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Villarreal at Real Betis: A conversation with Betico News Founder Andrew Miller- part 1

Unai Emery and Manuel Pellegrini go head to head in La Liga

C.A. Osasuna v Real Betis - La Liga Santander Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

This week we have for you a Q and A with Andrew Miller, who has founded ‘Betico News’. We asked Andrew about the club, the tactics, and of course Manuel Pellegrini. We encourage you to follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMillerNBA and Betico News @NewsBetico. Enjoy!

What makes Real Betis special as a club?

I think first and foremost, the culture. Real Betis is a club that’s proud of it’s history and that’s fully embraced the community it was built around. The fans are a great representation of Seville and Andalusia as a region in that they’re loyal, they’re passionate and they’re expressive. They understand that nothing is more important than keeping the faith and focusing on what’s important, even when the results haven’t gone their way.

That’s where the “Viva el Betis manque pierda” mantra comes from. It translates to “Long live Betis, even when they lose”.

But it’s more than just a club motto, it’s the entire philosophy that’s front and centre of everything Betis do. It’s about sticking with your club and community through the good and the bad, and they’ve certainly been through some tough times over the 113 year history. Falling all the way down to the third division was when the manque pierda phrase was coined.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Betis are one of only 9 clubs to have ever been crowned LaLiga Champions, having won their first and only title in 1935 to go alongside the two Copa Del Rey trophies that are proudly on display in the Benito Villamarin.

Pellegrini is a legend here at Villarreal. What is the Betico reaction to the work he has done so far at your club?

It’s not quite been the immediate turnaround that I think some fans were expecting. Obviously there has to be an element of patience and understanding when a new manager comes in, especially this summer with the COVID pandemic having a huge impact on the financial capabilities of clubs.

There have been tangible improvements, particularly in getting forward and creating chances. The team is more structured, the players understand their roles a lot more than they did last season under Rubi and the overall atmosphere has improved. I think Pellegrini has a presence within the organisation that Rubi and even Quique Setien both lacked.

The club needs to make some changes and investment in the playing squad. They addressed all 4 major areas of need during the summer window but they didn’t spend any money on transfer fees so the quality of the players brought in was of a lower standard possibly than was required. Martin Montoya was a good signing for depth at right back. Claudio Bravo has been ok so far, but he’s at the mercy of a defensive line that’s struggled for several seasons in a row.

Victor Ruiz hasn’t shown much in his limited game time, and other than scoring the second goal last weekend, Juan Miranda hasn’t been able to make much of an impact with Alex Moreno playing so well.

The biggest impact Pellegrini has had on the team is developing and adapting the roles of Cristian Tello and Sergio Canales. Both look far more confident than they did last season, they’re both playing great football and both have taken his instruction in their stride.

There’s a lot of work still to do, mainly in sorting out one of the worst defences in the league – but the team is certainly better off with Pellegrini than they were last year with Rubi.

Talk to me about his defense. Why does it let in so many goals?

The biggest issue defensively for Pellegrini is that it isn’t actually his defence. He inherited a squad that was in desperate need of change at the back.

Marc Bartra, for his all Barcelona pedigree just doesn’t look like a centre back capable of playing in a top European competition like LaLiga. Sidnei does good work on the ball, but similarly to Bartra just doesn’t have the positional awareness or instincts to recover quickly enough when Betis lose possession. Victor Ruiz only joined in the summer but has had an awful start to his career in Seville.

Aissa Mandi is without a doubt the strongest defender at the club but he needs a partner alongside him that can perform at the same level. The wing-backs play extremely high up the pitch so that leaves them susceptible to being caught out if the opposition break, and that’s where the need for stronger central defenders is most evident.

Joel Robles is arguably one of the poorest goalkeepers across the top 5 leagues. His shot-stopping ability has never been at a high enough level and his positioning is too often to blame for Betis conceding easy goals. If they can get Claudio Bravo on a consistent run of games without fitness or injury hampering his playing time then Betis have a baseline of which to build on – but that comes with the territory of signing a 37 year old first-choice goalkeeper.

What tactical features from Betis should we be on the lookout for on Sunday?

I mentioned the wing-backs previously, so that’s one of the main tools Betis will use to try and exploit the spaces in behind the Villarreal back line. Alex Moreno and Emerson are both extremely quick and technical, operating almost as secondary wingers to overlap the midfield and cut inside.

They’ll look to use their pace going up against Raul Albiol and Pau Torres. Estupinan has the agility to stick with Emerson and whoever starts on the right wing, but Alex Moreno and Cristian Tello will give Mario Gaspar some real problems down the left flank.

If Emery starts both Paco Alcacer and Gerard Moreno in a 4-4-2, Betis will look to Guido Rodriguez to bypass the midfield 4 with those line-breaking passes straight to the striker or Nabil Fekir, who’ll play as a very loose No.10 with plenty of freedom to roam.

Thanks for joining us for part 1

Part 2 will be going up shortly.