Granada, who are currently in their second spell with manager Abel Resino, are coming in to this fixture sitting 19th in the league, after having won only one of their last ten games. A mere three points from safety – relatively speaking, anyway – the Andalusian side will surely be looking to build on the performance that earned them a point when Sevilla came to visit Los Cármenes last weekend. Not having won since they hosted Malaga in the beginning of March, however, it’s hard to say they’re coming to the Mestalla on the back of a good run of form.
Scoring the fewest goals in the league (along with Cordoba) while conceding the third most of any team in the competition is hardly a recipe for success, which is evident in how none of Granada’s four league wins on the season have been by a margin of more than one goal. In fact, having only four wins to your name by the time May is rolling around is pretty worrying in it’s own right. Add to this the fact that Resino’s men have only scored more than once in the same game in two of the thirty-two matches they’ve played so far in their 14/15 campaign – both against Deportivo – and the depressing collection of statistics you’re looking at is hardly a shining indictment of Granada’s attacking prowess.
What to expect
For most of his current spell, manager Resino has set his team up in two banks of four with Javi Marquez or Piti supporting the striker. However, with both his starting central defenders (Murillo, Babin) on the injury list and Sevilla on the other side of the field, he opted to support the new pairing of Mainz and Cala by dropping Fran Rico in as a defensive midfielder, ridding his side of a #10 in the process.
In the absence of main man (if a striker with 4 goals on the season can be given such a title) Youssef El Arabi, Isaac Success was given the nod up top. Even though he has yet to fully live up to his name, the young Nigerian may just have flashed enough to keep him in the team as one of the eleven that prepare to take on Los Che Monday night.
However, Granada will still be forced to make at least two changes. One of them – Ruben Perez – played centrally alongside Iturra in the 1-1 draw a week ago, but a yellow card he picked up in the 89th minute (which is impressive since he was subbed after 83) will keep him out contention. The other is of course on-loan Valencia man Robert Ibáñez. The winger, who recently turned 22, is already Granada’s joint top scorer since joining the side on a 6 month deal in January. He will be sorely missed, but likely not sorely enough that Granada will pay the fee it would cost them to play him.
Tactically, Valencia and Sevilla aren’t mirror images by any stretch of the imagination, but even still, with six games remaining only two meager points separate the two in the battle for the final Champions League spot. As such, it’s still not unreasonable for Resino to think that ‘if it worked against one, I might as well try it against the other’, and so one would imagine that chances are his new 4-1-4-1 look might well see the light of day once again. We won’t know for sure until the teams take the field Monday night.
Now, I’d almost call the first ‘4’ in ‘4-1-4-1’ deceptive. Very often, Granada retract into a 6 man defensive line when they get played deep. Their wingers track back to sit outside the fullbacks and cover the field horizontally. The midfield along with the striker are left to try to close down the entire opposing team from a diamond shape. For the most part, their efforts are futile, and they end up forfeiting the midfield battle and three quarters of the field along with it by default.
Another disadvantage to dropping this deep, especially with your wingers, is that when you’re counter-attacking, you have so much further to travel to get back up the field. When pressed aggressively, Granada tend to lose composure which often leads to them clearing the ball up the field in the direction of an isolated lone striker who’s out of his depth, left to his own devices against three or four defenders. I don’t personally understand or appreciate their defensive philosophy, nor do I see how it will ever foster consistent success, but it worked out for them versus Sevilla, so who am I to tell them they’re wrong.
For a team with several pacey attackers, you’d also expect a lot more from them in terms of attacking the deep – something they at the moment hardly ever do.
Granada tend to thrive when they’re allowed to do so, as obvious as that may sound. When teams drop back and allow them to comfortably set up play from their own half, they often do so very well. They do a good job spreading the field, transforming to a 4-3-3 shape from which they can open up defenses, as it forces the opposing team to defend from sideline to sideline. Unfortunately, you see this far too seldom, and this is a big reason why they’re currently deeply entrenched in the relegation fistfight.
Typically with teams that are lacking in talent, you want to make sure your structure is good, and that your game plan and your do’s and your don’ts are clearly defined. I don’t see that with Granada, but then again, I don’t necessarily see them as a team that’s all that short on talent either.
Watching them, I see plenty of players that are more than capable of sustained La Liga success. What I also see, though, is a confused team that’s going in to matches extremely low on confidence – something that’s reflected in how they reacted as a unit after their opening goal against Sevilla last weekend. Following Mainz’ headed effort to grab the lead, the entire squad seemed to get a boost. They perked up, got more confident on the ball, and were the commanding side for a good 25 minutes before the (comparatively) superior quality of Sevilla once again shone through and the away side regained momentum.
The problem is that they don’t seem to enter games with this attitude. Instead, they look like they expect to lose from the get-go, and if you think you’ll lose – chances are you’re going to be right.
If I’m Nuno…
…I instruct my team to defend from the front, press high up the field and be aggressive. I don’t want to let Granada attack on their own terms, and I don’t want them to feel good about themselves (Without trying to sound too evil).
I tell my wingers to move into channels more so than usual, as opposed to trying to get around on the outside where there simply isn’t much space to do so. Instead, I want to rely on supporting fullbacks for width.
Other than that, I would feel confident that my team should be able to pull this one out, and significantly improve on the 1-1 result from the game in Granada last December.