Sevilla FC – Atlético Madrid: Non, non, rien n’a changé (1-1)
It could have been worse, this game. Much worse. While Sevilla against Atlético could have been a battle to give the ball away to your opponent, the game developed into a battle between two teams who both had a dominant half. Both in their own style. Nice to watch.
Tactical analysis and match report by Guillaume Maebe.
Christmas vibes are still out there, so let’s start with some music trivia. What is the most famous single the even more famous French pop music band Les Poppys has created? You want a hint? Have a look at the score lines Sevilla produced in their last games of 2018 and compare them with the one against Atlético Madrid. 1-1, for the fourth time in their last five games now. Nothing has changed. Or as Les Poppys sang: Non, non, rien n’a changé.
Sevilla was the first game in 2019 LaLiga-lovers were really looking forward to. A direct battle between number three and number two of the ranking. The winner would most likely become the main contestant of FC Barcelona in the race to the title. Sevilla still missed Maxime Gonalons and Aleix Vidal due to injuries, while Simon Kjaer was not fit enough to start. Joris Gnagnon started in the meanwhile well-known three man defense of Pablo Machin.
Diego Simeone could not count on the injured Lucas Hernandez, Filipe Luis and Diego Costa. Thomas Lemar, however, was fit again. Juanfran and Thomas Partey were the surprises in the starting eleven. The first got his first start since October 20th, while the latter operated on the right wing of the 4-4-2 formation of Atlético.
Ever Pirlo… or is it Andrea Banega?
I believe you can call it an experiment, the ‘thing’ Simeone tried with Thomas. With Sergio Escudero as an attacking left wing-back in the 3-5-2 formation of Machin, placing a strong midfielder as his direct opponent could have been a tactical winner. Could have been, because the experiment failed quite grandiose.
Thomas was a loose pawn when Atlético tried to benefit from losses of possession of the home team and often retreated too late to the double defensive line of Atlético when Sevilla tried to build up. The home team was more dominant by far during that first half. Almost sixty percent ball possession, more than double the amount of passes that Atlético had and some danger in front of goal. Not bad for a team that often relies on quick counterattacks themselves.
Sevilla played by the grace of Ever Banega. In buildup, Banega became the only central midfielder who played just before the defensive line and benefited from the space between Atléti’s attackers and midfielders. Banega made himself available and tried to start the buildup. With 65 accurate passes, no one did better at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium yesterday.
Banega often looked towards the right wing where Sevilla tried to create an overload. Manager Machin combined the attacking power of Jesús Navas with the infiltration of Pablo Sarabia, more than usual active on the right wing. It made Saúl Níguez, still more midfielder than defender, feel uneasy and often led to danger. The goal of Wissam Ben Yedder started from the right wing. If it was not for a splendid free kick of Antoine Griezmann, the overload on the right wing would have led to three points.
How Sevilla tried to create an overload on the right wing during the first half.
Simeone’s turn to shine after the break. With his side being overpowered in the first half, the Argentine had to come up with something new. Subbing Thomas could have been a great move. Or just replacing him to his best position. Simeone chose option two. Thomas became one of the central midfielders, pushing Koke to the left wing. Lemar moved up to play in support of Griezmann, while Angel Correa became the right winger.
These switches helped Atlético play the football they are trying to embrace this season. While Simeone’s side in the past could rely on quick counterattacks, opponents have now found different ways to force Atlético to make the buildup themselves. Simeone responded with a clear approach: attacking fullbacks, combined with false, inverted wingers and one of the two strikers who tries to benefit from the space between defense and midfield. When Vitolo came on around the hour, this approach really started to work.
Buildup play from Atlético after Vitolo came on.
Neutralizing each other
Atlético not only gained possession and became more dangerous, they also neutralized the strong, attacking points of the home team. While Sarabia and Navas could destroy Atlético’s left side in the first half, it was now Saúl who pushed them back. Sevilla was forced to play in a defensive 5-3-1-1 formation most of the time, the only way they could prevent Atlético to create a lot of chances form their overload in the midfield.
This worked. Atlético could not become as dangerous as they would have wanted to be. The downside, however, was that Sevilla could not become dangerous as well. The second half was not one to remember, despite some fun and exciting dying minutes. Another 1-1 draw for Sevilla, the fourth in their last five games. And another 1-1 draw for Atlético, the third in their last six games. FC Barcelona would be happy, though. With a draw between numbers two and three from LaLiga, their way to a new Catalan title is wide open.
Sevilla dominated the first half by creating an overload on the right wing thanks to Navas and Sarabia who destroyed Saúl multiple times. This only delivered one goal, a goal that was neutralized by a magical free kick of Griezmann. After repositioning some players during half time, Simeone managed to make his side the dominant one. These changes did not produce more goals, though, which makes the winner of this battle between number three and number two… the number one: FC Barcelona. Non, non, rien n’a changé.
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