Things have changed since Matias Almeyda took the job at Chivas. After they claimed the Liga MX 2017 title for the first time in a decade with a team featuring only Mexican players, pressure raised up on Almeyda. But the Argentinian coach and his players failed to live up to the hype. In fact, Chivas played 24 league games since they defeated Tigres 2-1 in last year’s final and have won just five of them.
In this Clausura 2018, Club Deportivo Guadalajara recorded only 15 points of 48 possible, a product of three wins, six draws and seven defeats. They are the fifth-worst defensive team of the league as they allowed 21 goals.
Numbers are negative and Almeyda obviously wants to improve things. Chivas owner Jorge Vergara still supports his coach, but the club weakened the side this summer with central midfielder Jose Juan Vazquez that left for Santos Laguna. The main problem relies on the offence with Chivas failing to convert. It’s not that they don’t create scoring chances since Chivas is currently producing more opportunity to find the net than any other side this Clausura. Chivas also lead the league in terms of ball retention and expected goals (xG) where they are fifth in the league. However, Almeyda’s side is 3.66 goals under their expected total. The fact Alan Pulido is not on the same shape he enjoyed during the winning 2017 Clausura is not unrelated to these offensive woes.
Counting on Chivas’ offensive struggles, opposition sides glad to let Almeyda’s men control the ball sending offensive players forward as they know that some good scoring chances on counters will happen sooner or later.
Chivas get on the counter by Morelia
Should the opposition not get chances counterattacking, they still can damage Chivas using set-pieces. In fact, defending set-pieces became tough for a Chivas side prone to concede came goals on these situations. This is a huge blow for a team that conceded a total of just 18 goals in 17 regular season games last season. This season, the Goats started their season giving up seven goals in their first four league games and ending the Apertura amassing just 18 points and missing the playoffs.
Despite these struggles and although this Clausura 2018 has still been troublesome for Almeyda’s side, Chivas remained one of the teams with an established style of play. They usually play with a four-man backline with the full-backs that have the freedom to push higher up the field with the ball in possession.
A picture highlighting Chivas’ positional play when in possession
In the middle of the pitch Almeyda lines up two interior midfielders – a holding one in Michael Perez and a box-to-box midfielder in Orbelin Pineda – behind three attacking midfielders with an up top central forward also able to link the play between midfield and attack. This offensive-minded style was partially sidelined in CONCACAF Champions League with Chivas that reached the final through a more cautious approach focused on keep the lines tights in order to close the gaps between defence and midfield.
Through their defensive play, Chivas have been able to don’t concede in 282 minutes, nullifying Seattle Sounders and the Red Bulls’ dangerous offences during the way. That’s probably the same approach Almeyda should and could run in the return final leg against Toronto to prevent opponents from serving Sebastian Giovinco between the lines in Chivas’ seventh final since the Argentinian took the job.
In the first leg, Chivas get a 2-1 in which Almeyda’s side exploited a more vertical approach with the goal to reach TFC’s own half as soon as possible.
At the end, Almeyda’s work in Mexico has been remarkable as former Lazio’s midfielder has been able to awake Chivas, a “sleeping giant”- according to the same coach – accomplishing something huge such as he already did when he brought River Plate back in Argentinian first division after Los Millonarios was relegated in 2011.
Not bad for a team as Chivas that opted to bring on just Mexican players. And Almeyda has been pretty open in stating this complaining about this disadvantage for his club.
This work with Chivas has been so great that some pundits drew comparisons between Almeyda has done at Guadalajara and what Pochettino did with Tottenham. It’s a fair comparison if you take a look to Almeyda’s use of four forwards up top and Chivas’ style of play. In fact, they are a possession-based squad. This is surely an offensive brand of football and also a risky one but Almeyda is a proactive coach despite the fact Chivas are a young team with Oswaldo Alanis, Carlos Salcido, Jair Pereira and Rodolfo Cota being the only veterans over there.