The first half was marked by 2 brilliant pieces of individualism in the first half, but the game was decided with a simple tactical change.
Formations and tactics-
Villareal comparison to Sevilla-
Tactically this match was very similar to Atletico Madrid vs. Sevilla in many ways. Just like Sevilla; Villareal played a 4-4-2 variant with advanced wingers and defensive midfielders who would generally stay back. Although Sevilla and Villareal were very similar they were different in a major way. Villareal weren’t as focused on getting the ball to the flanks as Sevilla. In fact the wingers would occasionally move inside to form a square; this meant that they were more centralized and reliant on fbs coming forward to generate width.
Atletico Madrid played their usual hybrid cross of the 4-3-3 and the 4-4-2. Atletico Madrid’s back 4 was fairly standard. Their fbs didn’t get forward too much considering that Atletico Madrid’s attacks were narrow. Then again Atletico didn’t need to get them forward because they prefer playing down the middle; trying to penetrate their opposition by playing through balls to their fast attackers. Their midfield 3 was comprised of Suarez and Tiago who operated as cms and Elis who looked caught in the role of either a correlio or advanced winger. Further up, they had Reyes who played a key part in the match operating as an advanced winger who cut inside. Aguero operated as the main striker who held his position on the Villareal defensive line; often waiting for chances rather than creating them. While Forlan dropped deep and roamed around operating as the link between midfield and attack. He was often forced to do most of his creative work in front of Villarreal’s 6-block in the first half than 2 banks of 4 in the second instead of in between the lines but more on that later.
Villarreal stifled in first half/ whole game-
Villarreal were essentially stifled in the first half and with no major changes made to their side they remained ineffective going forward for the entirety of the game. They had 8 shots in the entire match; Atletico had 16 need I say more, see the pic below.
Villarreal’s typically deadly attack
(http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/laliga/standings they have the 3rd highest attack. Only behind Barca and Madrid go figure)
was reduced to having 3 shots in the first half and only one of them (the goal) was on target. Atletico Madrid did well to keep their lines tight and narrow. This meant that the preferred space of Rossi (who likes to drop deep), Cani, and Cazorla was removed which led them to have a poor and rather unproductive game. They combined for a grand total of 4 shots in entire game.
Furthermore Atletico defended in deep blocks of 4. With 8 players to beat Villarreal’s attack generally struggled in the first half. Since Atletico Madrid defended in such numbers it meant that Villarreal couldn’t just rely on their attacking 4 to the damage as they normally would. Villarreal opted to send Bruno Valero and one of the fullbacks (Capdevilla or Martinez) forward to support on a regular occasion. It was a decent tactical move from the stand in coach, but it was in vain as it really didn’t solve the problems being posed by the Atelti defense. By only sending one fullback forward they created space on one side. This meant that Atletico Madrid could just tilt their defense over to the side where the attacking fullback was currently operating and negate the threat without worry of getting caught out by a cross field pass to the other flank. (see pic). Even sending Valero forward was ineffective. There was no room in between the lines to be broken into and also the space down the middle was already crowded so by sending him forward the Villarreal stand in manager only made things worse.
If Villarreal wanted to have a more effective attack they should of sent both fullbacks and Valero forward. The fullbacks, the wingers, and or the strikers would all take turns creating space on the width and then Valero plus the other fullbacks, wingers, and strikers would concentrate on exploiting the newfound space in the middle. Atletico Madrid only counter attacked with 2-3 men and it might have been worth the gamble of leaving 3 men back to deal with 2 or 3 Atelti attackers. Villarreal couldn’t create space and thus they were generally poor going forward.