Getafe smart set piece goal vs Ajax

Getafe’s opening goal last night came from a free-kick in an awkward position: too far out to shoot, too central to cross.

Instead of just lumping one over the top of Ajax’s high defensive line, they decide to pass it out to their full-back to change the angle of delivery:

Jaime Mata (17) evades the attention of Ziyech by drifting on his blindside

He then floats a diag to the far post and finds Jaime Mata, who has held his position while the Ajax defence is dragged out to the full-back by the initial pass.

Mata cushions a wonderful pass across goal into the path of Deyverson, who smartly tucks home the first-time finish to give his side the lead:

Deyverson was initially being marked by Lisandro Martínez (24) but as the play was switched by Damián Suárez, Martínez dropped and turned to face the ball, simultaneously playing everyone onside and losing the man he was marking.

Overall, this was an incredible display of combative football from Getafe, featuring one of the all-time great shithousing performances from Allan Nyom.

What was most striking about the game was just how compact Getafe’s midfield and defensive lines were:

The defence tucked in extremely narrowly and the midfield spread a bit wider in front, but they’re practically playing on top of each other, leaving very little space in between the lines for Ajax to exploit. Mauro Arambarri (18) played slightly ahead of the rest of the midfield line in order to man mark Donny van de Beek, something that had clearly been identified by Getafe manager José Bordalás as the key to stopping Ajax.

Since losing Frenkie De Jong in the summer, van de Beek has taken up more of a ball progression role in Ajax’s midfield and Bordalás’ approach last night proved an effective way of limiting the Dutch midfielder’s influence.

When Ajax were building out from the back, Getafe pushed forward to do their defending in the opposition half and their two central midfielders split into a pseudo-diamond shape to cut off access to Ajax’s playmakers:

As the ball was circulating between Blind and Álvarez, one of Arrambarri or Maksimović would man mark van de Beek while the other would pick up either Dušan Tadić or Hakim Ziyech (who rotated between playing out wide or as the 10 throughout the match). Once Ajax moved the ball to their full-backs and got to the halfway line, the diamond would collapse back into that ultra-compact 4–4–2 shape.

The thinking behind this is simple and follows basic 4–4–2 defensive principles: strangle the middle, funnel the ball out wide, and press against the touchline. Getafe’s approach was even more effective as they played Nyom and Cucurella — both ostensibly full-backs themselves — in the wide midfield roles, giving them 4 defensively imposing players in wide areas to win the ball back.

And this approach worked:

  1. Getafe limited Ajax to one shot in the entire game (a scuffed Huntelaar effort in the 86th minute).

2. Getafe disrupted the flow of the game to the point that the ball was only in play for 42:36 minutes.

3. Getafe controlled space and prevented Ajax’s creative players from getting on the ball in dangerous areas of the pitch.

They limited their touches (just 5 inside Getafe’s box all game):

There are very few touches in central areas considering this includes touches from both a central midfielder and a number 10

… and made sure that even when Ajax players got on the ball, they couldn’t create anything especially damaging:

Passes from Ajax’s creative players vs Getafe

Ajax attempted 418 passes and completed 305 (73%) in this game. Contrast that with their recent match against PSV:

Ajax attempted 581 passes and completed 486 of them (84%). Far more passes in central areas, far more in the final third, too.

Against Getafe, Ajax attempted 173 fewer passes and completed >10% fewer. Most of that drop off in pass volume came from Ajax’s central creative players, which becomes clear if you directly contrast their totals for the two games: van de Beek (45 vs PSV, 28 vs Getafe); Tadić (50 vs PSV, 27 vs Getafe).

It’s the same story if you look at touches from the two games as well: van de Beek (67 vs PSV, 42 vs Getafe); Tadić (71 vs PSV, 35 vs Getafe).

The one player to see his activity with the ball increase was Ryan Babel (18 passes vs PSV, 34 vs Getafe), which makes sense as he was the one Ajax attacker tasked with retaining his width in this game.

This was a masterclass of disruptive football.

But what differentiates Getafe from other defensively astute teams is their potency going forward. They truly commit numbers to attack when they have opportunities to counter and they’re selective in their shot locations to make sure they don’t squander these chances.

In the dying minutes of the game, they won the ball back in their own half and threw 4 players forward on the break to try and grab an extra goal:

And this bravery paid off, as Kenedy’s shot found the back of the net via a fortuitous deflection:

It’s far too easy to tag Getafe as an anti-football team. They’re much smarter and much better than that.

Ajax have got an uphill struggle ahead of them to turn a 2 goal deficit around against one of the most tactically astute teams in Europe.

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Cast Iron Tactics

I write long, boring, and increasingly deranged articles about football tactics and West Ham @CastIronTactics on Twitter