Europa League 2019/20: Inter vs Getafe – tactical analysis
Internazionale and Getafe were not in the best of their shapes coming to this game. The Milanese club are currently having internal issues, while the Spanish side were winless in their previous six games. Both sides were needing a positive result to bring their mood back to the highest level.
Tactic-wise, this match also promised an interesting battle between the managers. Antonio Conte and José Bordalás are creative tacticians who have their own unique approach and contrasting tactical perspectives. At the end of the day, the former Chelsea manager proved his quality as Inter won two goals to nil against Los Azulones. This tactical analysis will inform you how the match unfolded.
Inter were lined up in Conte’s preferred 3–5–2 system. The trio of Diego Godín, Stefan de Vrij, and Alessandro Bastoni was picked at Inter’s heart of the defence. In front of them, Marcelo Brozović was supported by Nicolò Barella and Roberto Gagliardini to give the solidity in midfield. La Beneamata’s attacking line then was filled with the tandem of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez. Players like Cristiano Biraghi, Christian Eriksen, and former Manchester United player Alexis Sánchez had to star the game from the bench.
Oppositely, Bordalás opted for 4–2–3–1. Damián Suárez and Mathías Olivera were chosen to start as the full-back pairing, while Allan-Roméo Nyom and Marc Cucurella started in front of them as the wingers. Upfront, Jaime Mata was supported by Nemanja Maksimović, who played just behind the targetman. Getafe’s dugout was packed with names like Francisco Portillo Soler, Ángel Luis Rodríguez Díaz, Jorge Molina Vidal, Jason, and Hugo Duro.
Getafe’s high-pressing game
Getafe deployed interesting defensive tactics in this game. First of all, they tried to press Inter up into their penalty box in a 4–3–1–2 structure. The objective behind that was mainly to prevent Inter from building their plays via short passes.
In the 4–3–1–2, Mata was joined by Maksimović in Getafe’s first pressing line. They were positioned centrally, just in front of the penalty box. By doing so, they would prevent De Vrij and Brozović to be accessed vertically. It was not their only task, though. By being positioned there, they were also tasked to press Inter’s outside centre-backs when Samir Handanovič played the ball to one of them.
Getafe’s next line of pressure consisted of one of the defensive midfielders. That means either Mauro Arambarri or David Timor would step up from their initial position to support the frontline press. The objective behind this was to give more central presence; further preventing Inter to access Brozović in their build-up play.
Then, Getafe had both wingers and the remaining midfielder in their third line of pressure. However, they had different tasks. The wingers were placed a bit wide to prevent Inter’s wing-backs from receiving comfortably, while the defensive midfielder had to protect the central space behind his marauding partner.
Getafe did enjoy some fruitful moments when their high-press bore fruit. It didn’t last long, though. Inter reacted by utilising a well-planned build-up strategy, which we will discuss in the next part of the analysis.
An interesting response from Conte’s men
Inter responded by deploying an interesting set-up in their short goal-kicks. Firstly, the centre-back trio is split to spread Inter’s playing area. The outside central defenders —Godín and Bastoni — had to drift wider, while the middle centre-back — De Vrij — was instructed to step up in the edge of the penalty box. Sometimes there were also occasions where the Dutchman can be found alongside Brozović due to his more advanced positioning.
Then, the kicking task was given to Bastoni instead of Handanovič. The 21-year-old, however, was instructed to play the ball immediately to the goalkeeper instead of spraying passes out of his box. This instruction had a particular purpose, which was to dictate Getafe’s pressing direction.
Upon receiving, Handanovič then would hold the ball and even dribble a bit away from his goal. The objective was to lure one of Getafe’s attackers to press him, thus allowing one of the wide centre-backs to be free. Then, Handanovič can find the free player to continue Inter’s attack. Sometimes he could also combine with Brozović to further luring Getafe’s attacker(s) before passing the ball to the free centre-back. The receiving defender now can carry the ball forward to continue his team’s attack.
Getafe’s (lopsided) mid-block press
However, Getafe showed their discipline. Instead of continuing to press aggressively, the advanced players would drop to form a medium or medium-high block defensive mechanism. Their structure in the mid-block was 4–4–2, with a focus to close the central spaces.
There were three interesting aspects of Getafe’s mid-block 4–4–2. First of all, one of the central midfielders would step up from the midfield. As you may predict, his task was to close Brozović down and prevent him to be accessed vertically by the centre-backs.
The second feature was their use of a lopsided shape in their press. This mainly occurred when the ball is on Inter’s outside centre-backs. In this aspect, one of the wingers would be tasked to step up to the attacking line to press Inter’s on-ball centre-back. Specifically, Nyom is tasked to press Bastoni, while Cucurella can be found pressing Godín at times.
There is a slight variation in that wide press, though. That being the nearby attacker making the press against Inter’s on-ball centre-back. However, the objective stayed the same: to limit his time on the ball, and to win the ball back whenever possible.
Inter’s attacking principles
Inter were able to escape from the press at times. That was mainly because Getafe couldn’t maintain their aggressive pressing intensity for 90 minutes. The overload at the back — three centre-backs versus two Getafe forwards — also helped them to progress the ball easier.
I Nerazzurri used many variations in their attacking plays. However, there were two principles as the unshakable pillars when they have the ball. First, Conte instructed the outside centre-backs to carry the ball forward, up until the halfway line. Sometimes he would also allow them to drift wide and play closer to the touchline rather than to De Vrij in the middle.
Second, Conte tasked his forwards to come close to the area where the ball is being played. Both had different areas to cover, though. The nearby striker would drift a bit wide and play inside the half-space, while his far-side partner moved more centrally.
Then, Conte instructed one of his forwards to drop in between the lines; mainly the ball-side striker. However, there were also occasions where both Lukaku and Lautaro could be found in between the lines. By dropping from his initial position, the striker would lure Getafe’s nearby centre-back to follow him; thus opening a space in behind the defensive line. Such a space then can be attacked by various players.
After carrying the ball, the centre-back is tasked to distribute to the advanced players. Mainly, he would try to find the dropping forward in between the lines with a grounded pass. That was to allow either Lukaku or Lautaro to combine with their attacking comrades. However, the centre-back could also play aerial balls in behind whenever possible.
The options (part one)
The first option was by allowing the outside centre-back to find the dropping ball-side forward. It means that if the ball is being played from the right-hand side, Godín would try to find Lukaku in between the lines. Oppositely, if the ball is being played from the right-hand side, Bastoni would try to find dropping Lautaro. After that, they could combine with their teammate(s) in between the lines.
The forward’s dropping movement would attract his marker to follow him, therefore opening a gap in behind. Then, space can be attacked by the far-side attacker. Sometimes, one of the midfielders could also make the run in behind. The combination in between the lines then would continue to a through-pass in behind Getafe’s defenders; serving the already-running player.
The second option was by allowing the outside centre-back to find the dropping far-side forward. It means that the defender would play the ball diagonally, rather than vertically. To be more specific, right centre-back Godín would try to find left-sided forward Lautaro, while left centre-back Bastoni would find right-sided attacker Lukaku.
After that, the combination in between the lines can be made. Then, that combo can lead to a vertical pass to the more advanced player(s). Quite a similar ending route to the first option.
The options (part two)
The third option was by instructing the outside centre-back to find a far-side attacker in behind using an aerial pass. As the ball-side forward would drop in between the lines, this would open a gap in Getafe’s defensive block because the nearby centre-back followed Inter’s dropping attacker. Space then can be attacked by the diagonal-running forward, served by a lofted ball from deep. Lukaku’s goal started with this approach.
A variation can be used in this approach, specifically when both attackers drop in between the lines. However, the far-side target was one of the midfielders who made a run in behind. Again, the aerial-ball distributor was the centre-back from the opposite half-space. This approach bore fruit in Eriksen’s goal.
The fourth option was by using the wing-back instead of the centre-back. This approach had its own variations as the wing-back could find the nearby or far-side attacker in between the lines. Then, a short combination could be made inside the space before serving the attacker in behind. However, this didn’t happen too many times.
Inter were able to get their goals because of Getafe’s lack of defensive coordination. Primarily, those happened because they allowed huge space in between the lines for Inter to exploit. Then, the goals also happened because of the lack of offside traps deployed by Los Azulones, despite their rather high backline.
More direct approach from Getafe
Offensively, Getafe moved to their initial 4–2–3–1 structure. However, Bordalás mainly asked his men to play directly instead of building their plays from the back. That’s because Getafe don’t have much ball-playing quality to deploy such an intricate offensive tactic.
In Getafe’s direct approach, the main distributor is their goalkeeper David Soria. The stats show that 26 (78.79%) of his passes were long balls to the attackers. Furthermore, 17 of all his distributions came from a backpass. That underlines his importance to build Getafe’s attacks.
Upfront, the main target was Mata. Yet, the approach didn’t bear much fruit for the Spaniards. The statistics show that Inter’s centre-backs dominated the aerial duels stats. As a fact, De Vrij finished the game with eight duels won.
If Getafe could enjoy some time on the ball, they would try to play through the flanks. It means they would use their full-backs and wingers (sometimes helped by one midfielder) to progress the ball before sending crosses into the box. For a fact, Getafe finished the match with 25 crosses; underlines their heavy use of such a tactic.
Their crosses were not just ‘kick-and-pray’. Instead, they had a specific area to aim from their deliveries. That being the space in between the middle and the far-side centre-backs. The channel between two defenders was chosen because it would confuse Inter’s centre-backs on who to defend the particular area.
Inter tried to defend the flank
Inter would drop to 5–3–2 when they didn’t have the ball. They seemed to know that Getafe would rely on their wing players heavily, so Inter deployed a calculated plan to counter that. Firstly, Conte asked the ball-side midfielder to step up and press Getafe’s full-back. Sometimes the manager allowed Barella or Gagliardini to press even before the full-back entered Inter’s defensive third.
Secondly, by instructing the ball-side wing-back to step up and close Getafe’s winger down. This means that Inter would match Getafe’s number of players in the flank. Sometimes the wing-back would also join the press even if Getafe only have one player in the wide area. The objective behind that was to further minimise the Spaniards’ threat on the wing.
The defensive tactics were not so special because both Gagliardini and Barella lost the majority of their defensive duels. As per the statistics, Gagliardini finished the game with only 37.5% successful duels. Barella’s numbers are even worse. He only three (25%) of all his defensive duels. This was one of the reasons why Getafe can get 25 crosses in this game.
Inter prevailed and will play in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Europa League. Nevertheless, to say that Bordalás’ tactics were below Conte’s is a huge understatement. His flank-heavy approach was able to give Inter problems throughout the game. Even better, to win a penalty in the second half after a Godín handball.
The fortune, however, was not on Getafe’s side. Molina failed to capitalise the potential game-changing penalty, and Eriksen put the last nail on the coffin just 10 minutes after. Bayer Leverkusen are waiting for Inter in the next round, and surely they will need more than a stroke of good luck to beat the Bundesliga side.