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How Getafe is defying modern-day football data analytics

Getafe CF are contradicting theories of modern-day football data analytics
Getafe CF are contradicting theories of modern-day football data analytics
ANALYST
Modified 11 Jun 2020, 04:22 IST
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LaLiga is scheduled to resume on 11 June 2020 after an unprecedented lengthy break due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Getafe and the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona would need to play their 11 remaining games in the space of five and a half weeks.

It is a two-horse race between Barcelona and Real Madrid  for the La Liga title yet again. The Catalan club’s tally of 58 points from 27 games gives them a slender advantage of two points over their arch-rivals from the capital city.

However, amid a customary seesaw battle for the title between the two traditional Spanish powerhouses, a relatively less recognised team from Madrid has been contradicting theories of modern-day football data analytics.

Despite averaging the least accurate passes per match and having the third-worst possession percentage, Getafe CF’s points tally is the fourth-best in Lathis season. Is it a stroke of luck or due to an unique playing style? Let’s find out.

A brief history of Getafe:

Getafe CF finished the 2018-19 season in fifth position in La Liga under José Bordalas
Getafe CF finished the 2018-19 season in fifth position in La Liga under José Bordalas

After a 12-year stint in the Spanish top division, Getafe were relegated from La Liga following their second from bottom finish in 2015-16. The Madrid-based club then hired Jose Bordalas as their new manager with an intention to gain immediate promotion.

Interestingly, at that time, Bordalas was coming off a sack by Deportivo Alaves despite leading the side to their first-ever La Liga season in last ten years. Most importantly, he achieved this extraordinary feat in only his first season in charge of Alaves. The Deportivo board defended their decision to sack Bordalas by stating that he was not good enough to manage a top division side.

However, the ex-Deportivo boss not only promoted Getafe back to the LaLiga in his maiden season with the club, but also earned them an incredible eighth-place finish in his first season as a La Liga manager.

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The manager further improved his performance in the next La Liga season. Under the leadership of Jose Bordalas, Getafe CF finished the 2018-19 season in fifth position in LaLiga. This was the best season in the club’s history since their re-establishment in the year 1983.

Getafe are currently placed fifth in the 2019-20 La Liga table, tied on points and goal difference with fourth-placed Real Sociedad. Having dismantled Ajax in the Round of 32, the club awaits their Round of 16 tie against Inter Milan in the Europa League once UEFA competitions would recommence.

Getafe have defied football data analytics

Getafe
Getafe

According to football analysts, possession has a direct correlation with the winning probability of a team. Inter Milan’s victory over Barcelona in the semifinals of the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League can be regarded as one of the most profound instances of football data analytics being ridiculed.

Jose Mourinho’s Inter on that day overcame Pep Guardiola’s brilliant Barcelona team with an average possession of 21.2% across two legs. After Inter’s progress to the finals, Jose Mourinho claimed that his side deliberately gave up the ball against Barcelona to keep their focus on the task in hand.

Nevertheless, the two said games can be a small sample size to defy the efficiency of possession-based football. However, Getafe CF under Jose Bordalás has been consistently challenging the prophecies of football analytics for the last three years.

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According to stats of the current La Liga season, Getafe’s average of 185.3 successful passes per game is the worst among all the teams in the Spanish top division. The club also ranks third-worst in the league in terms of keeping the ball, doing so with an average 43.3% possession per match.

Getafe have been underwhelming in the average number of shots on target per game with 3.6, which is 13th-best in La Liga this season). Additionally, stats also highlight Getafe’s meagre 1.4 goals scored per match average. Despite all the above-mentioned stats pointing towards a poor league position, Getafe are currently above several La Liga heavyweights that include Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao and Real Betis. 

   

Getafe's playing style

Getafe’s left-winger, Marc Cucurella has been a revelation
Getafe’s left-winger, Marc Cucurella has been a revelation

Getafe’s stellar rise can be presumably attributed to their defensive solidarity. Jose Bordalas prefer to play with an orthodox 4-4-2 formation.

Interestingly, the wingers employed in the system are equally proficient and experienced in playing defensive roles. Hence, the formation that seems 4-4-2 on paper adapts to a 6-2-2 while defending.

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The efficiency of this system is reflected in the club’s season statistics as well. Getafe CF have been extremely miserly in conceding goals this season. Opponents have found the back of Getafe’s net on only 25 occasions, which is the 4th-best in the La Liga in 2019-20.

Getafe have a second-best league standing in registering clean sheets. Their goalkeepers have made the fourth-fewest saves per match (2.1 saves per match). It proves that the team defends well as a unit and allows fewer shooting opportunities to its opponents.

Getafe’s left-winger, Marc Cucurella has been a revelation. The Spaniard, on loan from Barcelona, has performed exceedingly brilliantly throughout the season. Cucurella’s work rate, passing, productivity and involvement in goals have caught the eyes of several bigger clubs across Europe, Arsenal in particular.

As far as Getafe's attack is concerned, the club is an intimidating counter-attacking side. The team attacks through the middle on counter-attacks and prefers to launch crosses from wide areas when dictating possession in the opponent’s half.

The most fascinating fact about Getafe’s attacking stat is their competence in winning possession in the attacking third. The team has won the ball on 135 occasions in the final third in La Liga this season, which is only less than that of Real Madrid and Eibar.

It means that unlike other teams that prefer to sit back and organise their defensive shape once the ball is lost during an attacking move, Getafe presses immediately upon losing the ball in the final third.

Another exceptional feature of Getafe’s attack is their ability to capitalise on opportunities. Jose Bordalas’ side converts 37.5% of big chances into goals, which is significantly better than of league leaders Barcelona's tally of 23.4%.

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Getafe's stats contradicts predictions:

Getafe
Getafe

While some statistics can help opponents predict the playing style of Getafe, some numbers are just bewildering.

For example, football analysts expect teams with low possession percentages to make more clearances, score more goals through set pieces and to cross more often in hope of finding their physically formidable target man.

However, Getafe's stats confound opponents' football analysts. The Madrid-based club averages 14.9 clearances per match, which are the least among all but two teams in the 2019-20 La Liga.

Moreover, 23 goals out of a total of 37 goals of the club have been scored through open play. Getafe’s leading goal-scorer, veteran Angel Rodriguez is unexpectedly diminutive (172 cm tall), another fact that leaves opponent teams baffled.

Though it is difficult to predict the actual playing style of Getafe merely based on stats, the points above can sum up and potentially paint a picture of the way the club prefers to play.

Firstly, Getafe CF is a well-drilled and organised team with every player having a well-defined role. Secondly, the team defends brilliantly as a unit.

Thirdly, the team prioritises registering good results ahead of playing eye-pleasing football and producing impressive stats. It looks like Getafe have embodied the idea that it is not important how much possession you have; it is important what you do with it.

Fourthly, the club understands its strengths and always prefers to play accordingly. Lastly, Getafe are a bunch of players and staff who are enormously hungry to play and make their mark in European football.         

Published 11 Jun 2020, 04:22 IST
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