When Deportivo La Coruña secured their La Liga survival in May, they did so with an unlikely comeback to draw Barcelona at the Camp Nou. This weekend they were back and produced another inspired comeback to earn themselves a 2-2 draw which keeps them in the chase for European places, and firmly places talented head coach Víctor Sánchez in the spotlight.
Sánchez, simply known as Víctor in Spain, enjoyed a very successful career after coming through the ranks at Real Madrid where he made 65 La Liga appearances for Los Blancos. He then moved to Racing Santander before he ended up in Galicia and Deportivo. Víctor was a vital player in Deportivo’s most successful squad of all time when they won the 1999-00 La Liga title, the club’s first in its history. Deportivo also finished second in the two following seasons, and reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2004 as well as winning the Copa Del Rey in 2001-02 and the Spanish Super Cup in 2000 and 2002. Therefore it’s easy to understand why Víctor is so popular in La Coruña so when he was given the task of keeping Deportivo in the top flight back in April it was a natural appointment. He delivered the survival the club craved, and has now overseen a fantastic start to the season which has seen only one loss in the last twelve matches as Deportivo are currently 6th in La Liga.
For the game at Barcelona’s treble winners, Víctor set up his team in a 4-3-1-2 as can be seen below. German Lux was in goal, with the back-four made up of Laure, Alejandro Arribas, Sidnei and Fernando Navarro. The midfield three was Juanfran, Alex Bergantinos and Luisinho. The number ten was Faycal Fajr with Jonathan Rodriguez and goalscoring sensation Lucas Perez up front.
The game plan looked quite straightforward. Keep a narrow shape, with the diamond midfield giving a 4 v 3 advantage in midfield, and force Barca wide. Fajr performed a man-marking job on Sergio Busquets who had one of his worst performances in a long time. Busquets is usually the man starting most attacks for Barca, but he was always marked as the below pictures will show and struggled to control the game. When Depor won the ball, they tried to hit Barca on the counter-attack as quickly as possible with Lucas Perez always providing a threat in behind.
Fajr not interested in helping to close down Iniesta, instead only focusing on Busquets.
Even when trying to build from the back near their own penalty area Fajr goes to mark Busquets.
Depor posed a threat throughout, but Barca led after the first half thanks to Leo Messi’s fantastic free-kick.
Víctor made a change at the break by opting to bring on Juan Dominguez who slotted into midfield, replacing Luisinho. The shape remained the same, but Dominguez composure and quality on the ball enhanced Deportivo’s attacking-play.
The issue with a diamond formation is the space you surrender outside of you. Víctor was happy to allow Barca’s full backs to have the ball, but the narrow shape also led to Ivan Rakitic second goal. Depor’s midfield were slow to shift over and Rakitic found too much space from where he could score Barca’s second goal.
Deportivo had produced a very impressive display up to this point, but still found themselves two goals down. Just before Rakitic goal, Victor had introduced Luis Alberto instead of Juanfran, but that substitution didn’t change as much as the one he made in the 70th minute. The coach replaced striker Jonathan Rodriguez with winger Miguel Cardoso and changed to a 4-3-3 shape with Lucas as the lone striker. Dominguez played as the pivot with Bergantinos to his right and Fajr to his left, while Alberto moved out as a left winger. The new shape can be seen below.
Interesting to note the amount of space Busquets now had.
Cardoso’s introduction and the new shape changed the game, as Cardoso first hit the crossbar before setting up Lucas to score his eleventh goal of the season. Lucas has also scored in each of the last six games. He’s a fantastic forward, and troubled Piqué and Mascherano all day. After another counter-attack, Lucas set-up Bergantinos for the equaliser, and the club legend finished with calmness. Barcelona-Deportivo 2-2 in a thrilling comeback for Víctor Sánchez men.
Barcelona didn’t have their best performance of the season, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Deportivo who produced a stunning display of hard work and counter-attacking quality. Víctor Sánchez has created an impressive team, spearheaded by the brilliant Lucas Perez, which is currently challenging for European places. It remains to be seen where they’ll end up in the table, as you would expect them to drop off a bit towards the end of the season but that doesn’t change the fact Víctor’s team is now flying high thanks to the style and belief he’s instilled in his players, and with the tactical flexibility they showed on Saturday the future looks bright for Deportivo La Coruña.