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The Rayo Report: Real Oviedo 2-3 Rayo Vallecano - Midfield Madness and Wingers Win (21st August, 2017)

Welcome to a brand new tactical analysis series, called The Rayo Report! For the first time on this blog I will (attempt) to tactically analyse each and every Rayo league game.

I emphasize on the word 'attempt'.

Real Oviedo vs Rayo Vallecano. Starting Lineups.

Míchel and Juan Antonio Anquela both went with unusual, yet predictable, lineups.

Rayo were essentially playing Trashorras and two attacking midfielders in midfield which struggled to defend but was technically astounding going forward. Óscar Trejo played something between a true 9 and a false 9 - sometimes distracting and pressing defenders, other times making late runs into the box or even dropping deep into midfield.

In contrast, Oviedo went for a front four that was both fluid and tactically near perfect. It became the centerpiece of Oviedo's attack as well as its defending from the front. But it also meant that their midfield was exposed throughout the game.

This was an end-to-end game - partly due to a lack of midfield control - but Rayo held out for the win in the end.

Oviedo's brilliant attack vs Rayo's shaky defense

Because Álex Moreno is not really a left-back but more of a left winger playing deep, it meant that Rayo were playing three against four essentially. Dorado vs Linares was an interesting battle - Dorado even received a yellow card later on in the game, which summed up a frustrating night. Linares was excellent at dropping deep and evading Dorado.

The second interesting thing was that Amaya had a disastrous game, unusual for such a consistent defender. Toché kept making runs towards goal, and Saúl Berjón kept running at the space between Galán and Amaya. Galán mostly did an excellent job covering Berjón - but sometimes he had to do too much in terms of covering for Amaya's lack of concentration and Berjón had an excellent game.

Lastly, Aarón Ñíguez, an attacking midfielder, played on the right wing and constantly exploited the space behind either Álex Moreno or in midfield, which we will get into. Moreno did get back and defend but it was often too little, too late.

Oviedo had an excellent game going forward - they could have easily won this game had they taken their chances.

Midfield madness

This was where Rayo initially struggled. Unai López was coming into a role being played by Raúl Baena or Fran Beltrán - competent technically but brilliant at "doing the dirty work". Predictably, the attacking midfielder was awful in this game defensively - he ended up running around chasing the ball and leaving Trashorras to do something that I have never seen before - make tackles. The only surprise was that he wasn't subbed off earlier. His yellow card came from him literally leaping onto an Oviedo player's back, almost as if he was celebrating a goal with a teammate!

In fact, the first goal was predictable, if unlucky - an innocuous throw in came in from Rayo's left flank, Unai López ran to the ball and headed it straight into the channel between Amaya and Galán, and Berjón was quick enough to run into that channel and hit it first time. 1-0.

It was the first of three times that Amaya lost Toché and consequently Galán lost Berjón. The second time was in the second half, when Berjón had too much time on the ball and crossed it in, with Toché inches away from the goal. The third time was Oviedo's second goal to make it 3-2, when a long ball from Oviedo's half left Amaya chasing Toché, and Galán was defending Berjón 1-v-1 with Toché free.

New signing Ramón Folch, who was in the top 5 passers list last season with Reus Deportiu, kept Oviedo ticking and may well turn out to be the signing of the summer. But it was David Rocha who surprised - a defensive midfielder, he unusually went up against Unai López, which left the back line exposed and leaving him needing to run back and forth - he was predictably subbed off.

It meant that Rayo could simply pass around the midfield with no consequences. But it also meant that Santi Comesaña was the player to beat. He regularly popped up behind the attack and even on the wings, and was involved in both Rayo goals (in open play).

The battle on Rayo's left-wing

One of the reasons both teams struggled so much was that each team had a full back who got exposed. What was surprising was that it was on the same side - Oviedo's right back Guillermo Cotugno destroyed Rayo's left flank with his overlaps and made sure that Moreno was occupied. But it also meant that Oviedo were defending against the pace of Embarba, Trejo and Aguirre, and there was only going to be one winner.

Aguirre kept taking on Héctor Verdés and largely winning due to sheer pace. Embarba frustrated Christian Fernández so much that his highlight was the yellow card he got for bringing down the Rayo winger. And Trejo's unusual role confused Valentini so much he had to be subbed off.

It wasn't even close - after Amaya's goal from an Embarba free kick, the momentum was on Rayo's side and Rayo were on the front foot.

The two goals that Rayo subsequently scored summed up everything. The first was when Diego Aguirre took on Verdés, and passed it to Santi on the wing. Trejo distracted Valentini with a run, Santi took his time and crossed it for Embarba, whose run left Christian looking dead beat. 1-2.

Rayo's second in the second half was even simpler. Rayo had just turned the ball over. Diego Aguirre made a run towards the goal. Santi, in central attacking midfield and with Rocha and Folch in Rayo's half, crossed the ball into the box, Trejo made a run from deep and connected with the ball and Aguirre, unmarked, finished from six yards out.

Literally a minute later, Rocha was off for creative but deep midfielder Patrik Hidi - unmarked, his long ball led to Oviedo's second goal.

How did the managers do?

Juan Antonio Anquela made amazing substitutions. Bringing on Hidi for Rocha in the 60th minute was a power move for Oviedo's midfield. Mossa for Valentini in the 67th gave Oviedo pace in defense, and nullified Trejo. Diegui for Cotugno (also 67th) just meant that Oviedo had an actual right back.

Míchel's substitutions were superb but for their timing. Aguirre's substitution for Lass in the 79th minute was quietly genius - not only did it mean Embarba could rest a little by staying on the left, it meant Christian had a torrid time for all 90 minutes. Fran came on for Unai only in the 80th minute - Oviedo never had a shot on goal again despite Rayo defending deep in their half. Reduced to harmless crosses from the wing, Oviedo never looked like coming back.

Both should have come much earlier in the game, however.

Conclusion

Oviedo have a squad that is ready but needs to sort out the tactical kinks in midfield. Rayo still need at least two signings, one in central defense and one or two in attack. But they also might want to consider that Unai is simply not the midfield destroyer they need - apart from Fran Beltrán the only other player who could potentially play that role is Francisco Cerro. Time will tell.

It's too early to judge, but both sides were promising today. And they do have have many positives - one of them being their attack. Diego Aguirre, Trejo and Embarba were superb today, and so were Berjón, Toché, Linares and Aarón. The other being their metronomes - Trashorras still looks strong and Folch's rise on the Spanish football ladder makes him one to watch for top clubs.

Watch out Segunda. Real Oviedo and Rayo are coming.

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