Sevilla have known high and lows in a very short time span. From the exhilarating start to life under former coach Jorge Sampaoli back in the 2016/17 season, where the Andalusian club were briefly even considered outside shots for the title, last campaign brought with it three different coaches, three different ideas and ultimately three different ways of not hitting expectations. Sitting top of LaLiga after eight match days this time around, it is time to be optimistic once more.
After impressing at Girona during his first season in charge of a LaLiga outfit, Pablo Machin was an interesting appointment from Los Nervionenses. His work at the Catalan club could not be questioned, their promotion and subsequent top-half finish in the Spanish top flight were marvellous achievements, but there was still doubt about how his system and style would transfer over to a club like Sevilla.
At Girona, Machin championed a formation that deployed three central defenders at the back and provided wing backs for his side’s width. His attacking options had a certain amount of freedom, but their aim was to be a spring-loaded threat on the counter attack. Machin’s style brought the best out of the likes of Portu, Cristhian Stuani and Borja Garcia, who enjoyed terrific form in Primera in 2017/18, as the former duo scored goals at an incredible rate for a newly promoted side.
Rather than adapt his tactics to his new squad, Machin has employed the exact same framework in his early months as Sevilla boss. Using full backs or converted wingers as his width at wing back, the summer arrival of Andre Silva gave the Spaniard his Stuani-esque centre-forward option up front. Pablo Sarabia has continued his terrific form of the last year or so as a member of the supporting cast in attack, while the likes of Ever Banega, Franco Vazquez and Roque Mesa give Machin the most quality than he has had in central midfield during his managerial career to date.
Tomas Vaclik has been an inspired signing in goal, bringing a consistent, omnipresent reliability to a position which had been a problem area for months for Sevilla, while injuries to key defensive options Sergio Escudero and Gabriel Mercado haven’t shaken their side’s foundations too much. Daniel Carrico has returned from injury and slotted straight in at centre back, as Machin’s style looks to produce performances that are of a higher quality than the sum of his squad’s collective parts.
Sevilla’s 3-4-2-1 system can allow them to look after possession nicely when given an opportunity, but is similarly a great set up for counter-attacking football after absorbing pressure in tough games. Across eight league games, they have scored 18 goals, but more importantly Los Nervionenses have conceded just eight.
While Sevilla certainly don’t boast the meanest of defences, they have struck up a good balance between exploiting weak defences to romp to big victories, and having an organised system that can sit back and weather storms. Andre Silva and Wissam Ben Yedder are enjoying their football and have a dozen goals between them in league action, while both Jesus Navas and Pablo Sarabia have offered four assists apiece from Sevilla’s right-hand side.
After initial doubts over whether Machin’s style would suit a higher-quality Sevilla squad, the last month has proven what organisation and consistency can do. While teams around them such as Real Madrid and Barcelona are struggling to rotate personnel and maintain a similar style and level of performance, Los Nervionenses already have a grasp of their best eleven and how to chop and change during congested weeks of fixtures. Starting their competitive action early in the qualifying stages of the Europa League has perhaps worked in their favour.
There may not be much in the way of unpredictability for Sevilla this season, as their coach believes in sticking steadfastly to his style of play and has clear successes to show for it. Inevitably, that will lead to some opposing tacticians finding a way to frustrate them across the course of a long season.
For now, however, Los Nervionenses are enjoying their football, scoring goals and have taken a huge confidence boost by heading into an international break at the summit of LaLiga. Recent weeks suggest that their positive run could stretch for a long while yet.