Getafe Tactics: Much More Than Luck & Fouls

Getafe have often been portrayed as an unglamorous
side with a rough approach to the game. Since their return to the Spanish top
flight in 2017/18 season under Jose Bordalás, the Madrid-based club have placed eighth and,
most recently, fifth, missing out on Champions League qualification on the final day of the
2018/19 campaign. Courtesy of these impressive league finishes,
they have returned to the Europa League for the first time since 2010/11. ‘Pepe’
Bordalás may have only been in charge since 2016, but the impact that he has had at Coliseum
Alfonso Pérez has been profound. Giving away nearly league-high fouls and receiving
similarly high numbers of bookings, it would be easy to discredit Getafe as a plucky band
of rogues. Yet, given their incredible consistency, their success is down to precise methods rather
than orchestrated madness. They set up in a 4-4-2 system and that doesn’t
change under Bordalás, irrespective of the formation they’re facing. His tactical plans
depend upon the partnerships between his players to negate the impact of opposition numbers
and rebalance them in his side’s favour. It is a system of close understanding through
the spine of the team. Bordalás wants his players to always have the advantage of a
2v1 situation anywhere on the field when the opposition have the ball. This arrives courtesy
of intelligent movement, interchanging of positions, pressing at the right time and
occupying the spaces seen as most dangerous to force opponents to play their football
elsewhere. Once Getafe win possession, transitioning
upfield at pace is the priority. Defence can be turned into attack very quickly indeed. Getafe are also set up to encourage numerical
advantages in the areas of the field that theoretically would be capable of doing them
the most damage. Bordalás wants opposition players to be forced to feed the ball wide,
avoiding the spaces in between the lines where creatively players might be able to pick apart
his organised defence. His side may press with a lot of intensity,
but they normally wait until a particular trigger is met. Once an opposing team feed
the ball out to their left back or right back – a safe pass, given that Geta have their
team set up in two banks of four and a front two – then the press will begin. The opposing
full back will be forced to go backwards, kick long, make a risky lofted switch (during
which Getafe will be able to shuffle across to provide another united front while the
ball is in the air), or play a low-percentage pass into a congested midfield, where Getafe
have manufactured numerical superiority due to wide players tucking in or a more advanced
player dropping deeper. Getafe’s striking partnership of Mata and
Molina ensure that they stay in close proximity to one another, meaning that opponents can’t
simply play through them to break Getafe’s first line of pressure. Bordalás likes to
stay compact, leaving limited space in between each of the lines of his 4-4-2, so opponents
feel as though they must keep the ball wide to avoid turning the ball over. Bordalás
is confident in his defence’s aerial ability to win headers should opponents swing crosses
into the penalty area and, at times, his back four has consisted of four natural central
defenders. There is a strong understanding between many
pairs all over the pitch for Getafe. Both central defenders work in tandem, as does
the double pivot in midfield, the two wide players on either flank and the two strikers.
By staying compact and in close proximity, it asphyxiates opposition teams, forcing them
to bypass central zones and cut out vertical passing lanes. Out wide, Bordalás has even been known to
use four full backs, enjoying the balance afforded by players who can exchanges roles
and responsibilities and who understand when to drop in and cover for one another. If a
player steps out to press, another will fill-in behind, a shuffle that will only free up an
opposing player on the opposite wing rather than close to the man in possession. Should opponents try and play through the
lines, the lack of space between Getafe’s balanced departments should make life difficult.
When facing a long ball over the top, they can retreat and rely on their central defenders
to diffuse what is usually a 2v1 situation. There is nothing new in Getafe’s offensive
approach. Always retaining two strikers to ensure that pressure can be well asserted,
this duo are very useful when possession changes hands. One striker can drop into space
or come to the ball, before immediately popping possession backwards into a teammate who has
a broader perspective of the opposition half. Or he can interact with his strike partner,
who will often make a more direct run in behind the defence, in the hope
of receiving a through ball from a midfielder who can see the full picture. This ‘up-back-through’ style move helps
Getafe go from defending to attacking the opposition box within just a few passes. The
mobile and combative Mata, Jorge Molina and Ángel have great spatial awareness when attacking
the box, as well as the requisite physicality to occupy opposition central defenders and,
in so doing, create more space for their strike partner. In wide areas, Marc Cucurella and Francisco
Portillo can carry the ball at real pace, while the likes of Mata and Molina are more
than confident battling aerially whether early crosses are whipped in or overlapping full
backs have time to join the attack and deliver from further upfield. Incisive, yet combative,
Getafe are a multi-faceted threat. Their fairytale return to Europe has not been
authored by ill-discipline or luck. Instead, it has been the work of a well-balanced side
whose recruitment department have worked tirelessly to get the right personnel for Bordalás’
specific team roles and who, now, are reaping the rewards.

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