Spanish football has been around for as long as football existed. The country lives, breathes, and dies football. Spanish teams have always reigned over football and that has been exemplified more throughout the 21st century. Real Madrid’s infamous Galacticos and the 16-18 3-Peat team, FC Barcelona’s 2009-2012’s squad and 14-15 Treble winners, and Atletico Madrid’s gritty teams under Diego Simeone. La Liga has always been deemed as a 3-horse race, however there’s one team that has sustained and embodied consistency throughout all these years, Sevilla FC. The SIX-time Europa League champions have been under the shadows of the Spanish giants ironically. Sevilla haven’t been able to win major at a domestic level since 2007 and 2010 and it was merely 2 Copa Del Rey wins and the last (and first) time Sevilla hit Spain’s first division gold was in 1945-46. This season, however, the Palanganas have been able to do something they haven’t been able to do for a while, hope. Sevilla currently sit 2nd in La Liga on 41 points and a game in hand on the table leaders, Real Madrid and their recent play suggests they’re capable of a lot more. So, the question begs, how are Sevilla discovering this newfound success? The answer? Julen Lopetegui and his brilliant coaching staff.
Julen Lopetegui and his brilliant coaching staff. Julen Lopetegui’s system has turned the Palanganas a resilient defensive juggernaut. They rank 1st in GA, conceding just 13 goals this season and rank 3rd in xGA with 19.1. Sevilla deploy a traditional 4-3-3 formation with center backs Jules Koundé and Diego Carlos marshalling the back, Marcos Acuña and Jesus Navas manning the full backs, and Yassine Bounou in net.
Lopetegui’s system relies on a fast build-up during the offense and rapid, direct passes to the forwards. In addition, it should also be noted that Sevilla like to play possession-based football, averaging 58.6% possession so far this season. Sevilla initially start off with a standard 4-3-3 formation however as the game progresses the formation manifests to a 3-4-3 formation. The fullbacks (Navas and Acuña) are typically very attack-minded players, which means that Lopetegui instructs them to play the role as the wing-backs for extra attacking presence. This ultimately means the holding midfielder, Fernando or Delayney must drop back, playing as a temporary centre-back.
Lopetegui tends to allow the two wingers, Gómez and Lucas Ocampos to cut in, essentially playing the role of an unsual winger. This generally gives the two wingers the capability to shoot from a certain angle using their weaker foot. Furthermore, Lopetegui instructs the main centre-forward Rafa Mir to drift wide. The Spaniard can play as a wide forward, playing as the target man, making Sevilla’s play less predictable. Mir tops the Sevillians’ goals scored and shots taken charts and represents the biggest threat to the La Liga backlines. Either one of the wings relocate more centrally, essentially playing as a second striker, where they have an opportunity to get the ball to them in the box and shoot.
After a disastrous, short lived spell with Real Madrid, no one expected Julen Lopetegui to have the success he is currently having with Sevilla. A Europa League trophy, a top 4 finish, and currently within the mix of a serious title charge, Lopetegui’s career revival seems almost poetic with Sevilla’s own revival. Obviously, Sevilla still have a long way to go, but something very, very special is happening Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan. They’re capable of defeating the odds and turning this fairy-tale they’re building into a real road to riches . With sustained confidence comes success, and Sevilla are right in that ballpark.