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Analyzing Girona FC’s Sensational Season

Girona’s journey in the LaLiga 2023-2024 season stands out as an inspiring narrative within the realm of Spanish soccer and the broader global football community. Presently positioned in 2nd place, 2 points behind perennial powerhouse Real Madrid, Girona’s ascent adds an intriguing layer to the title race. The prospect of Girona maintaining their current stellar form and unwavering commitment suggests a potential challenge to Real Madrid’s dominance over Spanish soccer this season.

Tactical Fluidity and Attacking Style

Looking at what Girona have done well this season, their tactical fluidity and bold, attacking style has taken their possession-based team into an intricate, streetball style pattern that defines their identity.

Despite having a huge reliance on possession, Girona’s field tilt doesn’t not exactly mirror what you would expect of a team that dominates possession, characteristically smothering the opposing team in their own defending third.

With the fluidity of their tactics, Girona are able to maintain possession in their own half, overloading a side of the field that nullifies the opposing team’s pattern of pressing. This can also be shown by their lack of aggressive forward passes compared to the league standard. This relatively low percentage indicates the patience that Girona utilizes in their buildup.

Impact of Inverted Fullback and Wingers

The true attitude towards their buildup relies on these principles, and the players make the job of the manager, Míchel, look very smart. The team relies on the movement from the left back, Miguel Gutiérrez, who
converts to a midfielder when in possession. This creates an overload, as the other midfielders shift to the right side of the field to accommodate. Gutiérrez’s heat map (left) tells the story, especially when compared to a wing-back with a much different role in Barcelona, Alejandro Balde (right).

Positional heatmap of Gutierréz vs Balde

This allows for a build up to take place through the overloaded midfield. Once the patient buildup has opened up space for a linebreaking pass, Girona’s threat has come from Savio, their 19 winger who has recently agreed on a deal to join English and European Champions Manchester City in the summer. His impact has been phenomenal, as Savio himself leads LaLiga in assists, and his expected threat from passes and carries both rank in the top 10% of LaLiga. His chart is shown below. In the latter phase of the buildup, where Girona have set up Gutierrez in the midfield, with Savio on the left of him, and their prolific goalscorer Artem Dovbyk ahead, the passing patterns between them define their attacking creativity in the final third. Their relative one-two openings and closings lead the team, and are partly responsible for the La Liga-high 52 goals so far this season.

The utilization of the inverted fullback has impacted the approach of numerous teams in possession play. In today’s football landscape, versatile players capable of influencing various areas of the field with their diverse skill sets offer managers a fresh perspective on tactics. This, coupled with the creativity of their wingers, exploits openings for incisive passes, following a distinctive possession pattern. The form displayed by Girona as a result of this strategy has captured the attention of the soccer world worldwide, leaving a mark on the season that is sure to be acknowledged.