Getafe were not given much of a chance heading into the 2017/2018 La Liga season. Having battled their way back from Segunda to pit their wits against the country’s big sides once again, their reliance on loanees didn’t appear to give them the individual jump in quality that would be needed to make a successful transition to the top - but Jose Bordalas’ organised collective are outperforming all expectations.
Heading into the Christmas period, Los Azulones find themselves sat in eighth place, with the newly promoted sides in La Liga all currently enjoying themselves. What the three have in common are their pragmatic, organised systems that ensure the heart of the midfield is crowded, forcing opponents to try and play through their compact lines or funnel possession out wide.
As goes the cliche, home form is a vital thing to get right for a team considered to be underdogs, and this is where the bulk of Getafe’s wins have come from so far this season. Since a 4-0 victory over Villarreal in late September - which proved to be the end of the road for Fran Escriba as the Yellow Submarine’s boss - they have won three of their last four in La Liga at Coliseum Alfonso Pérez.
Only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Sevilla have managed to scrape results when Getafe have played at home, with Valencia’s unbeaten record in the division the latest casualty to Bordalas’ unforgiving approach. A deflected Markel Bergara goal was enough to snatch three points for the hosts at the weekend, making up for the fact that Real Madrid had scored an 85th-minute winner in October, Paulinho had smashed Barça to victory in the 84th minute in a 2-1 victory in September, and Ganso had flicked an undeserved winning goal home for Sevilla back in August.
Marcelino had made this very point heading into Valencia’s clash against the Madrid-based club last weekend, emphasising the fact they are capable of grinding games down until the dying stages and that their energy and aggressive nature would make them a tough test for anybody.
That prophecy came true, with a first-half red card for Mauro Arambarri only further enforcing the siege mentality that exists when Getafe find themselves on the back foot. Dropping deeper than they would normally like, the hosts defended the width of their 18-yard box and ensured that hopeful crosses into the penalty area were the only source of danger for Los Che, alongside some Dani Parejo free-kick attempts.
While this weekend was something of an exceptional circumstance given Arambarri’s early dismissal, this is certainly no flash in the pan. It is not pure negativity and luck that is snatching results for Bordalas’ men, with only the perceived big five getting tougher, harsher treatment - and rightly so. In these instances, Getafe cannot compete on a technical level and must try and level the playing field elsewhere.
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Against Valencia, they committed 18 fouls; against Madrid they made 23 against. They are adept at slowing the game down to a pace that suits them, thus forcing opponents to commit players forward to try and force the issue. Jorge Molina and Angel are the forward outlets on the break, with flying wide men Francisco Portillo and Amath keen to get up in support and use their pace and trickery.
Markel Bergara is a solid, balanced presence in central midfield, with young Uruguayan loanee Mauro Arambarri offering a hint of technical ability and class alongside him. Deeper still, Djené has become one of the revelations of the season at centre-back, with the summer signing having already extended his current contract at the club until 2023. The former Alcorcón defender is a converted right-back with a history of working with Bordalas - and his humble side shows when he is sometimes caught getting the train to Getafe’s training ground in Madrid.
At full-back, Damian Suarez offers grit on the right, while Antunes has an excellent left foot on the opposite flank. In goal, Vicente Guaita is rolling back the years and continues to put in masterclass after masterclass, with his shot-stopping and reflexes set to frustrate many more teams this season. The Spaniard is well protected, but has the physical frame to command his area and the agility to get down smartly to either side, as well as a full-stretch dive that can contend with most hopeful efforts from range.
While their defensive shape and organisation is the main hallmark of their game - and the reason that they have been able to take top teams the full distance - Getafe are also a threat on the break and from set-pieces.
Their blend of a collective cohesion and some individual star talents in Guaita, Djené, Arambarri, Bergara and Jorge Molina gives them the potential to frustrate teams defensively, while they also possess a clinical edge when they leave their battlements at pace. Molina and Angel offer experience and already have 10 goals between them across 14 matchdays.
Aside from the obvious arenas, Coliseum Alfonso Pérez is rapidly becoming one of the most-feared away jaunts in La Liga. Bordalas has his players fighting like gladiators, and the promise of further signings in January can only stand to build upon extremely sound foundations.