Girona – Valencia: Valencia Are Starting To Convert Their Chances (2-3)

Marcelino’s men finally start to show more efficiency up front as Valencia grabbed all three points away to Girona. The home side had a lot of possession, but as so many teams have, they failed to break down Valencia’s compact 4-4-2 set-up. Despite both strikers going off and being reduced to ten men, Ferrán Torres broke forward in the final minutes to give them the win in a very open and entertaining game.

Tactical analysis and match report by Joel Parker.


Eusebio’s Girona continued their transition from three-at-the-back systems into a 4-3-2-1 formation after a good run of form, which has seen them beat both Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano in their last three games. The heart of this team very much lies in the midfield line of three, which features captain Álex Granell, Pere Pons and Manchester City loanee Aleix García.

Valencia’s season has been defined by excellent underlying numbers and mediocre results. Valencia made four changes after their 2-1 victory over FK Krasnodar in the Europa League on Thursday night. Facundo Roncaglia and José Luis Gayà returned to the defense, replacing Mouctar Diakhaby and Toni Lato. Francis Coquelin was replaced by fellow Frenchman, Geoffrey Kondogbia in central midfield, whilst Ferrán Torres came in ahead of Carlos Soler on the right wing, offering more pace and verticality. Marcelino, of course, started Valencia in their usual 4-4-2 formation.


Girona take the ball as Valencia look more dangerous in the first half

Girona started to maintain possession early on in the game, as their fullbacks Jonas Ramalho and Raúl García dropped deep to help keep the ball against Valencia’s pressing. Marcelino’s side pressed the wide channels, creating an overload When one team has more players in a certain area or zone than the other team. against the player on the ball. However, this was often beaten by the hosts who retained possession impressively in the game’s early stages.

Despite this, Girona could not transition this into the final third, offering no threat forward. Striker Cristhian Stuani was left in miles of space with no support near him (he managed just thirteen touches in the first half). The only way Girona could make progress forward, was by  either Portu or Borja García dropping into the halfspace If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. and linking with players around them.

Valencia’s defensive 4-4-2 shape gave them the advantage, not only did remaining deep cancel out Girona’s offensive threat, but it meant they could conserve energy and allow them to break with pace. In his usual fashion, Rodrigo Moreno dropped behind Kevin Gameiro when Valencia won the ball back, allowing him to roam between the lines and linking with both channels (which made him almost impossible to mark). Their fullbacks maintained their width and pushed high up the pitch, allowing the wingers Gonçalo Guedes and Torres to cut inside and support the strikers, which worked very effectively.


Valencia’s general positioning and movements when they would win the ball back.


The role which Rodrigo was assigned to was creating danger, often making passes behind the defensive line. This would give Marcelino’s men the lead after fourteen minutes, Guedes making a fast, well-executed run behind the right-back, giving him the room to shoot and put the first goal of the game on the board.

In general, Valencia looked much more organized during fast breaks in comparison to slow build-up, captain Parejo often being forced to pass the ball sideways, rather than forwards which he is well capable off. This was due to Girona transitioning into a 4-1-4-1 defensive shape, which worked well in stopping Valencia maintaining possession for long periods.


Marcelino’s team continues to struggle dealing with set pieces

Girona equalized just eight minutes after the opener, Álex Granell putting in a great cross from a set piece, which was guided in by Ramalho (getting on the wrong side of his marker). This now means Marcelino’s team have conceded more goals from set pieces than from open play situations this season.

Girona often aimed for Uruguayan striker Cristhian Stuani – who targets the back posts when it comes to crosses or set pieces. This was Stuani’s only route towards the goal, having four shots from corners, two of them saved by Valencia’s goalkeeper Neto. In total, Girona would have six shots from set pieces during the match.


Both teams make changes after Valencia take the lead

Seven minutes after the second half commenced, Dani Parejo put in a brilliant goal behind Girona’s goalkeeper Bono. Good name for a goalkeeper, by the way, that. As Valencia was now leading again, both managers decided to shake up their teams tactical plan a bit. Marcelino would make the first change, taking off Kevin Gameiro up front for Denis Cheryshev, a more natural winger. The Russian would target the left channel, supporting Guedes and Gayà when either of the men had the ball. His second change, ten minutes after, would see his only other forward, Rodrigo, go off for Daniel Wass – who originally replaced him as a straight swap, but would see his role change later on in the game. Valencia were also pressing a lot less in comparison to the first half, now focusing on maintaining their 4-4-2 shape in a low block A low block refers to a team that retreats deep in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents around their own box. and drifting from side to side, giving Girona no room to function in their half.

In reaction to Valencia’s deeper stance and overall more defensive personnel, Eusebio made a double change. Aleix García and Ramalho being replaced by Seydou Doumbia going upfront and Pedro Porro on the right, resulting in Girona transitioning into a 3-5-2 formation.


Eusebio changed Girona’s system into a 3-5-2 formation when Valencia reduced their pressing


At this point, Girona had absolute control of the game and tempo. They started to take the ball into the middle and final third much more in comparison to the first-half. This was due to them overloading the right channel, Pere Pons taking possession from defense into attack from deep. However, they could only access the penalty area with crosses into the penalty area, aiming for Stuani. Valencia’s game plan would turn even more defensive when Facundo Roncaglia picked up a second yellow card with twenty minutes of the game left to go. Marcelino’s final change would see Guedes being replaced by Mouctar Diakhaby, keeping their two-banks-of-four intact and sitting in an extremely low block.

Eusebio’s final change would see Raul Garcia being replaced by Patrick Roberts, a much more attacking alternative on the left flank for Girona. The hosts now almost exclusively had their last line of defense camped on the half-way line, with Valencia dropping deeper and deeper, all nine of their outfield players in the penalty area when Girona had the ball in the final third.

Such offensive football from Girona was surely going to churn out some chances for either team. Girona were the first to strike though, as VAR spotted a handball from Diakhaby, the substitute. Stuani scored the resulting penalty, making it 2-2 and giving Girona a firm grip on the game with less than ten minutes left.

However, after going so offensive, it would be Girona’s high line that would cost them… In the very last minute of play before stoppage time, Patrick Roberts surrendered possession in midfield and Geoffrey Kondogbia produced a terrific ball behind the defensive line, putting Torres one-versus-one against goalkeeper Bono. It was the first time since Parejo’s goal that Valencia took a shot, and Marcelino’s team finally showed their more clinical side this season, as Torres rounded the keeper and slotting into an empty net, producing the winner that would see Valencia take all three points home.



Takeaways

Girona should be disappointed after coming into this game with decent form and failing to capitalize on their long spells in possession. Cristhian Stuani had limited service in open play and would often receive the ball in unfavorable areas. Eusebio’s team were caught out thanks to well-calculated breaks forward, struggling to deal with movement between their defensive and midfield lines. Valencia finally proved they can finish off the chances they created, in a game where if they deserved the three points is certainly up for debate.

Resurrection in form has stabilized Marcelino’s job at Valencia, but crucial fixtures against fourth-placed Getafe, Sevilla who are just a point in front of them and Real Madrid coming up, could easily change the mood at LaLiga’s most random club this season.

Match plots will be added later.

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