Eibar’s Ferocious Defense And Atletico’s Lost Identity



-Eibar really stand out as something special defending when you look at the statistical universe. Explanation for the metrics is in that post.


It can sort of be tough to tell just how impressive that field position number is with all that is going on in that huge map:


-Look who are #2 and #3 here, Barcelona and Real Madrid get the ball upfield with their offense easily which helps. Eibar is keeping opponents away from goal using mainly defense as with the ball, they are no good.

-From that advantageous field position, they force you into much tougher passes than you normally play


and you don’t complete these passes


-Drilling down further into La Liga data we see Eibar force the ball to the wings



-And really hurry your offense into rushing forward.


Across The Pitch

Now we will look at a few different metrics across the pitch compared to league average. First is completion% allowed relative to league average, so 1.01 means 1% above league average in passes that end in the chunk of pitch in front of opposition goal. Attacking is from left to right, so Eibar’s goal is at the middle right.


-We can see that they are really strong at forcing the start of build-up play to the wings: the wings in that second vertical zone see 53% and 35% respectively left and right.

-Moving forward past this zone, it gets really, really tough to complete passes into the middle of the pitch (top image): their completion% allowed in these middle zones is around 75% of league average.

-One interesting “leak” is how much easier it is for opponents to move the ball up the left side and how much more often they do so. At the back it starts with a much larger share of passes going to the left than the right.

-Opponents complete a significantly higher (10 points) percentage of passes moving forward along the left side.

-They hassle you and take the ball from you basically everywhere, but do it a little more often down their left hand side. The 1.28 and 1.29 are on Eibar’s left.

-Look at the defensive action map below (size of dot is how often they tackle/intercept the ball per minute)


-The midfield and centerbacks (CB pairing is usally Arbilla/Oliveira) is shifted to Eibar’s right, showing they are seeing more action on that side.

-This coupled with the charts above showing how early in moves the ball moves to Eibar’s right side makes me think it’s their right-sided attackers who are allowing the ball to get going more easily down their side.

-Fabian Orellana essentially has never won the ball back this year while Pere Milla is much more of a defensive force.

-I’d look to start my buildup up the left side of my attack if I could if I was Girona or Athletic Bilbao, Eibar’s next two opponents. Athletic Bilbao have a fantastic left-sided passer in Iker Munain. If you are Girona this may mean the inclusion of slick-passing Aday Benitez on the left in some capacity.

-The toughest zones to get to and pass through against Eibar are the center 60-80% up the pitch and the right side in that same area. The right side (from the attackers point of view), gets harried the most of any area of the pitch there. If I had to pick out two defenders as the best, I will just look at the guys doing most of the work in those areas: Jose Angel (Cote) and Gonzalo Escalante, who hasn’t been a sure starter but has been a defensive machine and is comfortably in this area.




I once wrote an entire article at StatsBomb on just how amazing Atletico were without the ball, that article pointed out how incredible they were at denying shots and really denying entry to the dangerous zones in the pitch when the opposition has the ball. Now look back up at that original Defensive Universe chart and try to find Atletico. They aren’t at any extreme, they are pretty much right smack dab in the middle.

-They used to lead the league in most passes allowed per shot as teams had to work really hard, this year they are just 5th.

-They used to be toughest to complete passes in the danger zone against (20 yard radius around goal), this year they are closer to the bottom of the table.



Across The Pitch


-Look at that first chart, basically they aren’t forcing opponents into lower completion% at any part of the pitch except right in front of their own goal.

-Third chart shows the insane defensive work rate up the left side of Filipe Luis really, and maybe why teams aren’t playing all the way out to the wing that often.

-There are still pieces of Atletico’s dominant defense but it’s not a truly elite European defense this year, at least not so far. The team has struggled so far after great expectations of possibly joining the top 3, losing their dominant defensive identity is one of those reasons.





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