El Centrocampista

La Liga Scouting Report: Malaga

Photo: EFE

This week sees the second installment of a new feature to El Centrocampista in which tactical expert John Pelini gives readers an in-depth look at Spanish football. These articles will analyse the strengths and weaknesses of La Liga’s greatest teams and explore the tactics that help formulate their unique styles of play.

Today’s report takes a look at Andalusian side Malaga who, under the tutelage of Manuel Pellegrini, currently sit fourth in La Liga.

Attacking Play

Manuel Pellegrini normally aligns his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The wide players are heavily involved in the buildup and creative play. The attacking four have the freedom and license to roam around the pitch.

Up top, Saviola occupies the center backs. However, he is willing to drop off and allow Joaquin to run at the defense. Although Saviola is not involved much in the buildup phase, he maintains perfect spacing which allows the middle three to create.

The most important combination in the side is Isco and Joaquin. Michael Cox of @zonalmarking classifies Isco as a central winger. Often times his starting position is in the center but he is keen to float wide towards the ball. This allows an overload situation where Isco, Joaquin and a fullback to combine. Since Isco and Joaquin are lethal dribblers, getting past a man enables them to attack the box and either shoot or find a pass. Although Malaga likes to play on the wings they are not a crossing team. They use the wide areas to create instead of trying to thread a needle through the teeth of a defense.

The fullbacks play an interesting role in the side. Since Malaga like to dictate play and control the tempo, they have the time to get forward. Eliseu has seized on this and has scored goals showing off why he also plays at left wing. However, Jesus Gamez and the recently fit Nacho Monreal are less will to bomb forward. Instead, they stay very wide and operate as outlet passes for Isco, Joaquin, Portrillo and the other attackers. They provide an option and will often play a quick one-two to free up space for the creators.

Off the bench, Santa Cruz is a classic target man. Seba Fernandez is a hard working second striker that is has no glaring strengths or weaknesses. Buonanotte is a tiny winger that relies on pace but spends too much time on the turf for my liking.

Photo: Reuters

Defensive Shape

Malaga keep a very organized shape in the Champions League. The fullbacks will push up but are hesitant to stray too far and get out of position.

In the league, especially at home, the Anchovies will take risks to get players forward. This should have come back to bite them in the match v Granada. Granada was able to win the ball back, make two passes against tight midfield pressure and counter down the wings in the spaces left by the fullbacks. However, they could not put away a chance.

Regardless of the strategy, the two defensive midfielders are key players in the side. Three players, Camacho, Toulalan and Iturra have played most of the minutes in these two roles. Iturra is a straight bulldog, similar to Gennaro Gattuso. He is energetic, aggressive and willing to put in strong challenges. Camacho maintains a balanced approach of aggression and technical skill. Toulalan is the best footballer of the three and is capable of winning the ball back. The holding players have a small role in the attack, only advancing the ball from back to front.

The mainstays at center back have been DeMichelis and Weligton. DeMichelis was much maligned for being mistake prone at Bayern Munich but he has been solid in Spain. He has decent technical skill and is an experienced player who maintains his positioning. Weligton is slightly more athletic and just as big. He is not a great passer. The option off the bench has been Onyewu. He is a massive man but struggles against pace and has very little technical skill.

Surprisingly, Malaga have been poor at defending set pieces. They conceded from a short corner in Milan which was finished at the back post by Pato. The conceded from a near post corner against Getafe and also ave up three good chances in the Granada match. Cleaning this up will be critical if they want to advance in Europe.

Malaga have had a good first half of the season based off of solid organization drilled in by a great manager. They also have two star attacking players and have veterans in central midfield, central defense and center forward. As long as they can avoid long term injuries, they should contend for a top four finish in La Liga.</pre>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow us and get La Liga news right in your feed!

Already a fan?