Before Saturday’s kick-off at Balaidos, both teams were in quite a difficult situation. The Bats had won once in their last six La Liga games and were 12th. Far from the Champions League qualifying places (10 points behind Sevilla in 4th). However, their qualification to Copa Del Rey’s next round last Wednesday gave the team an extra boost of confidence.
On the other hand, the hosts were also struggling, with three losses in a row. They were 17th in La Liga, just two points ahead of the relegation zone. A win was vital for the two teams to revive their seasons. Using statistics we will analyse the course of the match and will have an in-depth look at different tactical decisions.
Starting XI :
Valencia appeared under their usual 4-4-2 structure. With Coquelin alongside Parejo as central midfielders, Marcelino seemed to take the defensive approach.
Celta Vigo, deprived of their main striker Iago Aspas, aligned a classical 4-2-3-1 on paper. With Boufal and Sisto on the wings, the combination looked very entertaining with two of La Liga’s most creative and skilful players.
Use of space:
Valencia relied mostly on quick transitions and progressive passes during the first half. They made 95% of their passes to the middle and final thirds of the pitch (53% passes to the mid-third and 42% to the final third). In order to contextualise these numbers, we can recall how their opponents played more than 25% of their passes to their defensive third.
To do so, Valencia, whether during the initial build-up starting from the goalkeeper or after recovering the ball, tried to take advantage of the space that separated Celta’s 4-men defensive line and the rest of the team.
As we see in these pictures, there was a huge gap between the first and the second line of players.
Here, there were always pass lanes for Valencia, which was mainly due to the alignment of Celta’s midfielders.
Depending on the situation, Dani Parejo either made some line-breaking passes to Soler and Cheryshev who were usually positioned on the halfspaces like in the third picture. Or played long balls to teammates making runs in the back of the defence like in the second picture. (Parejo made 10 accurate long passes and 71 passes more than any other player on the pitch).
Despite having taken advantage of this space, Valencia did not create a huge amount of chances. Apart from Parejo’s two shots they did not really worry Ruben Blanco.
In fact, Marcelino chose to restrict the offensive role of his full backs. In their respective heatmaps, we can note that both Puccini and Gaya did not manage to make intense runs and ball calls to get the ball on the flanks nor did they occupy the halfspaces as inverted fullbacks.
What changed in the second half?
In fact, Celta Vigo re-adjusted a 4-4-2 structure in the defensive phase during the second half. Finding the wide midfielders in half spaces and between the lines was a little bit harder for Valencia. By the 60th minute, there was no time for a slow build-up for Marcelino, his team were 1-0 down with half an hour. There was a need for changes.
Gameiro and Ferran Torres came on to replace Cherychev and Coquelin. We cannot assume that this was a transition to a 4-3-3 system with Moreno, Mina and Gameiro up front. Indeed, Moreno has alternated different roles after the changes, going from side runs and crosses (Mina’s header for example) to in-depth runs and scoring.
The visitors attempted 21 crosses during the second half, compared to 9 crosses in the first period (which is also huge but with a low success rate: 11%). There was a clear intention to focus more on sending the balls aerially into the box to get more shots and chances.
Moreno’s goal analysis:
The first remarkable thing about this goal is that it belongs to a certain goal category. The one where if you lower your head for one second and get back you will find the ball in the net.
Throw-in for Valencia: no apparent individual/structural errors in the positioning of Celta’s defenders.
The three circled players headed towards the ball’s direction to close down the opponent without noticing the potential passing lanes to the centre. This movement, which was not followed by any centre-backs or midfielders, created a huge space on the right half space:
Celta Vigo offensive phase vs Valencia’s defending/pressing:
Celta tried to use short passes and combinations to exit their half. One of Miguel Cardoso’s clear instructions was the dropping back of Lobotka between the two centre-backs during the build-up. As Valencia opted for a 4-4-2 structure Celta’s organisation created a sort of numerical superiority in the centre lanes. (three builders: two centre-backs alongside Lobotka against Mina and Moreno). Thus, Valencia started to press high especially during the first quarter and forced the Galicians to play long balls either to the centre or to the flanks:
There were many details that made Valencia’s pressing efficient during the first fifteen minutes. One of them was that they neither pressed the opponent’s goalkeeper nor their defensive midfielder who dropped back. They started to make intense runs only when the ball was given to Araujo and Roncaglia. As we can see above, they blocked any pass option to the centre by restricting the opponent’s visual field.
The locals had more ball control during the next 30 minutes (60% of ball possession during first half precisely) without being able to create huge chances. They mainly went down both sides with Boufal and Sisto. Both of them struggled to get the ball in an advantageous situation. Most of the time they received the ball while being man marked and back facing the net. Valencia often had numerical superiority while defending flanks:
During the game, none of the two teams had really dominated. Despite having more ball and control across the two halves, Celta Vigo were less dangerous than their visitors. There were interesting tactical details noticed during the first build-up phase for both teams. It was the progression from the middle third to final third that constituted the real struggle during the game. Here we can say that the Valencians’ pragmatism guaranteed the wanted result.
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