Getafe Tactics: Much More Than Luck & Fouls

Getafe have often been portrayed as an unglamorous
side with a rough approach to the
game. Since their return to the Spanish top
flight in 2017/18 season under Jose Bordalás,
the Madrid-based club have placed eighth and,
most recently, fifth, missing out on Champions
League qualification on the final day of the
2018/19 campaign.
Courtesy of these impressive league finishes,
they have returned to the Europa League
for the first time since 2010/11. ‘Pepe’
Bordalás may have only been in charge since
2016, but the impact that he has had at Coliseum
Alfonso Pérez has been profound.
Giving away nearly league-high fouls and receiving
similarly high numbers of bookings, it would
be easy to discredit Getafe as a plucky band
of rogues. Yet, given their incredible consistency,
their success is down to precise methods rather
than orchestrated madness.
They set up in a 4-4-2 system and that doesn’t
change under Bordalás, irrespective of the
formation they’re facing. His tactical plans
depend upon the partnerships between his players
to negate the impact of opposition numbers
and rebalance them in his side’s favour.
It is a system of close understanding through
the spine of the team. Bordalás wants his
players to always have the advantage of a
2v1 situation anywhere on the field when the
opposition have the ball. This arrives courtesy
of intelligent movement, interchanging of
positions, pressing at the right time and
occupying the spaces seen as most dangerous
to force opponents to play their football
Once Getafe win possession, transitioning
upfield at pace is the priority. Defence can
be turned into attack very quickly indeed.
Getafe are also set up to encourage numerical
advantages in the areas of the field that
theoretically would be capable of doing them
the most damage. Bordalás wants opposition
players to be forced to feed the ball wide,
avoiding the spaces in between the lines where
creatively players might be able to pick apart
his organised defence.
His side may press with a lot of intensity,
but they normally wait until a particular
trigger is met. Once an opposing team feed
the ball out to their left back or right back
– a safe pass, given that Geta have their
team set up in two banks of four and a front
two – then the press will begin. The opposing
full back will be forced to go backwards,
kick long, make a risky lofted switch (during
which Getafe will be able to shuffle across
to provide another united front while the
ball is in the air), or play a low-percentage
pass into a congested midfield, where Getafe
have manufactured numerical superiority due
to wide players tucking in or a more advanced
player dropping deeper.
Getafe’s striking partnership of Mata and
Molina ensure that they stay in close proximity
to one another, meaning that opponents can’t
simply play through them to break Getafe’s
first line of pressure. Bordalás likes to
stay compact, leaving limited space in between
each of the lines of his 4-4-2, so opponents
feel as though they must keep the ball wide
to avoid turning the ball over. Bordalás
is confident in his defence’s aerial ability
to win headers should opponents swing crosses
into the penalty area and, at times, his back
four has consisted of four natural central
There is a strong understanding between many
pairs all over the pitch for Getafe. Both
central defenders work in tandem, as does
the double pivot in midfield, the two wide
players on either flank and the two strikers.
By staying compact and in close proximity,
it asphyxiates opposition teams, forcing them
to bypass central zones and cut out vertical
passing lanes.
Out wide, Bordalás has even been known to
use four full backs, enjoying the balance
afforded by players who can exchanges roles
and responsibilities and who understand when
to drop in and cover for one another. If a
player steps out to press, another will fill-in
behind, a shuffle that will only free up an
opposing player on the opposite wing rather
than close to the man in possession.
Should opponents try and play through the
lines, the lack of space between Getafe’s
balanced departments should make life difficult.
When facing a long ball over the top, they
can retreat and rely on their central defenders
to diffuse what is usually a 2v1 situation.
There is nothing new in Getafe’s offensive
approach. Always retaining two strikers to
ensure that pressure can be well asserted,
this duo are very useful when possession
changes hands. One striker can drop into space
or come to the ball, before immediately popping
possession backwards into a teammate who has
a broader perspective of the opposition half.
Or he can interact with his strike partner,
who will often make a more
direct run in behind the defence, in the hope
of receiving a through ball from a midfielder
who can see the full picture.
This ‘up-back-through’ style move helps
Getafe go from defending to attacking the
opposition box within just a few passes. The
mobile and combative Mata, Jorge Molina and
Ángel have great spatial awareness when attacking
the box, as well as the requisite physicality
to occupy opposition central defenders and,
in so doing, create more space for their strike
In wide areas, Marc Cucurella and Francisco
Portillo can carry the ball at real pace,
while the likes of Mata and Molina are more
than confident battling aerially whether early
crosses are whipped in or overlapping full
backs have time to join the attack and deliver
from further upfield. Incisive, yet combative,
Getafe are a multi-faceted threat.
Their fairytale return to Europe has not been
authored by ill-discipline or luck. Instead,
it has been the work of a well-balanced side
whose recruitment department have worked tirelessly
to get the right personnel for Bordalás’
specific team roles and who, now, are reaping
the rewards.

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