Why Girona’s defensive shortcomings have put them out of contention for European spots – scout report
It has not even crossed the halfway mark and already La Liga fans are being treated to a few surprises this season. One of the biggest surprises is that the Madrid-based team with the best record at the moment is Rayo Vallecano.
Girona’s best-attacking stats in the top tier of Spanish football came back in the 2017/18 season, the first time the club saw promotion to La Liga.
In their first season, they scored almost 50 goals and conceded 59 which seems to be a decent run for the newcomers. Every club still dreams of finishing tenth in the highly competitive league just after getting promoted. Following their stint, their worst fear came the next season with the team scoring 37 goals, just ten more than the goals this season.
We now are in the midway of the league and Girona have already scored 27 goals which are close to the same number as 3rd-placed Sociedad, 4th-placed Atletico and equalling 5th-placed Rayo Vallecano.
Villareal has just scored 22 this season, 5 less than Girona’s, and sits in 6th place aiming to get some Europa League action. Thanks to their defending ideas, now they have a peek at the Champions League and will secure Europa at the minimum.
No team except Girona and Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic scored more goals than the league’s top six. Thanks to the former Barcelona man’s defensive strategies, they sit in 8th place, just three points behind Vallecano.
Girona’s stunning attacking plays have had much more effect on the fans but their defending has put them out of the top ten seats in the league, proving to be a misery despite credibility.
This tactical analysis will delve into Girona’s defending throughout this season after their promotion from La Liga 2. This analysis in the form of a scout report will look into Míchel’s defensive tactics which do not seem to work, given their incredible attacking ability.
Míchel’s ideal formation and defensive setup
Although he has attempted more than 10 different formations this season, Girona’s head coach has stuck mostly with the tried-and-tested 4-4-2. After doing the math, Míchel has played around 30% of his minutes with three at the back.
He favours a back-two system, but the vital role has stood out even with a single midfielder. It was unusual for there to be two pivots in front of the centre backs.
Despite the team’s formidable offensive prowess, mounting defensive troubles have been having a devastating effect on morale. Given their recent promotion, the sheer quantity of shots they’ve taken on goal is promising.
When defending within the other team’s half, their strategy incorporates a pressing formation. When compared to their half-of-the-field defence, their pressing has been excellent. The three-at-the-back configuration helps press since the wide full-backs are given a significant amount of responsibility.
Here we’ll examine Girona’s post-promotion, top-tier survival efforts. They haven’t played enough games to be demoted, but they show promise as a rising team that might challenge for a playoff spot.
How their build-up adds to their goal-conceding
The current deficit that Girona must overcome may be traced back to their inability to keep possession of the ball within their half. Girona’s hopes and ambitions have been shattered in part due to carelessness and ignorance. We’ll examine all the situations in which build-up had a direct role in adding to Girona’s defensive woes.
Míchel likes to have a defence with three central defenders, which reduces the attacking force by one man. As a result of relying on one pivot and two wide full-backs, they opened themselves up to a lot of trouble.
Against a red-hot Vallecano side, right defender Arnau Martínez misplaces the ball and can’t find the unmarked and green-coloured pivot. On the diagram, the green arrow indicates the correct pass to make, while the red arrow shows the incorrect pass that was originally made.
Their expected goals rank fifth in the league, only behind Villareal, yet they’ve been the most generous when giving up goals. Having let up 31 goals, they are also the fifth in the goal-conceded standings, one spot below Cadiz.
It’s not simply poor defensive play during direct attacks or counterattacks that has led to goals being allowed. They steal the ball and quickly begin attacking Girona.
Everything went well except for that one detail this time. Within the initial wave of pressure, the right back spots the pivot within the triangle. However, the black-coloured pass proved harsh on the under-pressure pivot.
The squad took the first step towards a solid foundation as they started building up. The pivot attempted to get control of the speedy, bouncy ball but failed as the three men rushed over after the bad initial touch. Due to the aforementioned, they conceded after scoring three goals this time.
A goal was scored from a terrible ball delivered by ex-Tottenham Hotspur player Paulo Gazzaniga in one of the friendlies played during the World Cup break.
Girona’s plan to pass and escape the press must be well-formed and conditioned. The goalkeeper, oblivious to the open number twelve, delivers a terrible ball to the player within the four-player area.
Dismissals and inefficient passing through the opponent’s press have contributed to several of Girona’s goals allowed. It’s as if they want to watch the other team score with the balls they throw away. They’ve let up a lot of goals due to the rapid transitions in which they lose the ball and chase for it.
The psychological impact of giving up goals to the opposition’s press is significant. Even with their formidable offensive capabilities, the team’s morale would sink.
When the Girona centre-back drove up the field against Cádiz to retrieve a loose ball, no one in the middle of the field was wearing the team’s colours. In this formation, the lone pivot is positioned between the central defenders and plays the role of the central defender. However, the offensive midfielder has become disoriented and cannot find the right spaces.
When playing make or receiving, one player must be in the centre. Without the mediator, operations become more constrained, and Girona’s neck is quickly stifled by the opponents.
While they may be able to outrun the first wave of press, they often can’t make it beyond the second. If only they could easily outwit the press, all of their troubles would disappear.
The aggression or reaction they display shortly after handing the ball away has a huge effect. The team’s counter-pressing has been subpar because they’re afraid of giving the ball away and having to chase after it.
How not to defend inside the box
Girona has been unjustly beaten, who have capitalised on the team’s weak defensive play and poor anticipation inside the box. But they have been pathetically bad at defending inside the box. The Gironistes have benefited from it to some extent, but Míchel’s men have otherwise done a lousy job.
French World Cup hero Antoine Griezmann once floated in a pinpoint cross to the far post that the full-back failed to detect and stop after the team had recovered to block a counterattack.
It’s almost as if Girona’s players turn the wrong way inside the box and lose all sense of direction. Again, Girona’s lack of success may be traced to a lack of coordination amongst its defensive players.
They swarm the box much too often for it to be effective in preventing attacks. The crowd loses all rationality and just wants the ball as a means of battle. All the pros make this seem like a fantastic idea, but if you’re clueless about the position and the people that play it, it might end in tears.
Jordi Alba, Barcelona’s left defender, seems to rush into the box for Frenkie de Jong’s cross even though the primary method of defending a cross has been put to bed in their match against the league leaders.
Before sending in a cross, no one looks to see whether somebody is rushing the far post. It’s also crucial for scoring from the area where Pedri enters. Míchel’s men, unconcerned, push their way into the ring in an attempt to prove themselves physically.
They can’t afford the things they want with this. It wasn’t worth it, and Girona was fortunate to avoid a disaster caused by the midfielder’s bad cross.
Imanol Alguacil’s Sociedad has emerged as one of the few teams to follow in recent months. In a game when Girona often settles for a low block, they let up a goal when they failed to properly time an offside trap.
The offensive midfielder for La Real waited until the right moment to produce a wonderful ball after receiving a call to go to the front. When he made that choice, the midfielder for Real Sociedad floated in a perfect cross for their number nineteen, who promptly scored.
When defenders push forward, a poaching striker may be observed making a countermove. It led to an incredible volley goal by Alexander Sørloth, the central striker for Alguacil.
When a defender fails to clear an early cross, number 18 (marked in yellow) responds with a volleyed cross in front of the goal, which bounces just inside the line. Cádiz’s No. 8 is rushing to the near post in preparation to meet the cross.
He sneaks in front of the defender and calmly slots the ball to the bottom right corner. Míchel, on his way to assembling a solid defensive unit, must observe the box-to-box awareness shown by his team.
This is a perfect example of Girona’s preferred method of defending against deadly crosses. The coach’s selection to proceed in this manner should prove to be correct. As obvious as it is that crossing is vital to scoring goals, so too should be a strategy for stopping it.
After the earlier incident, Alba and Pedri are now again open and ready to act. Girona’s current method of defending crosses is unacceptable. The team’s vulnerability is increased when large amounts of empty space are visible just outside the box.
The right-sided picture is another instance in which Alba ends up on the opposite end to provide a cross. Clearly anticipating a low cross to his feet, Raphinha raises his fists in the air, ready to slam the ball home. Alba may not be able to see him, but he still poses a threat to Girona’s compactness.
All of the Gironistes’ nerves are at breaking point when they have to defend a cross. It’s as if all your reserves of bravery, strength, and everything else that may be useful to you are ebbing away from you. Ultimately contributing to their anxiety, in addition to many poor backs passes that resulted in goals.
Next in PPDA against rankings are Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, and Girona, behind Real Madrid and Barcelona. It’s unfortunate that despite being in fifth position in this statistic, they still let in so many goals.
Girona has been allowed 11.26 passes before involving in a defensive action, giving the other team possession. This proves that they had sufficient time to pass before the ball was snatched.
That right there is Girona’s go-to defence when faced with crosses. The decision the coach has made to go forward in this fashion should prove to be the worst one.
The importance of crossing to goal-scoring should be matched by the importance of a plan to prevent it. Most of Girona’s season rests on fixing the problems mentioned above.