“It was positive, not only for the result, but for how we competed as a team.”
The words of Julen Lopetegui after Sevilla overcame Getafe thanks to Erik Lamela’s last-gasp winner at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez. The Basque coach was spot on in his assessment, but in more ways than one.
The truth is, Sevilla played poorly. For large periods of the game they were second to every ball, there were sloppy passes and they simply looked off the pace. It wasn’t until the 70th minute that Sevilla even got a shot on target.
Despite that, they kept Getafe out. 12 shots might seem more than Lopetegui would like, but those 12 shots had an average xG value of just 0.04 and not a single one was on target. In comparison, Sevilla’s nine shots chimed in at 0.11 xG on average.
Sevilla showed a mettle that is the stuff of title contenders. They played poorly, at a tough place to go, and got the result. The determination and organisation was enough to see them through their rough patches and to withhold Getafe’s growing momentum.
Their killer blow, a last-gasp counter-attack so contrary to Lopetegui’s usual style, was the antithesis of everything that Sevilla usually represent. Mixing up their approach, producing the unexpected, and fighting until the final kick of the game is what makes, or breaks, teams as they look to compete at the very top level.
That task has been made easier by a squad depth which was non-existent in the past. New arrival Erik Lamela has twice come off the bench to have a decisive say in settling the tie, Rafa Mir is a far more clinical option than Luuk de Jong, and Marko Dmitrovic impressed against Rayo Vallecano but was replaced by Bono to face Getafe.
Lopetegui has built his squad slowly since arriving in Andalusia. He’s got a team who have improved year after year, but without selling key players and retaining the likes of Lucas Ocampos, who has missed the start of this campaign due to injury. This gradual progression is what has allowed him to bleed in players like Oscar Rodriguez alongside veterans such as Fernando.
This season it’s stepping up. Gone are the days of reliance on aging stars like Jesus Navas, Fernando or Ivan Rakitic, bringing in alternatives to rotate with the arrivals of Gonzalo Montiel and Thomas Delaney. Being able to have that recipe of experience with young potential is what has allowed Sevilla to grow. More than that, on Monday night, it helped them to manage the tie and keep energy levels up in the final moments to win at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.
Decisive days lie ahead for Sevilla. Chelsea continue to circle like a bird of prey over Jules Kounde, with his €90m release clause or a more affordable deal looking tempting to the Champions League winners. There can be no doubt that Sevilla would be worse off without him. The greatest concern will be that a summer of good business could be undone by a last-minute manoeuvre from Stamford Bridge.
Lopetegui’s squad is thin on the ground in central defence even with Kounde. Diego Carlos, his usual partner, would be joined by Karim Rekik, but with no other first team options in reserve. Joris Gnagnon is expected to complete a move to France before deadline day according to Estadio Deportivo, and has not been registered by Sevilla with La Liga. Marca say that Monchi could look to bring in two more central defenders should Kounde depart, but time is quickly running out.
Handling these final days of the transfer window could be the key, but with Barcelona and Real Madrid faltering, Sevilla haven’t had a better chance of competing for the title since 2006/07. Having notched up a record point tally of 77 in 2020/21, and improved the squad in the summer, Sevilla look like contenders on paper. And on Monday night, they proved their capacity as contenders on the pitch too.