Victor Vucetich at Chivas 2020/21 – tactical analysis
The managerial merry-go-round in the Liga MX is one that is known across the globe. It does not take much for clubs to give managers their marching orders in Mexico. Four games into Liga MX and already two managers have been given the chop. Being a head coach in Guadalajara was an unfortunate job role the past few weeks, as Atlas removed their coach Rafa Puente.
Across town, Chivas Guadalajara were also swinging the managerial axe. Luis Fernando Tena was removed from his position after only one year in charge. Chivas had made great efforts to push the team on and end their playoff drought. The 2020 Guardianes did not get off to a great start. Two losses, one draw and zero goals meant Tena’s time was up. To add insult to injury, Tena missed the first game due to COVID along with some key players. This will not have helped his cause, as Chivas looked very strong in the previous Clausura.
However, Chivas have made the decision and new boss Victor Vucetich is now at the helm. Vucetich, also known as King Midas, has over 30 years of experience coaching in Mexico and will certainly bring a lot of experience. In that time, he has won five Liga MX championships and three CONCACAF Champions Leagues. Vucetich was very successful in his spell with Monterrey back in 2010-2013 era.
In this tactical analysis, we will examine the tactical approach King Midas will bring to Chivas. The analysis will primarily focus on his 2019/20 season at Querétaro and see how his philosophy may work in Guadalajara.
What to expect from Vucetich
As mentioned, Vucetich has managed in Liga MX for some time, so he knows the league better than most. Vucetich has had various success and only left his last job at Querétaro at the end of last season. Vucetich performed very well at Querétaro finishing fourth in the 2019 Apertura. The Mexican did not leave on bad terms and ultimately decided to leave due to the board’s unwillingness to strengthen the squad and looking to cut costs.
The first part of the analysis will look to examine the philosophy Vucetich employed at Querétaro and how this might change the way Chivas play.
Above are several statistics comparing both Chivas and Querétaro in the 2019/20 season. Each statistic shows the rank within the league, with first being the highest/most. The first thing we see is the increased attacking emphasis Vucetich prefers. Last year Querétaro had the ninth highest xG, whereas Chivas were only 13th. Querétaro also averaged 12.38 shots per 90, compared to Chivas’ 10.91.
This part of the analysis also gives us the first insight into how Vucetich gets his team in attacking spaces. There will clearly be a greater emphasis on getting the ball in the box, from wide and central areas. Vucetich’s Querétaro attempted the fourth most deep completions and the 10th most crosses. These are two areas Chivas were lacking in, so Chivas fans can expect a big change in attacking style. This improved attacking outlook can only be a good thing for a Chivas team who failed to score in their first three games.
However, there does appear to be some areas in which Chivas may not improve in. Firstly, there is possession within the game, which Chivas were very accomplished with. Chivas averaged 53.60% compared to Querétaro’s 50.60%. Only a slight reduction, but Vucetich’s greater emphasis on getting the ball into the box may keep the Chivas faithful on his side. Lastly, we have the number of shots faced. It would appear Vucetich will allow other teams slightly more attacking freedom, possibly due to his greater attacking output.
Of course, Vucetich will have two completely different squads and his philosophy will depend on the players available to him. However, it does provide a good insight into what we can expect from the Mexican.
Getting the ball towards the box
As discussed above, Chivas can expect the ball to be delivered towards the opposition box much more frequently. This part of the analysis will focus on the methods used to penetrate opposition defences before moving on to the actual opportunities created.
Surprisingly, the first thing I noticed about a Vucetich team was how isolated the front men were. For a team that have a good amount of opportunities, this seemed unlikely. However, this analysis may explain the data seen above. Vucetich often isolates his strikers up top. This is presumably to keep compactness at the back, which we will discuss later. Ariel Nahuelpán was often the man left up top, sometimes assisted by Fabián Castillo. Above we can see a prime example of this.
A long pass from defence finds Nahuelpán, however, he is completely isolated with no teammate within 20+ yards. Now this provides some more context to the above. We spoke about how Querétaro complete a high number of long passes, and this will be the reason why. Chivas will be hoping that these long passes aren’t hopeful punts and have a clear strategy to them.
However, the above analysis is something Chivas fans will be happy to see. It’s clear that Vucetich’s tactic wasn’t to lump the ball up to a big target man, but instead bring others into the game. In the analysis above, another long pass is played from defence. This time the isolated striker can bring the ball down. Now, the important aspect this time is the midfield runners beyond the striker. We can see three players have made runs past the striker to find an attacking position. In this instance, the striker is able to turn and play a ball out wide. This is something that is not always clear but is most certainly something Vucetich emphasises. The Mexican will not commit too many men forward, but when the opportunity is right his players will progress forward.
At times this tactic can be frustrating for Vucetich’s teams as it solely relies on a few players to retain the ball high up the pitch. If the ball is not able to stick with the striker, the opportunity to bring other players in will disappear. Chivas will be hoping its former, as long passes up to the strikers soon become a hopeful punt rather than a devised tactic.
Despite the tactics just discussed, Vucetich is very accomplished at making his teams create chances. Last season Querétaro averaged an xG of 1.51 per game and averaged 12.38 shots per 90. And when analysing these opportunities, it was good to see the range of tactics used.
The first method, and one toucher on earlier, is delivering the ball from wide or deep areas. This is a key part of Vucetich’s philosophy, and likely a reason his team have a high number of touches in opposition boxes. We saw in the section above that Vucetich likes to bring others into the game and does so with his wide players. Querétaro created a high number of chances from wide areas, like the one above. In the example above we can see Vucetich’s men using crosses to try and create opportunities. Whilst this is a positive, there seems to be an issue with delivering the ball regardless of the moment. Undoubtedly, Vucetich’s men will get some joy from crossing based on averages.
However, the example above highlights why using the method repeatedly may be their downfall. The analysis shows a cross being delivered, yet Querétaro lack support in the box. They just about have one player in the area, with another arriving. The ball was delivered so quickly that neither striker was able to make a run and make contact. So, whilst this tactic is a key part of Vucetich’s philosophy, they may be better suited to being more patient and seizing the right moment. In the instance above, Querétaro could pass the ball left, which would enable extra teammates to enter the box, as highlighted in red.
But crossing the ball is not the only tactic for King Midas. The analysis above is a really exciting prospect for Chivas fans. Vucetich usually employs a 4-4-2 formation, and as mentioned earlier these two strikers are usually quite isolated. However, this example shows Vucetich’s philosophy shining through.
We discussed earlier how Vucetich likes to bring others into the game, and how midfield runners past the strikers allow this. Well, this is the perfect example. Marcel Ruiz is a central midfielder, but often becomes the top of a diamond midfield. By doing so, he adds extra support to the two isolated strikers. Above we can see how a blind run from the midfielder takes three Monterrey defenders out the game. A reverse pass from Castillo between two defenders allows Ruiz to latch on the ball and skip past the defender to score an excellent goal. Now, of course, these players will not be in Vucetich’s new side, but it highlights what Vucetich is trying to accomplish. Neat passes in and around the penalty area, combined with midfield runners makes it extremely difficult for opposition teams to defend against them.
Greater defensive stability?
So far, we have focused on how Vucetich may improve Chivas going forward. However, that will all mean nothing if they are not defensively stable. Vucetich’s Querétaro were fairly good defensively, only conceding 19 goals in the Apertura. The Clausura was a slightly different story as they conceded 15 from 10. Chivas fans will not see Atletico Madrid like defensive displays, but they will see an organised outfit.
The analysis above shows what we can expect from a typical Vucetich team. The defensive line are often very narrow and compact. As we can see above, a high number of the Querétaro players remain inside the width of the penalty area. Vucetich looks to employ this tactic to make it very difficult for teams to play through the middle of them. This does, however, allow other teams to use wide areas to penetrate the defence. However, Vucetich is happy for this to happen, as his narrow defence should be well equipped to deal with any incoming crosses. Another interesting aspect we see here is the shape of the defensive unit.
As mentioned earlier, 4-4-2 will most likely be the preferred formation for Vucetich. Whilst this formation is effective in their attacking style, it also helps their defensive style. Vucetich has his teams very organised, as displayed above. We can see two banks of four, with the four defenders and four midfielders. Firstly, this makes the pitch very compact and stops opposition teams playing through the middle. It also gives the team the chance to cover the width of the pitch if necessary. Meaning if a full-back does move out wide to close a cross, they have sufficient numbers to plug the gaps. Further to this, these two banks of four also limit the space in-between the defence and midfield. The narrow gap will prevent any opposition players drifting in-between. Vucetich will have his teams very organised in this shape, which should make it difficult for opposition teams.
There does seem to be one noticeable weakness in Vucetich’s defensive style, however. The analysis above is an example of Querétaro’s transition from attack to defence. We just highlighted how Vucetich likes a compact defence, with two rows of four. However, in the example above we see how this plan can fail when in transition. We see several Morelia players finding space in-between the defenders and attackers, after launching a counterattack. A number of the Querétaro players are not able to recover and create that first line of defence.
This will create a lot of space for opposition players and remove the hard work done in other defensive areas. Vucetich will need to ensure his teams transition a lot quicker or at least keep men back to prevent this from happening. If this scenario is to happen frequently, Chivas will find their defence under a lot of pressure and will certainly not give them the defensive stability they need.
This tactical analysis aimed to explore what King Midas could bring to Chivas as their new head coach. Early indication suggested that Chivas could not create opportunities or score goals. This analysis shows how Vucetich will adopt several methods, such as crosses and passing sequences, to break through opposition defences. The analysis also shows how Vucetich will make his Chivas team very organised defensively. Chivas fans should not expect Manchester City or Barcelona like type performances in the short term, however, Vucetich certainly has a lot of experience to bring to this team.