Having Ter Stegen is a blessing for a style that prioritises the generation of advantages from the first stage. “You can’t get nervous if Ter Stegen has the ball”, Junior said. “When they man-mark you, the goalkeeper must handle the ball and find the spaces. Ter Stegen is an extraordinary footballer to make decisions”, Setién explained in press conference.
The German was the fifth player with most passes in the match, even above De Jong. Interestingly, the 27-year-old made more passes to Frenkie than to Umtiti, more to Griezmann than to Sergi Roberto, and he didn’t combine once with Alba or Junior.
I loved the innovation in our build-up patterns as well. For instance, the goal kicks were always taken by one of the centre-backs, and not the keeper. Why? For various reasons. Firstly, because the centre-back passed it to Ter Stegen, allowing us to build up from the centre lane rather than from a channel. Secondly, because Getafe pressed with two forwards and thus we had a 3v2 superiority, with Marc, Piqué and Umtiti.
We used a narrow structure, with our two centre-backs being very central and Ter Stegen as the free man. Then, MATS’ first option was always to find the two interiors, who were in different heights. If not, the second option was to connect with Griezmann through a medium or long pass – which is not the same as a clearance. Obviously Antoine is not Suárez, but his hold-up play was fundamental too.
All in all, the build-up was super clean and organised, and most or all of our chances created came after one of these. With Ter Stegen, it’s not only the fact that he attempted 69 passes, the most by any keeper in a La Liga game since the 05/06 season. Instead, it’s his insane ability to overcome a man-oriented press. Regarding the new strategy in goal kicks, the n.1 said that “it’s about looking for new ideas to be stronger and make life difficult for the opponent”. And, with the whistles, he expressed: “Some fans weren’t too happy with those back passes, but they are very needed to restart from behind, be patient, especially against teams that press very high. It’s a very good solution. Sometimes it can go wrong, but you have to understand it”.