Analysis of Celta de Vigo and the Football of Coudet

By Matías Navarro García

10-February-2021 on Analysis

16 minute read

 

Matías Navarro is an Argentinian video coach and analyst who regularly collaborates with Nacsport as a guest writer. On this occasion, he provides us with an exhaustive analysis of Spanish La Liga side, Celta de Vigo and their new manager, Eduardo Coudet.

 

To give you a little bit of background to this article, Matías runs the Twitter and YouTube account La Pizarra de Bielsa (Bielsa’s Play Board in English) and is considered an expert on El Loco. Fellow Argentinian Eduardo Coudet, on the other hand, is one of the foremost proponents of Bielsa’s school of football. Because of this, we asked Matías to collaborate with us in taking a long hard look at Celta and Coudet’s tactical prowess.

My message is clear: you have to play good football. And to play good football, you need guts. But guts isn’t just throwing yourself at someone’s feet or getting stuck in. It’s playing the ball well. It’s having the guts to ask for the ball. It’s playing as a team. It’s doing what we know we can do.

 

These were the inspirational words of Eduardo Coudet during his time in charge of Argentinian side, Racing Club during the 2018 / 19 season. This came off the back of two game losing streak when his leadership was in doubt and his future at the club was being questioned. A few short months later, that same team ended up being crowned league champions.

 

Coudet’s Journey: From Argentina to Brazil to Spain

 

In early November 2020, Coudet made the decision to leave his position at Porto Alegre International who were, at the time, leading the pack in Brazil’s Serie A. His destination? Spanish side Celta de Vigo, a team languishing at the bottom of La Liga with one win, four draws and five losses.

 

It certainly wasn’t the greatest atmosphere to come into but “El Chacho”, as Coudet is often referred to, immediately started to turn the team around under his philosophy of “guts”. After losing 2-4 to Sevilla on his debut back in November, Coudet manage to eke out an unbeaten run of seven matches, winning six of them. This run ended after a recent 2-0 defeat against Real Madrid, but there’s little doubt that Coudet had instilled purpose back into Celta and even has them in the running for a ticket to the Europa League.

 

So…what are the keys to Coudet’s success at Vigo? Let’s take a closer look…

 

Coudet’s Starting XII at Celta de Vigo

 

The first thing Coudet did was change the team’s starting formation. From their typical 4-4-2 or 5-3-2 line up, Coudet molded them into a 4-1-3-2, a formation that he had already used to great success during his time at Racing Club.

 

Although left-back Olaza eventually departed for Real Valladolid, Coudet’s starting eleven was built around the big Uruguayan.

 

Coudet formation

 

Celta’s Offense: Internal Play, Leading to Attacks from the Wings

 

Peruvian Renato Tapia, playing at centre-back, and central midfielder, Spain’s own Denis Suarez are the key men at the start of any build up. Although do have a certain freedom to rotate, Tapia tends to remain embedded at the back, which gives the wingbacks the freedom to push forward. At the same time, Suarez is always the first inside passing option in the middle of the pitch.

 

In addition, Tapia is primarily responsible for enabling the movement of the midfielders, pinning down opposition strikers and finding internal passing lines.

 

Coudet Celta heatmap Denis Suarez

 

Photo: Heat map of Denis Suárez

 

The main tactic here is to build up the game on the inside, slowing forcing their way out wide before switching for quick ball through into the danger area. For this the positioning of Mendez and Nolito are key. They remain open to switching position and form an offensive quartet with the two strikers which is used to pin the opposition defense.

 

Celta offensive phase Eibar

 

This offensive sequence against Cadiz is a clear example of how Coudet's team builds an attack from the back.

 

Celta Coudet attack Cadiz

 

This attack also shows the role the wingers play in covering the sides and, when they are not the ones to provide the through ball, they can cut easily cut back inside to cut off the chance of an oppositions counterattack.

 

Celta counterattack Cadiz

 

It’s also common to see attacks from both sides at the same time, with one of the wingers in possession of the ball while the other pushes up to the danger areas. You can see evidence of this in the two goals Mallo has scored since Coudet’s arrival at the club (in the previous three seasons, he only scored one goal in total).

 

Celta Coudet goals Mallo

 

Goal Hugo Mallo Athletic

Similarly, offensive rotations are constant, seeking to generate uncertainty in the opposition defense, with no fixed references. If they open up the game on the left flank and the right midfielder (Méndez) pushes towards the action, another central player (Tapia or Suarez) will cover his position while the other generates defensive superiority.

 

Attacking rotations Madrid

 

 

It’s not only the wingmen that are responsible for pushing the game forward as the midfielders are also important for opening up the game and giving depth on the inside, always looking to get into a goal scoring position.

 

 

Important centre attacks celta

 

El Chacho’s offensive principles are clear: build on the inside, pinning as many of the opposition as possible through runs or passing moves started by the central defensive players and midfielders and then attacking the spaces that are generated by the opposition defense getting pulled out of position by these runs. The end result is a focus on attacking runs from strikers, midfielders and, usually the free winger.

 

attack celta real madrid

 

Celta’s Defense: Pressing and Automatic Backtracking

 

Vigo do not prevent the opponent from building the game at the back. On the contrary, they enable, incite and invite it, always seeking to recover possession as high as possible and with the opponent as open as possible.

 

Except for small adaptations to an opponent’s formation, it is common to see the two strikers closing down on one central defender, leaving the other to move towards the wing. Suarez takes on the central midfielder and Tapia, Nolito and Mendez close in on the wings.

 

To be able to do this, it’s important that the central players are high and as attentive as possible for filtered passes, as in this example from the game against Real Madrid.

 

filtered passes celta real madrid

 

If the opposition force the build up on the inside, Celta apply pressure to suffocate it. They seek to anticipate the inside players reception of the ball and, at worst, if they steal the ball, they find the central players open.

 

Defending, but always thinking about attack, which is just how Nolito found an opening to score in their victory against Huesca.

 

defense offense celta huesca

 

This type of high pressure also caused problems for Real Madrid, as in this play by Aspas.

 

counterattack celta real madrid

 

So, when the central defenders prioritise taking the ball out wide (intentional release), Coudet’s team generates a 3 vs 2 or 4 vs 2 to force an error or to regain possession from the opposition.

 

celta defensive build up

 

If this system of high pressure is compromised by the rival team, it’s time to retreat and the initial 4-1-3-2 converts to a 5-3-2 (if the opponent positions two forwards on the inside to generate a 3 vs 2 and release the ball to the wings) or to a 4-4-2 (when there’s a solitary striker).

 

defensive system celta de vigo

 

Again, Tapia rears his head as the protagonist in these constant conversions: when under pressure, it is he who covers the gaps left by his teammates and, when repositioning, interprets whether he should embed himself between the two attackers or stay in the centre of the field.

 

Tapia leads the field when it comes to recovering the ball in midfield in the competition (8.3 per match). He is also 4th in clearances (2.1), the 4th in interrupting opposition attacks (3.3) and the 6th when it comes to recovering the ball in the opposition’s half (2.4).

 

He’s also above La Liga averages when it comes to successful passes, successful long passes, forward passes and passes which change the orientation of attack. When it comes to physical exertion, he also exceeds the average distance travelled, medium and maximum speed and running distance.

 

That’s how important the Peruvian is. He’s not being seriously eyed up by PSG, Atletico Madrid and Juventus for nothing!

 

(All data according to the official records of La Liga which show the data for every 90 minutes played. The comparison is for midfielders with a minimum average of 50 minutes per game).

 

Celta coudet heatmap tapia

 

Photo: Heatmap of Renato Tapia 

 

When reinforcement is needed at the back (or when the pressure on the wings is exceeded), Vigo aims to stall the opposition centre forward to give time for collective backtracking, which is usually fast and ends with a minimum of 8 players within their own area.

 

defensive errors celta vigo real betis

 

Photo: Defenders in yellow, midfielders in orange.

 

Problems were revealed in this type of repositioning when, in the game against Real Betis (which Betis eventually won 2-1), the defensive line was not aggressive enough in trying to steal the ball. When the ball eventually rebounded to the edge of the area, the defending players were positioned too closed to the keeper, allowing Canales room to shoot and score.

 

The Achilles Heel of Coudet’s Celta

 

Here’s one statistic that Coudet’s team can’t be proud of: 7 of the 15 goals (47%) they have conceded in La Liga since his arrival have emerged from errors in the build up.

 

Five of them came from interceptions when trying to move the ball into midfield where there was little mobility from teammates in order to get into a successful passing position.

 

build up errors celta vigo

 

The remaining two came from failed passes at the start of a play. One versus Villarreal was an error committed by goalkeeper Blanco and the other came as a result of trying to filter a difficult pass into a populated area.

 

goalkeeping errors celta de vigo

 

These 7 goals came in 6 games, of which only one (vs Huesca) would end in victory and one in a draw (vs Eibar, after Celta lost the goal advantage).

 

The others ended in defeat, although with differing significance. Against Real Betis, losing this goal meant losing the game 2-1. In their games against Sevilla and Real Madrid, these mistakes made little difference to the final result (4-2 and 2-0 respectively). But against Real Betis, these mistakes contributed to the first two goals in a 4-0 defeat. Perhaps if they had been able to prevent these errors then the final result would have been very different.

 

RC Celtic Tactical Report: Conclusions

 

Eduardo Coudet has built a winning squad from the ashes of a team that was in a major slump. He did so based on clear ideas, variable systems and collective ideas about breaking through the inside to attack from the outside. High starting positions allow them to control the game in defense and recover the ball in key areas whilst always being ready to impose pressure on their opponent.

 

While there are many positive points, there are also many errors, especially when it comes to building up the game from the back which costs points. There is also a lack of depth to the talent pool which can lead to headaches for the coaching staff when looking for solutions to injuries and suspensions.

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