin back the fullbacks and the interiors were able to pin back the double pivot. In the scenarios where, the opposition fullbacks still persisted to press on, it left the ball-near winger free to exploit the spaces in-behind.

La Liga 2020/2021: Real Sociedad vs Eibar – tactical analysis - tactics

In certain scenarios where space was congested and the pressing was intense, La Real was able to bypass the pressure because they had outlets who could run/drop into space. Therefore, they were able to hoof it or play long balls into space for the outlets to latch on too. The common outlet in the match was Isak who dropped into the spaces between the midfield line and defensive line. Also, the wingers who made runs in-behind.

Real Sociedad’s high-press and how Eibar sought to get the ball upfield.

Real Sociedad pressed in the same manner as Eibar did. They pressed aggressively and intensely with the aim of preventing progression and creating chances from turnovers. They also had the same pressing shape and similar pressing scheme.

Real Sociedad pressed in the 4-4-2 formation. Isak and Lopez were the front line of pressure who pressed aggressively on the keeper and centre-back pair. They aimed to force turnovers from them or force long balls. In the case where they pressed the centre-backs and the build-up went wide, the ball-side winger presses the fullback as he tends to receive possession. The double-pivot push up to press the opposition’s double pivot. The fullbacks push up to mark their respective opposition wingers.

La Liga 2020/2021: Real Sociedad vs Eibar – tactical analysis - tactics

This pressing scheme didn’t allow time and space for short-passing build-up. Hence, Eibar resulted in long balls as a means of getting the ball upfield. They had two outlets in Muto and Kike Garcia. Muto was able to win few aerial battles although his main task was running into space behind the defensive line. Kike Garcia was tasked with aerial battles which he won quite well. At halftime, Muto was subbed off for Sergi Enrich who played a similar role.

La Liga 2020/2021: Real Sociedad vs Eibar – tactical analysis - tactics

Eibar’s counter-press helped them in sustaining the ball upfield. They were able to win loose balls and win back possession in situations where La Real won the second balls. When the ball upfield, Eibar’s aim was to create shooting chances against La Real disorganize defence which was a result of the chaos created. Bryan Gill was instrumental to any form of creativity for Eibar. He made whipped crosses that created heading opportunities, played incisive passes behind the defence, exploited spaces and made good setpiece deliveries. The young man had a phenomenal performance against the league leaders.

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier in the analysis, the game was a chaotic game. Eibar controlled much of the game rhythm which Real Sociedad adapted to in some form as they were able to get chances on the transitions. However, their finishing let them down. Also, they scored a goal at the depth of the match, but VAR ruled it off for offside. However, they have a chance to strength their led with a mid-week clash against 2018/2019 Champions Barcelona at the Camp Nou