Süper Lig 2021/22: Is Domènec Torrent’s Galatasaray heading to the right direction? – tactical analysis
One month ago, Galatasaray parted way with the experienced Faith Terim, maybe they wanted some changes given the team only had six wins from the first 14 Süper Lig games. Very soon, they identified Domènec Torrent as the successor of Terim, who was the assistant coach of Pep Guardiola since Barcelona, following him all the way to Bayern Munich and Manchester City. In recent years, he left the English champions and explored football in different continents, moving into the head coach positions at New York City and Flamengo.
While looking at the profile of Torrent, it was easy to picture the football he wanted his team to play. However, there were many obstacles during his early days, as his Galatasaray barely had one point after four games. It was unacceptable to the fans, and they were already wanting the coach to leave. In this tactical analysis, we tried to evaluate Torrent’s work at Galatasaray fairly by analyzing the data, including the good and bad things of his team.
In the first section, we analyzed Torrent’s Galatasaray by data to see whether the team improved in terms of numbers, and the data are reflected through this table.
|2021/22||Before Torrent||Since Torrent took charge|
|xG per 90||1.72||1.83|
|Shots per 90||14.3||12.25|
|Average pass length||19.12||18.61|
|Passes into final third per 90||57.25||37.25|
|Losses in own third per 90||15.4||23.75|
In the offensive stats, Torrent improved the goal threat of Galatasaray with an increased xG at 1.83, compared to the 1.72 before his arrival. However. In other metrics such as shots per 90 (14.3 -> 12.25) and possession (56.4% -> 51.11%), they show the team was not controlling the game or having less opportunities to test the goalkeeper. There were some worries because their final third entries had been lacking, their passes into final third per 90 decreased greatly from 57.25 to 37.25. Although the average pass length (19.12 compared to 18.61) shows Torrent’s Galatasaray played shorter passes in general, the team needs time to adapt as they gave away cheap goals by handing possession in their own third. The area they lost the ball was terrible, as their losses in the own third per 90 in increased from 15.4 to 23.75, that means the opposition were also countering closer to their Galatasaray goal – that was how Edin Višća scored the winner for Trabzonspor.
|2021/22||Before Torrent||Since Torrent took charge|
|xGA per 90||1.08||1.85|
|Shots against per 90||9.45||14.75|
We also compared the defensive stats of Galatasaray during and before Torrent. Unsurprisingly, all metrics were better before the arrival of the Spanish coach. Their xGA per90 increased drastically from 1.08 to 1.85, which showed they were conceding high-quality opportunities to the opponents more often. In terms of quantity, they also concede 5.3 shots more per 90, as their shots against per 90 increased from 9.45 to 14.75. Meanwhile, they were less intense without the ball, the PPDA of Torrent’s Galatasaray was only 10.92, and that was 8.74 under Terim, the supports might be expecting more aggressive football in this regard.
A new identity?
As mentioned above, Torrent had a very clear football philosophy and how his football team should be playing. So far, he introduced a structure and some tactics to help Galatasaray move the ball around, and that included the principle of plays as well.
In their first game against Hatayspor, Galatasaray showed some patient build-up against the 4-4-2 high press. In the first phase, they played with one holding midfielder (Taylan Antalyalı) only, and with a pair of wide full-backs to use the maximum width of the pitch. It was quite successful when he used two midfielders to drag the opposition midfielders down, so to create spaces in his own third.
The above image shows a sequence of the ball direction and how they drew the pressure to one side, then, went out on the free side. The move began with their centre-back, Marcão, then, through the left-back, they connected Antalyalı in the centre. In the first two passes, they drew the first line of Hatayspor towards the left side, so Alpaslan Öztürk and Sacha Boey were had spaces to play on the right side. With very simple passes to move the ball, Galatasaray eventually reached Öztürk, who could carry the ball forward in the half-spaces where the strikers could not cover.
Torrent’s Galatasaray always used both half-spaces to progress the attack, also, they set up a structure to help the centre-back on the ball by providing multiple options to pass. Usually, they should be given a vertical option, a wide option, and a diagonal option, this was the endpoint and could be carried out in different forms. For example, a 4-1-4-1 naturally had these options, as the full-back could be the wide option, the holding midfielder is the diagonal option, and the 8 such as Berkan Kutlu or Alexandru Cicâldău are the vertical options.
But sometimes they also created this structure through positional interchanges involving more players in play. The wrong-footed winger could drop in diagonally to be the vertical option in half-spaces, then he can play inside; the full-back and the winger could also take up alternative roles as the likes of Patrick van Aanholt could get into the half-spaces to be the vertical option, while the winger stayed wide to be the wide option.
The above image shows the structure on the right side. If possible, Torrent wanted his centre-backs to carry the ball forward, so Victor Nelsson reached the central third. This time, they rotated by dropping Emre Kılınç into the half-spaces, while Boey pushed high simultaneously to bring the Trabzonspor left-back away. From there, a vertical third man play was easy to perform as they connected Antalyalı. Apart from the four players mentioned, the structure might have the fifth or sixth player being freed between the lines, such as the striker or Cicâldău in the above case.
The above example against Kasımpaşa showed another type of Galatasaray rotation, but with the same structure as a result. They were much stronger on the left side because Marcão is a more considerate ball-playing defender, he could drive the ball forward and play good passes to find his teammates. Comparatively, Nelsson’s side had been targeted as the weaker half because the former FC Copenhagen defender just kicked the ball away when he was under pressure.
This time, the left-back ran into the half-spaces to provide the vertical option, while the left-winger dropped a bit to show Marcão the wide option. Then, when Marcão passed the ball forward, the Kasımpaşa right-back would be confronting two players (Ömer Bayram and Kerem Aktürkoğlu).
This structure also helped Galatasaray scoring the first goal under Torrent’s tenure. It was a very good goal as the left-winger (a typo in the image above) came inside as the vertical option, connecting Antalyalı with a third-man play. Simultaneously, van Aanholt ran forward to exploit spaces behind the right-back, who were dragged away by Aktürkoğlu. With Kılınç dashing in to meet the cross, it was a goal created from the structure.
Lessons to take
However, playing positional football is always difficult because that required so much courage, especially when the opponents were pressing higher and higher to force mistakes. In this regard, there are still many questions in Torrent’s team and how would they handle these. Against Trabzonspor, when they took the lead, they could not control the game by dominating possession and that led to backfire. While against Alanyaspor away from home, Francesco Farioli’s side was superior to Galatasaray in the tactical battle.
The above screenshot shows the stats of Galatasaray under Torrent in each game, there were some noticeable trends in it. Firstly, they were having lower possession game by game, from Hatayspor’s 55.22%, which dropped to 42.08% at Alanyaspor. We will explain why they were unable to control the game at Alanyaspor below. Also, in terms of passing accuracy, they had similar figures against Hatayspor and Kasımpaşa at 86.94% and 86.1%, but that dropped a bit in the game against Trabzonspor and Alanyaspor to 82.84% and 81.79%, which shows their struggle to pass accurately against stronger opponents.
Against Alanyaspor, we saw a different Galatasaray who had less possession %, and being dominated by the opponents. With Iñaki Peña joining from Barcelona, Torrent had what he wanted – a goalkeeper who could pass the ball well. However, Galatasaray also loosed their principles a bit by hitting long balls into Ryan Babel more often, even though the former Liverpool attacker did not have a clear physical superiority to keep the ball.
It will be a question for Torrent, should the team insist on playing short passes, moving the ball, and breaking the lines carefully or being slightly more direct. Both have its pros and cons and at the end of the day, what determined his position would be the result. No matter how Galatasaray must show a tougher identity of play when the oppositions pressed them high.
Apart from the poor display that gave Višća the goal, Galatasaray also had so many issues in the build-up when the opponents pressed them. The decision making of individuals might be suboptimal, especially on Nelsson’s side they struggled to find the correct passing option.
In the above scenario, Nelsson invited the pressure from the opposition left-winger, which means the right-back would free. If Galatasaray could reach Boey with counter-dynamic routes, they could break the press and go forward, facing the last line. However, Nelsson just kicked the ball away to a random space, and Galatasaray lost the ball very close to their penalty box. These types of mistakes could be catastrophic as points were lost with similar issues already.
Comparatively, the attacking part of Galatasaray was already better than the defending. Without possession, they had some serious issues that remained unresolved, and the number of goals they conceded, 10 goals in four games was too many for a giant in Turkey.
Tactically, it was below expectation in the away game against Alanyspor because they were outplayed by the opponents. In that game, Kılınç was always too high to press the left centre-back, and the opponents used the free left-back behind Kılınç to break the press for so many times. In the above example, Kılınç was too close to Faith Aksoy, and Alanyspor just broke the press with one simple chipped pass. It was a bit slow to see the reaction from Galatasaray as this issue has been happening in the first 30 minutes.
In particular, the wide defending of Galatasaray was a weak spot because their wingers were not good at defensive decision making. Sometimes Kılınç and Aktürkoğlu were caught staying too high and that defensive positioning was not helping.
As a result, they always place their full-backs in numerical deficit situations as shown in the above image. Olimpiu Moruțan was staying too high and the Kasımpaşa created a 2v1 numerical overload on DeAndre Yedlin when he moved forward. With a dropping movement to pull Öztürk away from the last line, the American full-back could not handle two opponents unless Nelsson helped, but then Marcão would be isolated in the centre.
Also, the last line of Galatasaray was vulnerable because their offside trap failed at times. In the above image, the defensive midfielder tracked a deep run and kept the opposition player onside in the centre, but the rest of the last line was stepping up to catch the opponent offside. See the body gesture of Bayram, that was what the defenders were thinking. In other situations, sometimes the defenders on the far side did not recognize the behaviours of other defenders, and he kept the opponent onside while the others were pushing the line forward. The use of an offside line could effectively help Galatasaray reduce the area to defend but the team must use that well.
Galatasaray were also poor at defending the crosses. When they were defending the wide areas, they could not shut the angle of the cross and just let the ball come in very easily. Then, the centre-backs were exposed in large spaces because one of them would be a bit wide to cover the full-backs. As a result, there was a big gap between Nelsson and Marcão in the above image. They were also vulnerable at the far post when the opponents targeted that area, given the Galatasaray defensive midfielders were not dominant in the air.
Another scenario was shown above, this time, Alanyaspor players flooded into spaces around Nelsson, and could you imagine that was a 1v3 for the Danish centre-back? Situations like that happened too often in Galatasaray’s game and they must improve, regardless of Torrent’s future at the club.
Responding to the question, of whether Torrent is leading Galatasaray in the right direction, it was objective, depending on your definition of “right direction”. We are not sure about what exactly Galatasaray wanted unless they were willing to pay the costs to change the DNA of the club, bringing in another type of football, they were not heading in the right direction. The transformation of playing style takes time and it always has lessons to take, the results of Galatasaray might not improve in the short term. Also, Torrent seemed to be losing popularity among the fans, or even the players, which would only make his job more difficult, we are not sure how much time was he given but he needed big victories to keep everyone together. As shown in this analysis, there were positives but also some big issues in the team, Galatasaray must solve that as soon as possible and the results will come.