Real Betis are one of the most unique and fascinating clubs in La Liga, they are football royalty when Spain’s King Alfonso XIII was an honorary president, where they broke the world transfer record in the 90’s spending 21.5 million for Denilson from Santos and where one fan brings an urn to the ground after his father told him, “When I die, I want to go to Betis.”
Betis have had a mixed bag of second-tier football and high place finishes in La Liga and the last few years have seen more highs than lows with a Copa del Ray win and Champions league football. The belief around the club is that this young team built up of Junior Firpo, Giovani Lo Celso, Antonio Sanabria, Francis Guerrero, and new signing Diego Lainez or “Generation Z” as they have been coined, are heading for the very top.
The story so far
This season has had some very promising points, noticeable wins against two of the top three with one a memorable win at the Camp Nou the other in the Derbi Sevillan have been truly standout moments in a campaign which sees Betis currently sit just outside the European spots. They are now perfectly poised to make an assault on the top La Liga teams the second half of the season. Betis currently have the second highest ball possession in the league at 61.4% which is only 0.1% less than Barcelona who sit in first. Unsurprisingly, this also means they have a great pass accuracy too at 87.6% which is third in La Liga, add to this an impressive 11.7 shots per game and all seems well for Quique Setien’s men.
Setien is very flexible tactically and has used up to seven different formations this season, which makes Betis hard to prepare against game-to-game, keeping their opponents guessing. The 3-4-2-1 and more traditional 3-5-2 are the most common of the seven, which makes the most of their expressive fullbacks and also allows them to get three players central to give the sublime Lo Celso chance to get forward, whilst still having William Carvalho to protect the back three.
Despite the above, Betis are currently in a very poor spell of form, winning just once in their last five league outings. This has coincided with the loss of the highly rated Junior Firpo to a hamstring injury picked up against Espanyol on matchday 16. Firpos’ dribbling ability, goals and tenacity down the left-hand side has been a key part of the season so far as per the heat map below. He is a massive loss to the Beticos and one they haven’t been able to recover from, luckily for manager Setien he’s now returned to training and will be back playing within the next few weeks.
In addition to the huge loss of Firpo is the alarming lack of goals. Even though Betis are currently creating chances, converting them is another matter as they are currently 4.25 goals down on expected goals from open play. Currently, the brilliant Giovanni Lo Celso and former teen prodigy Sergio Canales have four goals apiece, sitting just in front of Firpo who currently has three. Unsurprisingly, all three main strikers at the club are also down on expected goals with Loren Moron, a bright spark last season, struggling for form and 2.69 down on expected goals. For a team on the verge of Europe, this simply isn’t good enough. And it’s what is holding Betis back.
How Betis can move forward
The easy answer here is investment in somebody who can convert chances. So far this window, they have brought in the very exciting Diego Lainez for €14m. Known as the “Mexican Messi”, he is an exciting prospect who should fit in with this Betis team being technically adept and comfortable in numerous positions. He isn’t, however, the answer to their goalscoring problems.
In the striking department, Betis have been linked with Lautaro Martinez of Inter and Javier Hernandez of West Ham. Inter have already ruled out the prospect of their exciting young Argentinian going out on loan and Hernandez, although a very prolific goal scorer, is wanted at higher profile clubs and demands high wages. The Hammers also seem reluctant to lose both him and Marko Arnautovic in the same transfer window.
There are, however, two very prolific goal scorers which would be very achievable for the Verderones to obtain this month and who could fit well into the team: Fedor Chalov of CSKA Mosco and Mbaye Diagne of Kasimpasa.
Chalov currently has nine goals in 17 appearances, scoring 39% of the Russian’s goals this season. With CSKA currently sat in third place in the Russian Premier League, he could be slightly more difficult to tempt away from the capital. But a step up in league quality should sway the young Russian. Due to CSKA’s heavy use of wing play and the way they regularly have more ball possession than the other side in their league, Chalov is potentially very suited to the way Betis play. With goals against Real Madrid in the Champions League, the Russian league’s top scorer and being named in UEFA.com’s top 50 youth prospects this year. An investment in the Armeitsy man could be a wise one.
Mbaye Diagne currently has 20 goals this season in just 17 games for Kasimpasa in the Super Lig in Turkey. The 6ft 4 Senegalese international is a powerhouse of a player, with speed, good hold up play and also very effective in the air with five of his goals so far this season coming from headers. The 27-year-old is also proving last season’s goal haul of 12 goals in just 15 starts was not a one-off and could prove a wise investment.
The one downside of Diagne comes in his ability on the ball with a pass completion success rate which currently sits at 65.4%. This could potentially be an issue in a team which likes to keep possession, but his phenomenal strike rate may smooth this over as his goals could fire Betis into Europe once again.
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