Yet another La Liga season is being dominated by the giants: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. While at the time of writing, Los Blancos have the advantage in the leading spot, there are quite a few contenders for the rest of the Champions League spots. They are followed by Barca, Sevilla and Atleti, but more surprisingly, by Real Betis, who managed to retain their consistency and might move into an even better position compared to last season.
Their solid performances and balanced approach keep them in the battle for the European football spots for a second consecutive season. The team have been overperforming in attack, which has led them to move around the top three and threaten some of the hegemons in Spain.
One of the reasons for their strong performance in front of the goal is the left attacking midfielder, Juanmi, who is responsible for 14 of their goals scored this season. Despite experiencing a slight dip in form in February and March, he is still the most consistent attacking player for Betis and is still the second-best goalscorer in the league after Karim Benzema, although he splits that achievement with a few more players.
While he arrived at Betis in 2019, he failed to fit in right away and had a couple of unsuccessful seasons. It looks like the head coach Manuel Pellegrini, though, trusts the process and gave Juanmi another chance to show his potential, and it is safe to say that he’s met the expectations.
This scout report in the form of tactical analysis examines the player’s profile and explains why he is so important in Betis’ tactics in the 2021/22 season.
Real Betis’ attacking movement
Pellegrini sets the team up in a 4-2-3-1 most frequently with an aim to employ an attacking approach and the team to move the ball quickly and efficiently. The team like to dominate the flanks and have enough players to roam around the box, which is where the trio of Juanmi, Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales are quite effective. Interchanging positions is key in their attacking performance as Juanmi tends to cut inside and threaten the goal, while the others have more supporting roles.
While Fekir and Canales are more responsible for setting their teammates up with key passing, the Spaniard’s intelligent positioning in and around the box has been crucial for breaking through defences and the quality positions he moves in have led to his high shot accuracy rate and overperformance in front of the goal. The striker’s role at Betis doesn’t have to limit his movement in the box, but should also be supportive of ball progression and constantly drop deeper to combine with his teammates.
They try to dominate the flanks through the full-backs who are instructed to be very active in their attacking movement, which respectively leads to the team relying on a high number of crossing attempts. While they try to progress the ball through the wide areas, they also often opt for long diagonal balls directly to the attacking players in the underloaded areas.
All of this is done to create as many goalscoring opportunities as possible and as a result, the team are placed third in the league in terms of shot frequency per 90 (13.06 shots on average). Even more impressive is that only Real Madrid have a better shot accuracy rate.
The team also highly rely on their counterattacking actions for exposing the opposition. With 3.71 counters per 90, they manage to create some goalscoring chances and increase their efficiency in attack.
Betis have also been successful in their attacking set-piece chances as they have converted nine of them into goals. The main set-piece takers are Fekir and Canales who are responsible and interchangeable when it comes to the penalties and the free-kicks.
Juanmi’s impact in front of the goal
Juanmi’s wide position doesn’t limit his movement and while he moves up and down the flank to support ball progression he also cuts inside and tends to occupy the half-spaces and the box rather frequently. He isn’t a winger that would cross the ball as this responsibility is allocated to the full-backs. Instead, his role is to roam around the final third move freely and exploit spaces, break through defences and provide a direct threat.
Another reason for the better suitability of this role is the low success rate in his offensive duels, which makes him unsuitable for being the main responsible for ball progression and crossing as he might be unable to take on his markers. His right-footedness also makes him more suitable for cutting inside rather than providing crosses.
The number of his touches in the penalty area per 90 (3.05) partly illustrates his impact in front of the goal, as he constantly tries to expose the opposition from close range. His intelligent positioning is the main reason for his success in attack. He intelligently manages to free himself up and his runs to the box are often supported by his teammates’ movements as their exploitation of the flanks allows him to move into quality positions.
He is also often the recipient of the long diagonal balls from the back that aim to bypass the opposition press and dismiss the second line of defence by directly delivering the ball to the final third where Juanmi would be.
His spatial awareness helps the team in breaking through overloaded defences and taking advantage of any havoc that might have occurred.
The 28-year-old produces 2.05 shots per 90 and has the highest shot accuracy rate in the league with his 63.4% shots on target.
His 2021/22 shot map illustrates his ability to move into goal threatening positions and exploit spaces efficiently. Despite the team having scored the most goals from outside the penalty area in the league (11), he rarely contributes with shots from distance.
Ball progression involvement
Juanmi isn’t highly involved in ball progression in terms of passing frequency but does play an important role as a passing outlet and helps Betis in releasing the pressure through his movement between the box and the central line. He has a rather high pass accuracy percentile (81%) compared to the other players in the league in a similar position and despite the lower frequency, his short passes are important for the team to employ their strategy of building up through the wide areas. He most frequently combines with the defensive midfielder, William Carvalho, and the left-back, Álex Moreno, as they stay close to each other, and the team often try to overload the left-sided areas.
Apart from his contribution as a direct threat, he also does have the ability to set his teammates up with quality balls, although he is rarely involved in such actions and prefers to be the final point of the team’s attacks.
Juanmi’s movement is also key for the team’s counterattacking actions, and he often isolates himself in the advanced areas and is the one who takes responsibility for finishing the attacks and threatening the goal. While his fellow attacker Canales is often the one to start the attacking actions, Juanmi rarely drops that deep to Betis’ box to recover the ball but is more likely to stay on the counter and start his off-the-ball movement early on.
Despite his attacking role, the Spaniard does support the defensive actions quite successfully. He averages a 54.1% success rate in his defensive duels, which makes his defensive contribution on the flanks crucial, especially against teams that play with width. The full-backs’ contributions upfront often leave spaces behind for the opposition to expose and Juanmi’s presence there helps in covering the depth and allowing his defensive teammates to drop back in position.
His ball recovery efforts are often concentrated in the advanced areas, where he tries to block the oppositions’ attacks early on. With 3.25 recoveries on average per game, he adds to Betis’ balanced outperformance and their ability to break their opponent’s counterattacks.
As our analysis shows, Juanmi’s presence in the final third is crucial for Betis’ attacking efficiency as his movement centrally not only provides a direct threat but also engages opposing defenders and can free up spaces for his teammates.
His intelligent positioning and spatial awareness allow him to occupy the box successfully and expose the opposition from close range. The quality positions he moves into directly affect his shot accuracy and make him as efficient as he is in front of goal.