Scene 1: Oct 19, 2018– Real Madrid sacked Julen Lopetegui for his side’s disastrous performance. The ex Spanish national team boss has lost 6 of the 14 games he managed for the capital side including El Classico
Scene 2: August 22, 2020– Sevilla have lifted their 6th Europa league title. The sole credit goes to their manager Julen Lopetegui who helped this young side to win European success as well as finishing top4 in La Liga.
If the dates were not mentioned it would be very hard to believe for the readers that the situation can change so drastically for a person within such a small gap. From being considered as one of the failed managers in Spanish club football to one of the best in this season he travelled a long way and that too in a very short time and the story behind that is nothing less than a fairy tale.
Sevilla Squad Overview
When Julen Lopetegui took charge he was handed over a new squad by Sevilla management. The scouting team under their sporting director Ramon Rodriguez (Monchi) have signed premium talents from all over the world. They changed the whole squad and completed 20 new signings along with their previous manager Pablo Machin. This proved to be a blessing in disguise for Lopetegui. Most of the new footballers have proven effective for them this season. Players like Luke De Jong, Lucas Ocampos, Jules Kounde, Diego Carlos have overperformed concerning their price tag. So Monchi deserves some credit in this success story.
The main job of Julen Lopetegui was to guide this young team in the right direction. And he did that perfectly. He doesn’t have to improvise a lot tactically as he got the perfect set of players for his system. His team got the perfect blend of youth and experience. The main thing he introduced is the killing mentality.
In his Sevilla side, none are best individually but as a unit, they can be a tough competitor for any side in the world. He used his experience as a manager of the Spanish national side to create a healthy environment in the dressing room where everyone tries to adapt according to their teammate’s game. He got experienced players in each and every sector including captain Jesus Navas who can lead the team.
Tactical changes brought in by Julen Lopetegui
As said earlier Julen Lopetegui doesn’t have to improvise much in his style of play. He mostly used his 4-3-3 possessional system. The only thing he added is the speed which was missing in his time at Real Madrid. He used Luke De Jong as the target man who would receive the long balls from midfield and defence and lays it in the path of Ocampos and Suso who uses their speed and positioning to get behind the defensive line.
He also uses his fullbacks to overlap and provide the necessary width for the side. Banega is his main creative heart. He acts like a bridge connecting both defence and attack. Joan Jordan plays as the box to box mid. He provides support both for the defence and attack. Under Julen Lopetegui Sevilla scored 1.4 goals per match. He transformed Sevilla from a slow defensive side to one of the best-attacking sides of the league.
Sevilla had been solid defensively this season. They have kept 17 clean sheets this season which is second best after Real Madrid(19). Lopetegui always believed defence is the key to any team’s success and he had injected it inside the veins of his side. Sevilla is not among the high pressing sides. They like to maintain their shape instead of pressing high.
Without possession, they like to maintain a 4-4-2 shape in which Ocampos and De Jong stays upfront near the centerline. Suso drops in the mid to form a midfield 4. They create a screen in front of the defence and create a midblock. This forces opponent to go to to the wing and the areal crosses can be easily neutralized by their two centre back pairs. So in a word, Sevilla’s success is mainly dependent on their defence.
‘Our team never surrenders!’ – Lopetegui
The partnership of Monchi and Lopetegui has done miracles for Sevilla. They have won Europa League but more important is that they started a project. A project of making the side La Liga giants along with maintaining financial stability.
Frankly, Lopetegui is perfect for this type of project. He likes an environment where there is no pressure of winning trophies immediately rather there is a scope of developing a-side into the world’s best. He is perfect for Sevilla and he can stand out through the expectations of Sevilla fans.
What do you think about the success story of Julen Lopetegui in Sevilla? Please let us know in the comment section below.