Celta Vigo took all three points at Villarreal in La Liga, with Iago Aspas starring in a crucial win for Vigo. Celta are now just two points deep in the relegation zone, while Villarreal now sit six points from the bottom three, and five points off the top six. This tactical analysis will look into how Vigo managed to upset the odds at Villarreal.
Villarreal lined-up in a 4-1-4-1 formation, Ruben Peña and Xavi Quintillà filling the full-back slots. Pau Torres and Funes Mori paired as centre-backs, with Vincente Iborra ahead of him as the number four. Santi Cazorla and Zambo Anguissa forming the centre of midfield. Chukwueze and Gerard Moreno were on the wings, supporting Toko Ekambi as the sole striker.
Celta Vigo came out in a 4-2-3-1 shape, with Aidoo and Araújo providing the base of defence. Olaza and Hugo Mallo started in the full-back positions, while Lobotka and Pape Diop played as a deep midfield duo. Sisto and Brais Méndez started either side of Denis Suárez, just in-behind Iago Aspas up-top.
Vigo block out Villarreal
Vigo’s pressing tactics have struggled this season, partly due to their ill-disciplined high-press, which has cost them at times when not set-up properly. But since coming back from the international break, it seems as if Vigo have been working on the effectiveness of their wide press.
As we can see below, Vigo often went for the three-man wide press, pushing two of the back-four against the by-line, with a midfield marker picking up Villarreal’s supporting midfielder on the inside.
Meanwhile, Vigo were far better positionally than previous, as teams could often find a way of passing through the three-man press. But this time, Vigo were able to cut passing lanes and were more assertive in going for the kill rather than holding position around the ball and not going for the ball.
We can see this again below, as Vigo look to stifle the Villarreal play-out and win the ball while the defence is split. The situational goal of the press for Vigo is to split the back-four into two, with gaps opening from the defensive midfielders and unnatural defenders coming back to help, before winning the ball back and bombarding the box with oncoming midfield runners.
Meanwhile, Vigo were successful in the overall aim of the wide press. As we can see below, Villarreal’s shape in the play-out was very compact, as Vigo nullified Villarreal’s dangerous width. Vigo set themselves to shepherd the ball wide, while having a ready-made three-man press on the outsides of the midfield.
Villarreal’s wide press was a huge point to their game here. Villarreal rely heavily on creativity from the wide areas, and is where they arguably hold some of their most talented players.
Vigo were able to keep the Villarreal wingers at arms-length and also encourage the full-backs to fill these gaps high up the pitch before launching a press on the isolated full-back. Always being ready to launch the wide press was important, as it allowed Vigo to keep a compact shape while also being ready to pounce on opportunities to push the ball against the by-line. This is contrary to previous matches, where Vigo’s shape was overly stretched as they tried to cover all areas of the pitch.
Villarreal going forward
Villarreal switched their approach in the play-out sooner rather than later, setting the base of the play-out in a diamond shape rather than a straight back-four.
As we can see below, the widespread centre-halves spread the play, while Iborra’s central support creates a shape more difficult to isolate from the rest of the pitch. However, Villarreal were still reluctant to play-out from the wide areas, which seriously stifled their attacking play.
This lack of confidence in the wide areas came despite their equaliser coming from taking advantage of Vigo’s aggressive wide press.
As we can see below, Villarreal are caught in a four-man Vigo cage at the by-line, with the middle of the field empty. Rather than match Vigo’s numbers in the cage, Villarreal’s three inside are given an out-ball by the half-way line.
Once this out-ball is used, Villarreal can break into the rest of the pitch as Santi Cazorla leads the transitional switch of play. The breakout then attracts more bodies on the inside, opening space on the far side.
Once the ball has reached the other side, Vigo couldn’t form their wide press quickly enough. Because of this, Villarreal were able to spread the play and open gas in the middle. A one-two between Moreno and Anguissa allows for Anguissa to take-up the space between the full-back and centre-half, before cutting-back to Chukwueze on the inside, who smashed home the equaliser.
As we touched on earlier, the wide press was proving effective for Vigo, as they stifled Villarreal’s wide threat, while in principle, their cages out-wide were out-numbering their opponents. However, Villarreal did find a way around this, but didn’t get into such battles often, and instead conformed to the width suggested by the Vigo set-up.
This brings us onto our third and final piece of analysis.
Vigo’s ruthless attack
Vigo’s approach to attacking Villarreal often began with the midfield being emptied of blue jerseys. Vigo were looking to attract Villarreal to push the ball in deep positions before playing round them and launching a devastating attack where they can out-number their opponents at pace.
As we can see below, Villarreal have control of the midfield area, with a focused shape on the far side. The midfielder highlighted drops deep to then intensify the Villarreal press.
The deep midfielder receives the ball, taking two markers with him before playing the ball straight into Lobotka in the number four position. Lobotka was crucial to Vigo’s play-out, who was able to link defence to attack excellently with angled passes into the oncoming full-backs.
In the final third, Vigo looked to attack the Villarreal back-line with three bodies attacking between the channel and the by-line.
Aspas on the ball attracts all of the attention as he approaches the penalty area, Hugo Mallo on the right side looks to stretch the back-line, while the oncoming midfielder looks to sneak through as the focus of the Villarreal back-line is on Aspas.
The ball is played wide into Hugo Mallo, which takes the focus away from the middle where the oncoming midfielder can sneak through and receive the ball at the goal-line, ready to cut the ball back for Iago Aspas and the winger coming inside.
On this occasion, the ball is mishit and goes out of play.
Vigo attacking tactics caused all sorts of problems for Villarreal’s defence, with the three Vigo jerseys attacking three key areas of the pitch kept Villarreal’s defence in two minds about whether to press or to hang back, which opened spaces in the wide areas and behind the Villarreal line.
The shadow runs from deep midfielders made dealing with Vigo so difficult, as unpredictable passes between the lines caught-out Villarreal’s midfield and back-line numerous times, and ultimately lead to the quick balls in-behind and the subsequent goals scored to seal Vigo’s victory.
Overall, Villarreal struggled for confidence in engaging with Vigo’s aggressive wide press, which ultimately led to their downfall.
Meanwhile, Vigo weren’t particularly good going forward, but were clinical going forward, as their pace on the break was just too much for Villarreal. Lobotka played a huge part to Vigo’s attack, as he could turn quickly and launch counter-attacks very quickly.