It was matchday 12 in La Liga, and FC Barcelona travelled to Cadiz to play what was thought of to be a difficult fixture. Cadiz came into this game sitting in sixth place, having beaten the likes of Real Madrid. Meanwhile, Barcelona were one place behind in seventh, having gotten four wins out of four in their recent games in the Champions League and in La Liga.
The game ended, to the dismay of Barcelona fans, in the favour of Cadiz. Cadiz scored two goals from Alvaro Negredo and Alvaro Gimenez, while conceding an own-goal from Pedro Alcala. Cadiz put in a great shift against Barcelona and came away with a deserved win, which we will look at in this tactical analysis. In this analysis, we will see the tactics that both Ronald Koeman and Alvaro Cervero set up in and how Cadiz won the game.
Below is the lineup that both teams set up in:
Cadiz, who generally line up in a 4-4-2, went for a 4-1-4-1 this time around, with Jens Jønsson as the pivot. Jeremias Ledesma started in goal, with Rafael ‘Fali’ Jimenez and Marcos Mauro as the central defence pairing. Alfonso Espino started at left-back while Isaac Carcelen started at right-back to complete the defence. The lone pivot in the 4-1-4-1 was Jens Jønsson. In front of him, captain Alex Fernandez and Yann Bodiger were the central midfield pairing. On the left-wing, Alberto Perea was the winger while Jairo Izquierdo complimented him on the right side. The lone target man was the goalscorer, Alvaro Gimenez.
FC Barcelona and Koeman went with their tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation. The German Marc-Andre Ter Stegen started in goal with La Masia graduate Oscar Mingueza partnered with Clement Lenglet in front of him. USMNT starlet Sergino Dest played at right-back while Jordi Alba was the left-back. The double-pivot consisted of Frenkie De Jong and Sergio Busquets in midfield. In front of them was Antoine Griezmann, with captain Lionel Messi to the right of him and Philippe Coutinho to the right. The striker was the Danish Martin Braithwaite, who came into this game in great form.
How did FC Barcelona attack?
In attack, Barcelona were very ineffective despite racking in 21 shots, with eight on target. The immediate problem was in the selection of the lineup for Barcelona. Against a team that was known to defend deep, Barcelona played with none of their wide players like Ousmane Dembele or Francisco Trincao. So, Dest and Alba had to provide width while dropping back regularly to defend. Coutinho, Messi and Griezmann were constantly clashing in the middle of the field, ineffectively switching around in the centre and half-spaces. We can see this in the first half below:
Here, we can see that Griezmann, Messi and Coutinho were taking up the central areas, while only the full-backs were taking the wide areas. Considering that Cadiz have a strong left-side, Messi was taking a lot of touches on the ball on the left channels (Cadiz’s right), leaving Coutinho to go centrally. We can see that in Messi’s heatmap below:
Another important element that we can see in the match pic above is how progressive Frenkie De Jong was playing. Sergio Busquets, on the other side of the pivot, played as the anchorman, while De Jong would attack the left side of the pitch. While it isolated Busquets in midfield, De Jong was pushed up to cover for the space left behind by Coutinho considering that Alba had to stay wide.
Despite these attacking elements, Barcelona struggled to score in the match, especially in the first half, where they got six shots and only two on target. This was also due to how Cadiz defended, as we will cover later on in this analysis.
In the second half, Koeman made two quality substitutions: Bringing in Pedri Gonzalez for Oscar Mingueza and Dembele on for outinho. Barcelona clearly started dominating the game after that and forced an own-goal from Cadiz. The Blaugrana got off 15 shots, with six on target.
Considering the congestion in the middle, bringing on a wide presence in Dembele aided Barcelona massively, as we can see below:
Dembele (in pink) has opened up a lot of space now by stretching Cadiz’s defence wide. This gives Messi or Pedri on the left half-space a lot of space to exploit. The directness that Dembele provides means that it was difficult for Cadiz to contain him. This meant that Pedri and Messi had more space to orchestrate the play by creating chances or shooting.
Ultimately, we saw how FC Barcelona were wasteful against a Cadiz side that defended superbly. But there are two sides to any story. We saw how Barcelona attacked, and now we will see how Cadiz defended against them.
How did Cadiz defend?
Despite conceding an own-goal from a Jordi Alba cross, Cadiz were great in defence. We have seen evidence of this before, where they kept a clean sheet against Real Madrid. Cadiz had a PPDA (Passes Allowed Per Defensive Action) of 28 compared to Barcelona’s four, meaning that they did not press high and up the pitch, and were happy to sit back and let Barcelona progress the ball up the pitch. Most of Cadiz’s players sat back in the box and closed down attacking options.
The first advantage for Cadiz came in the way they lined up. The 4-1-4-1 formation with Jønsson between the defensive and midfield lines meant that the opposition could not advance through the middle, while the central and wide midfielders on the left and right side closed down Barcelona’s attacking midfielders. So, Cadiz were fortified through the middle, which played into their hands as Barcelona played with all four attackers with tendencies to drift towards the centre. We can see Cadiz’s defensive structure below:
Cadiz employed a mixture of a mid-block and a low-block to defend against Barcelona’s positional attacks. We can see an example of the narrow midfield five. While Braithwaite and Griezmann were occupying the midfield and defensive lines, Coutinho, Messi and De Jong were either in the centre of the pitch or in the half-spaces. The only wide players were Dest and Alba.
To cover for the wide players, the midfield or defensive line (based on the position of the full-backs) would shift towards the Barcelona man on the ball in an attempt to cover them off.
Jønsson was positioned in a way to cover off for the attacking midfielders by blocking off any possible runs that they could make, with or without the ball. The important pressers in this system were Alex and Bodiger, who would step out of position to press the Barca players and force them wide or to pass back. This had two benefits: Cadiz could win the ball back and counter-attack to exploit Barcelona’s defensive problems, or force Barcelona to pass to the centre-backs.
Considering that Cadiz played a narrow defensive block, Barcelona should have played a winger, but the fact that they did not was advantageous to Cadiz. Generally, against teams that play low blocks like Atlético Madrid, it is Messi that bails Barcelona out. Cadiz kept two or mostly three players on the Argentinian to press him the instant he got the ball and to suffocate him in tight areas. While Messi’s talent meant that he was able to break free from his markers, it was not always possible and would either need to get a shot off from long range or lose the ball.
To get the other players, despite having a 9v7 disadvantage, Cadiz effectively blocked off passing lanes and covered the Barcelona attackers by blocking passing angles.
In glorious fashion, FC Barcelona’s good run of results in La Liga and in the Champions League came to a stumbling end with this loss to Cadiz. They sit in ninth place, being one or two games off the teams above them. This season seems to be a struggling one, being their worst ever start to a season in a long time.
Cadiz, however, will be the happier set of fans and players after this game. They sit in 5th place with 18 points and are looking to charge for Europe or finish mid-table in their first season in La Liga after promotion from Segunda Division.
As we saw in this tactical analysis, Cadiz had the superior tactics to triumph against FC Barcelona and truly deserve their three points.