Spanish side Sevilla reached a deal to hire Argentine coach Eduardo Berizzo for the next two seasons last month, and while the former Celta Vigo manager may not be as blockbuster a name as Jorge Sampaoli, Sevilla’s coach last season, he is certainly a top tactician.
El Sevilla de Eduardo Berizzo comienza la preparación de la temporada 2017/18. pic.twitter.com/BvB8gHkHpv
— El Chiringuito TV (@elchiringuitotv) July 3, 2017
In three seasons in Vigo, the man they call “Toto” managed to help Celta reach two Copa del Rey semi-finals and a Europa League semi-final this past season where he went toe-to-toe with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
Berizzo’s core tactical philosophy was bred and born as both a player under Marcelo Bielsa for Newell’s Old Boys and as an assistant with the Chilean National Team. He got his start in coaching for the latter in 2007 and put together a good portfolio with Chilean club side O’Higgins FC as he led them to a runner’s up finish in his debut season and then a first place finish for the 2013 Apertura title.
— Radio ADN (@adnradiochile) May 3, 2017
As it happened, his excellent tenure at O’Higgins earned him a job at Celta Vigo in the summer of 2014 and Berizzo has quickly earned a reputation as a quality tactician and a coach who has a fine attention to detail.
The analysis below will showcase the former Celta manager’s style of play in attacking and defensive phases, but it will also offer a comparison angle as Berizzo often changed his strategy depending on Celta’s opponent. That is where his attention to detail really shines, his ability to get his side to adapt to certain ways the opposition may try to hurt them.
Fans of Sevilla and fans of LaLiga, in general, will get an idea of Berizzo’s style. To me, he’s a mix of Pep Guardiola with his superb flexibility in building out the back in a number of formations, and Bielsa in his dynamic and flexible high-press style. In short, you’ll see that it is no surprise he was appointed to a top Spanish side.
Defensive Phase: High-pressing
Personally, to me, it is pretty obvious that high-pressing is a staple in the modern game and I often find that it is the most interesting style of defending to the average football fan. So we’ll start here for the defensive style of Berizzo’s Celta.
Berizzo’s Celta was a side that was not afraid to high-press using their 4-2-3-1 formation. They flirted with a 4-3-3 earlier in Berizzo’s tenure as manager, but the Argentine opted to go with the more transitional based 4-2-3-1 as seen below.
From this formation, Celta would often have one of their defensive midfielders join their four advanced teammates in a 2-2-1 press or a 4-1 press. The video below showcases how they high-pressed Manchester United and Real Madrid in different ways catering to each side’s strengths.
We can clearly see how against Manchester United, Celta opted to start their formational press in a more compact manner to avoid Mourinho’s side to go long immediately. The Spanish outfit isn’t at their best trying to win a physical battle against Manchester’s stronger forwards in the air, so waiting until a horizontal pass to a fullback is a better chance at baiting them away from going long.
Against Real Madrid on the other hand, you see a much more aggressive high-press. Celta wanted to disrupt the flow from Madrid’s back line to midfield during their build-ups and opted for a more ferocious man-marking style.
Defensive Phase: Berizzo’s low-block defending style
Celta are not Atletico Madrid in terms of their organisational quality in defence. They are not a patient team that waits to neutralise strengths and space and they do not put all of their attacking focus in transitional patterns and counters.
Instead, Berizzo likes to win the ball back quickly.
In addition to their high-press, Celta will defend in a strict man-marking low-block like shown in the graphic below against Real Madrid:
However, against Real Sociedad, the low-block strategy, and style of marking changes a bit. Watch the video below where I break down the differences and why.
Attacking phases: How Celta Vigo build-up the play and played out the back in a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3
I’m a firm believer that every coach has areas of play in which they are superb at getting their best XI to exceed expectations.
For Berizzo, it is definitely building out from the back.
His Celta side averaged the sixth best possession percentage in LaLiga with 52.2% per WhoScored.com. Anyway, to achieve a high percentage number in possession, you need to drill your players in the art of overcoming high-pressing, non-pressing high-blocks, and four-man or five-man man-marking on your midfield.
Celta are good at getting past all of those. Watch the video below where I break down how they did it in a 4-2-3-1 & 4-3-3.
Attacking phase: How Celta Vigo switch to a 3-4-3 when their opponent decides to man-mark their midfielders
In researching Celta’s excellence in playing out the back, I found out that Berizzo drilled his side in recognising when teams are man-marking their central midfielders with overwhelming numbers and what to do when it happens.
In short, they shift to a 3-4-3 variant and their centre-backs become deep-lying playmakers. The video below showcases how Real Sociedad and Manchester United tried to disrupt their build up out the back and how the Argentine’s outfit managed to get around it.
In order to achieve overcoming a four or five-man man mark of your midfield build up, you need excellent ball playing centre-backs. Their composure and decision making will make it hard for the opposition to apply pressure on them without losing their midfield-marking focus.
Attacking phase: Two patterns when Celta Vigo was settled in opposition half
Once Celta had completed their build-up into their attacking half and third, they often put a lot of forward numbers to play between the lines of the opposition. This offers more vertical options and 1v1 scenarios to get behind the defence.
Also, below, we can see how against Manchester United, Berizzo often kept that three-at-the-back shape when trying to breakdown the Red Devils’ low-block.
This was a formational pattern of many matches when watching Celta Vigo under Berizzo. They used a 3-2-3.
As mentioned earlier, Berizzo’s Celta Vigo were a side that had a keen attention to detail, especially in how to adapt to the opponent’s marking style and the quality of player at their disposal.
Berizzo sides are full of energy, regardless of whether they’re in attack or defence. That is what he demands. The Argentine’s reputation has grown immensely and there is no doubt he will improve Sevilla.
Sevilla are a side that is perfect for his style of play. Under Sampaoli, another Bielsa disciple, Sevilla were great in building out the back and it will be no different under Berizzo. This side will be just as exciting as Sampaoli’s, it will just have more of a brain in defensive phases, and that is okay. Not everyone needs to play ‘Kamikaze’ football like the current Argentina national team coach.
Berizzo will do it his way. And his way is turning into something concrete. There is something brewing in his mind. He is developing a signature style.