Sampaoli’s Sevilla off to a flyer

The Supercopa Euroamericana match between the winners of the Europa League and the winners of the Copa Sudamericana may be a made-up tournament, created by DirecTV as a way to make a few extra bucks, but for Sevilla it was still a serious test of their 2016-17 squad and of their new Coach and they passed it with flying colours.

By defeating Colombian side Independiente Santa Fe 2-1 just days after dispatching River Plate 3-1, Jorge Sampaoli has now won his first two games in charge of the Andalusian club.

So what have we learned so far? Well, the main thing to take away from the two matches, both played in Orlando, is that the Argentine is not yet set on which defensive shape to use. In the first friendly against River Plate, Sampaoli opted for a back three, which he used so often with Chile to great effect, and it worked well against the Buenos Aires side. Although River Plate were able to create some dangerous opportunities and score once, Sevilla compensated for their far-from-solid defensive setup by overpowering their opponents in attack, in the same way that Chile used to do.

Against Independiente, however, Sevilla started with a back four, which offered a little extra defensive solidity, but it did not last for long as Nicolas Pareja picked up a red card just before the half-hour mark, forcing Sampaoli to switch back to a defensive trio of Coke, Timothee Kolodziejczak and Sergio Escudero. It will be interesting, therefore, to see whether he plays three or four at the back in next week’s friendly match against German side Mainz since he clearly wanted to try out a back four against the Colombians, but only got to see it in action for half-an-hour.

Further up the field, Sampaoli has also been experimenting with various shapes in these two fixtures. In the first match there was a very fluid six-man midfield between the back three and centre-forward Kevin Gameiro. Pablo Sarabia may have started out on the right and Vitolo on the left, but both players repeatedly interchanged with their midfield colleagues in a dizzyingly fluid fashion.

There was a slightly more orthodox look to the team in the 4-3-3 system that Sevilla used to start Tuesday’s match and it could be argued that they were more effective in attack this way. With players fully understanding their position and that of their teammates, passing was much crisper in the first half-hour against Independiente. Yevhen Konoplyanka looked particularly impressive, for example, by scoring once and assisting Kevin Gameiro to build up a 2-0 lead after just 21 minutes.

Yet this does not mean that the fluid midfield will or should be consigned to the dustbin. After a few more sessions with Sampaoli, Sevilla will surely rehearse and eventually master their midfield interchanging, which is incredibly exciting for season ticket holders at the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium. Sampaoli has already shown that he plans to mould Sevilla into a majorly attacking outfit.