Youssef Amin returns to Golazo for the start of what will be a regular feature on the site as he takes a look back over the weekend’s big Superliga fixture and dissects the tactics.
River Plate returned to La Fortaleza a couple of months after their Copa Libertadores capitulation against Lanús. A lot has changed since then with both sides struggling but despite a summer of investment an out of sorts River were undone again.
This is the breakdown…
Lanús went with the 4-3-3 set up that Ezequiel Carboni has opted to keep since taking over Jorge Almirón, despite the change in personnel.
With a very functional midfield, compromised of two aggressive ball winners (Fernando Barrientos and Román Martínez) and a classy deep lying playmaker (Iván Marcone).
Marcone set the tempo with the quality of his passing and his vision, as he completed the most passes from an outfield player in the Lanús side with 47 (Esteban Andrada, the Goalkeeper had 60).
The responsibility fell to the front three to create, with one of the best players in the league Lautaro Acosta and a very creative Alejandro Silva feeding the clinical Germán Denis they were bound to be dangerous. The two full backs also provided attacking impetus as the two wide men tended to cut inside, opening up space for the overlap from one of the full backs.
River once again went with the two striker formation Marcelo Gallardo has used for most of his reign. As has also been the case during Gallardo’s tenure, there was a lot of fluidity from River with the formation sometimes switching to a 4-3-3 variation.
The midfield contained the tenacious duo of Enzo Pérez and Leonardo Ponzio. The left midfielder Nacho Fernández pushed inside to form a triplet in the midfield when River had possession and ensured that they created numerical superiority in the middle half space.
This reflected in the possession stats where River dominated despite being outnumbered in midfield on paper.
Pity Martinez acted as a right inside forward operating in the inside half space and trying to feed a largely hapless Lucas Pratto. Scocco was given a free role, sometimes dropping back into the half space an attacking midfielder normally occupies or alternatively pushing wide as a left winger.
Lanús’ build up structure in the game was very impressive. They aimed to create numerical superiority in their opening third, therefore opening as many passing lanes as possible.
The calm approach they took in their build up reflected in the amount of touches their goalkeeper had, they were always looking for a way to bypass the River press without resorting to long balls. The two centre backs split while the fullbacks pushed forward. Marcone also dropped very deep to offer another option in the middle.
Another pointer was the poor defensive organization of the River side. Many players did not perform their defensive duties and that hurt River badly. As you can see above, Lanús are outnumbering River in the attacking situation and there is a player completely unmarked.
Players such as Pity Martinez didn’t perform the defensive duties required of them and that harmed River badly as they looked very vulnerable every time the opposition were on the attack.
Lanús also put River through a lot of uncomfortable situations with their targeted high press. Pressing with vigour is not something you see often in Argentina and it was great to see Lanús executing a high pressing style almost flawlessly.
The defence pushed up almost to the half way line with the attacking players pressing and the midfield trio coordinating together to cover the spaces in behind. This led to a feew chances and complicated River’s chances of building up play from the back.
Another aspect of Lanús’ strategy that was prominent throughout was the intelligent exploitation of the left half space in which River were the most vulnerable in.
Gonzalo Montiel is a centre back by trade and Pity Martinez doesn’t offer much in terms of defensive contribution so it was always going to be a weak spot. Ezequiel Carboni identified that and Lanús were always trying to play long vertical balls into that half space, as you can see in the image above.
As such it was little surprise to see the game’s only goal and most of Lanús’ most threatening situations coming from Acosta targeting this area.
Youssef Amin is a football writer and FM blogger. An Argieball faux expert and South American footy addict, Youssef also runs the Racing Club in English Twitter account