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Monday May 20 2019
Giovani Lo Celso the star in flawed Betis season

Quique Setien's coaching talents maximised the impact of Giovani Lo Celso but it wasn't enough to save him at Real Betis, writes Kaustubh Pandey.

After an impressive sixth-place finish to guarantee a Europa League campaign, Real Betis were expected to go a level up or at least stay where they were. In that regard, the campaign has been disappointing for Quique Setien’s side. On that basis, it seems rather deserved that he has now left the club.

While they have caught the eyes of many across Europe remarkably because of scoring four against Barcelona and possession-oriented football, it is the lack of as many goals as last season that cost them in addition to conceding more goals too.

It is needless to say that Betis played the way Setien wants his teams to play. They like to dominate possession and form triangles in their short-passing, dragging opposition defenses apart with slickness in movement and passing. They boasted the second highest amount of average possession this season - 59.6 percent. They also had the third highest passing percentage in the league - 86.7 percent.

Defensively, Betiswere found wanting when the opposition press them high up the pitch or when they foundspaces in areas that wereleft behind while pressing. But they were like this the previousseason too. In fact, they conceded more goals in 2017/18than they have this season.

Los Verdiblancos may have been good to watch a lot of times going forward, but they oftenlacked intensity in press. The players looked tired and therewas a lack of cohesion in that system, even though it was bright a lot of times. Considering Setien spent around €68m, it has been an under-achievement.

But that €68m includes the €25m fee that Betis shelled out to sign Giovani Lo Celso permanently from Paris Saint-Germain. He hasbeen the man without whom Setien might already have been sacked, as he continues to possibly totter on the edge now.

The 23-year-old Argentine was probably the club’s best player this season, scoring 13 times and assisting four morein all competitions. He was the man that Betis relied on to take the ball forward from midfield to the attackingareas. His presence bound the side together at a time when they would have appeareddisjointed without him.

It is no wonder thathe attempted two dribbles per game this season and played 0.8 key passes per game too. The energy and fire he brought to the plate went a long way in helping Betis finish just three points behind a possible Europa League spot. It also formed the basis of a side that relies on pressing and intensity while moving the ball in advanced areas.

The fact that he initially was a deadline day loan signing from PSG presents it as a very successful piece of business for Betis, but Setien leaving will not please the Argentine. That system had brought the best out of him and playing under the same system would surely have put him on the radar of some bigger clubs out there. It helped Lo Celso discover his attacking abilities further up the field than in the more defensive role that he often played at PSG.

Although Betis spent a lot, the signing of William Carvalho has not proved to be a big success. That has not helped the side in staying away from conceding goals and making things easier for the centre-halves.

One thing is for sure; Lo Celso represents the future of this club,for at least another season. It could soon prove to be a case of him having to play at a side that has a better set of players or simply more consistent teammates. Under another Coach who taps into his abilities like Setien did, it will not be a surprise if the giants of Spain come after him soon.

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