Valencia 1-1 Barcelona: Tactical Analysis
On Sunday, Valencia drew with Barcelona (1-1) at Mestalla. This was a very interesting tactical battle between two great managers: Marcelino and Ernesto Valverde. After eight matches played in La Liga, Sevilla is on the top of the table with 16 points. Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have 15 points, and Real Madrid have 14 points. This is probably the most interesting start of the season in the past couple of years. Valencia have 9 points and they definitely need to find their best form to fight for the European spots.
Lineups and formations
Barcelona lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Messi, Suarez, and Coutinho forming the attacking trio. But, the Barcelona's lineup is very flexible because Messi has the freedom to roam wherever he chooses. After a great match against Tottenham, Artur Melo also started this match. On the other side, Valencia started in their usual 4-4-2 formation with Batshuayi and Gameiro upfront. In the picture below, you can see starting lineups and formation for last night's match.
Valencia's defensive block
The match started in a brilliant way for Valencia. After the first corner kick of the game, Valencia scored the opening goal after a bad reaction from Barcelona's defence. After that goal, Barcelona started to play their possession-based football. Valencia's response was a deep and compact defensive block which is shown in the picture below.
Their aim was to prevent Barcelona from playing through the middle and force them to play the ball wide. Barcelona's midfielders in this match were Sergio Busquets, Arthur and Ivan Rakitić. Neither of these players was creative enough to unlock Valencia's defensive block. Because of this, Messi needed to deep drop in the middle of the park to participate in the organization of the play.
Phillipe Coutinho played on the left side of Barcelona's attack. But, he is not a natural winger so his task was to occupy the left-half space. That allowed Jordi Alba to stay wide as you can see it in the picture below.
This kind of attacking organization allowed Barcelona to try to create the 2 vs 1 situations on the left side of their attack. But, Valencia knew that and Marcelino instructed Carlos Soler to help Piccini not to allow an overload on this side. Because of that, Barcelona had only one way to hurt Valencia: through the middle. This is a very hard task to complete especially when the opposition plays narrow as Valencia played. However, everything is easier when you have Messi in your squad. In the 23rd minute of the game, Messi found some space to play a vertical ball to Suarez. Suarez played the ball back to Messi who scored the equalizer.
The rest of the game went in one way: Barcelona passing and Valencia defending. Marcelino's attacking plan was based on counter attacks especially through their left side. Goncalo Guedes caused many problems to Semedo in the starting minutes of the match. His speed and technical skillset is perfectly equipped for playing in 1vs1 situations. In the 11th minute of the match, he came off because of an injury. Cheryshev replaced him but he was not as effective as the Portuguese.
Valencia played with a very good and compact defensive block which caused Barcelona many problems. They conceded the goal only because of Messi's magic. Barcelona were dominating the possession but they couldn't find the final pass. This is only due to lack of creativity in their midfield. Lionel Messi is still their most creative player in the squad. Barcelona desperately needs a more creative midfielder that can help Messi.