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Sevilla, tactics, and fault for goals

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Villarreal CF v Sevilla FC - La Liga Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Prepare yourselves for a lot of Bruno Soriano article cover photos of articles even if he’s not the most relevant person in them. I’m so happy he’s back I’ll probably go overboard the next couple weeks.

The virtues and challenges of a 442

I just wanted to share, relatively briefly, a few thoughts on our Sevilla match. First of all, I thought Calleja nailed the tactics on this one, and I don’t say that very often. I think both Paco and Gerard benefited from being in a front two, and Chukwueze is working hard enough that I really like him in the wide midfielder role. Zambo with space in front of him to make runs like the one which created our first goal yesterday is a big plus, and I think the 442 benefits most of the players we started yesterday.

The downside to this 442 is that two players I otherwise like are kind of put in a bad spot in the way we play the formation. First, Santi Cazorla becomes a wide midfielder in this scheme and he’s just not fast enough to be at his most impactful in that role. The role suits Moi Gomez a bit more, but then in that case you can’t exactly swap Santi for Iborra or Zambo in this system either, so you just kinda have to start Santi on the left and hope a moment of brilliance (like his assist yesterday) pays off the selection before he inevitably comes off before the hour mark.

The other player I don’t think this system benefits is Mario Gaspar, who in my opinion had a rough game today. Sevilla clearly targeted his flank, and he and Chukwueze are a bad pairing to have on the same side. Chukwueze isn’t quite good enough defensively to consistently be in the position Mario needs him when we are on the back foot, and Mario isn’t good enough going forward for our right flank to really pin back the opposition’s left side and make it too risky to attack. The result is that we get some good results from Chukwueze making runs and then have to hold on for dear life when the other team attacks us in return.

I think starting Pena fixes this problem because it increases our attack output down the right and makes it harder to attack us there. I would then move Mario to a CB role for the rest of the season so Pau and Albiol don’t have to play all the minutes.

Overall though, I thought the 442 was well chosen and it worked well. Very good gameplan from Calleja.

Mario and the goals conceded.

I’ll actually address the second goal first because it’s less interesting. That high lame duck of a cross gave Mario plenty of time to rotate over to Munir and he didn’t do it. Really, he wasn’t dramatically late and I don’t think anyone, even Munir, expected that volley to do what it did so that much is bad luck, but I thought Mario could have defended it better.

The first goal caused a great deal of discussion in our writer chat last night. Raul, who is our resident coach, and I in particular disagreed about whether Mario was at fault for what happened. Here is the situation at the start of the move:

Now, Raul and I both agree that other people’s mistakes have put him in a very bad spot. It’s not his fault that he is essentially left responsible for two people at this point, both Escudero on the all and also the runner who will eventually move behind Mario and out to the left. The disagreement comes as to whether Mario did the right thing from this point.

At the moment that picture is taken, I think Mario is in the exact right spot. He’s keeping Escudero from having a clear passing lane to the runner and he is in position to react if Escudero charges at goal. From that photo, though, Escudero takes a dribble at an angle toward both the center of the pitch and toward goal and Mario doesn’t move, thus allowing a wide open shot.

Now, if you read regularly, you know I love xG. Not accounting for keeper position, shooter ability, or defensive positioning, shots from that place on the pitch have an xG of 0.02. That’s a 2% chance of going in. So why not just let him shoot? Let’s look at Escudero and his shot decisions. Here is every shot he has attempted in the last two years:

understat.com

Green is the goal from yesterday, red is a missed shot, purple is blocked, and blue is on target but saved. You see that in the general area of his shot from yesterday he has attempted a lot of shots at goal in the last couple years. Now, let’s look at just this season in which he’s played 604 minutes:

understat.com

In 604 minutes he averages one attempt on goal every 86 minutes he’s been on the pitch. That means that whenever he starts he can pretty well assume that he’s gonna give it a go at least once. Four of those shots have been outside the box, left of center, and all of those out of the box attempts have at least forced a save from the keeper.

If Mario didn’t know this information the coaching staff should have told him. While Escudero initially looked for the pass out wide he was always likely to take a chance at goal if he didn’t get that pass right away and based on his track record he was very likely to put it on target.

Mario should have had more help when the play started, but ultimately a man with the ball is the most dangerous person on the pitch. If he steps up and Escudero passes out wide, it becomes someone else’s job to rotate over and help him. Failure to stop the ball gave Escudero so much time to shoot it was like he was in a five shot challenge, and ultimately it cost us a goal. Mario was in a bad spot but he should have done better to prevent the goal.

Concluding thoughts

The xG of the match yesterday was 0.7-0.9 in Sevilla’s favor. Neither team created particularly great chances, and we only had 7 total shots. The tactical ideas were good but we didn’t carve out great chances, something we’ll need to do better in the derbi later on this week.