LaLiga with sport
The importance of winning the ball back for your team cannot be understated, but the decision made once possession has been regained is perhaps of even greater significance. The first pass that is played is vital to a side’s success in launching a counter-attack or it might be a case of playing a safe pass towards your own goal before building up a more intricate move.
Real Madrid are the league’s standout performer in the recovery stakes. However, Casemiro brings far more to the Real Madrid side than purely breaking up the opposition’s play. The Brazilian lies third in the league charts for the number of forward passes played after winning the ball back, a tactic that is central to success of the Blancos’ counter-attacking play.
It’s increasingly common in the modern game for teams to be adept at combining in tight spaces as they seek to open up opposition defences. That said, there are also game scenarios in which players take a more direct approach and are able to call on their power and accuracy to overcome opposition lines with an individual run. One team that excels in this particular department are Real Madrid, who lie top of the LaLiga Santander standings for carries that break the opposition’s midfield line, as illustrated by Fede Valverde in this example, in which the Uruguayan showcases his ability in this area.
When a team relinquishes possession, it’s a case of moving quickly in an effort to snuff out the threat the opposition may pose. In this particular department, it’s worth highlighting the efforts of RCD Mallorca, whose mental and physical exertions after losing the ball make them one of the division’s top five teams in the pressing after losing the ball stakes as the islanders display fierce commitment in the transition between attack and defence.
If we had to pick out just one aspect of high-flying CA Osasuna’s game in the early weeks of the season it would have to be their mightily impressive counter-press. The Navarran outfit, who have proved to be one of the surprise packages so far this term, are a
well-oiled machine when it comes to counter-pressing as they completely suffocate their opposition. With this in mind, it comes as little surprise that the Rojillos lie top of the division’s distance covered after losing the ball charts.
Once you win the ball back, there are a number of options. You can secure possession with a safe pass, but you can also try to quickly take advantage of the spaces left open by your opponents in their attacking phase. Playing the ball forward as soon as you win it back is riskier, because it is more difficult to pick out a teammate, but it confers a clear advantage: the opposing team has less time to reorganise their defensive block. In this regard, we must stress FC Barcelona's ability to play forwards after winning the ball back: 75% of their passes after regaining possession moved towards the opposing goal on the last matchday, a figure worth noting given that they are a team who play a possession-based game, where a safe pass after winning the ball back is more common.
Estadio de la Cerámica
Estadio ABANCA Balaídos
RCD Espanyol de Barcelona
RCD Espanyol de Barcelona
Matchday 9 of the LaLiga Santander campaign serves up an intriguing tussle between two teams that are separated by a mere two points in the league standings. The hosts, Espanyol, come into the clash as one of the top four sides when it comes to preventing opposition attacks from ending in a goal. What’s more, when teams do manage to break through the Catalans’ backline, they are confronted with an in-form Diego Lopez, who has helped Los Pericos to claim a place amongst the league’s top four sides in the save percentage stakes. At the opposite end of the field, the Barcelona-based side appear to be particularly fond of playing crosses into the near post. Indeed, Vicente Moreno’s charges lie second in the division’s standings for the percentage of crosses that land in the near post area. That said, the real hallmark of Espanyol’s game is reflected by the fact that they have secured a spot amongst the league’s top three teams for distance gained per possession. The Catalans’ fast transitions and limited number of passes mean that they rarely lose the ball in dangerous areas. These strategies combine to make Espanyol a defensively solid unit with a well-defined strategy when it comes to posing a threat in the final third.
This round of fixtures sees the boys from Barcelona come up against a Cadiz side who have remained faithful to the blueprint that saw them retain their top-flight status last time round. The Andalusians lie top of the long ball standings, whilst they currently occupy second spot for the number of through balls played. The visitors’ preference for this passing style proves that they’re a direct side who waste little time in making inroads into the final third. This playing style has placed Los Amarillos ahead of the rest of the division in terms of the percentage of short possessions.
If there’s one thing that the Cadiz squad are clear on it’s the team’s playing style, which involves regaining possession before launching transitions at breakneck speed, without stringing too many passes together. As a result, Alvaro Cervera’s men register the fewest players involved in each possession of all of the LaLiga Santander sides. Once they win the ball back, which they usually do in their own half, they seek out the direct running of their widemen or target man, Alvaro Negredo, as they aim to take the most direct route to the opposition’s goal. This tactic means that the Andalusians are also the team who bypass the most opposing players per pass.
Meanwhile, when on home soil, Espanyol have one of the five smallest convex hull areas in the division when out of possession. The hosts are also hot on the tails of their Matchday 9 opponents in the distance gained per possession standings, where they feature amongst the division’s top three sides.
Once again this season, the Espanyol frontman has turned in some truly exceptional performances. Raul de Tomas is the proverbial fox in the box and his qualities make him a real thorn in opposition backlines. He currently leads the way in the team’s goals and dribbling charts and features amongst the league’s top 10 players for shots on target. He has three goals and an assist to his name in his eight outings so far this term. Opposition defenders are well aware of his pedigree and aim to curb the danger at source. Indeed, he is the Espanyol player with the smallest average distance to an opponent when receiving the ball under pressure (3.33m). Meanwhile, he leads the way amongst Los Pericos’ frontmen in terms of high-intensity actions, i.e. the number of runs made at above 28km/h over a distance of at least 10m.