After a successful 2021 – 22 campaign, the Heliopolitanos are having a great start to the new season too, confirming to be a team to follow closely under manager Manuel Pellegrini

Having led Real Betis to one of the finest seasons in their history last time around, where they won the Copa del Rey and finished an impressive fifth in LaLiga, Manuel Pellegrini has carried this momentum into the 2022/2023 campaign.

Beginning the season exceptionally, they currently sit third in LaLiga behind only Real Madrid and Barcelona having won five of their six matches.

Boasting a nice blend of youth and experience, plus immense squad depth and star power in the form of Sergio Canales and Nabil Fekir, all the signs are promising that they'll be right in the mix for Champions League qualification after narrowly missing out last term.

Tactically intriguing and always entertaining to watch, Pellegrini's come up with a winning formula that plays to his team's strengths to ensure their qualities are maximized.

Typically setting up his team in a base 4-2-3-1, this has provided the platform for them to be such a force to be reckoned with going forward especially. Flexible, adaptable, balanced and with so many weapons, they've been a joy to watch and a nightmare for teams to come up against, as the fast-starting Betis have proved a tough side to keep quiet.

Wanting his troops to build out from the back whenever possible, the Chilean tactician instructs his team to be patient in possession while they wait for a weakness in the opposition. Often keeping the fullbacks deeper when passing out from the back and getting one of the holding midfielders in William Carvalho or Guido Rodriguez to drop, they've excelled at giving the ball holder options, generating numerical and positional superiorities and stretching opposition pressing structures.

Guido Rodriguez dropping deep into the first line to form a 3v2 - image created with Wyscout Playlist & Draw

The presence of Canales and Fekir then serves as a real game changer for them, for they take full advantage of the freedom afforded to them by Pellegrini to knit passages together and expertly find space. So good at timing their movements and blessed with elite spatial awareness to avoid cover shadows, form overloads and occupy ideal areas to support attacks, the dynamic duo have been exceptional.

Canales creating a 4v3 to beat the press smoothly
Canales smartly dropping from a 4v3
Forming a 5v4 to progress out from the back

Dropping smartly into true central midfield locations, connecting play in the strategically beneficial half spaces or operating between the lines in front of the opposition backline, they've effectively manufactured conditions to inject life into attacks.

Canales finding room masterfully to be the free man

What's more, how they drop into auxiliary fullback areas to receive so they can get on the ball under less pressure and with more time and space to dictate the play, plus playmake from deep and open the entire field of play, has enhanced their menace.

Helping give their team unpredictability, fluidity and seeing Betis attack in asymmetric shapes, opposition rearguards are constantly faced with conundrums in regard to who should be marking them in what zone.

Moreover, their presence has also been effective at pinning and drawing adversaries out of shape, with this conjuring space for teammates and opening passing lanes.

Upon factoring in how Betis execute subtle rotations across their frontline, this compounds issues for adversaries by generating disconnects and placing doubt in the minds of defenders. Couple this with complementary understandings Canales and Fekir share with each other, plus the likes of Rodri, Borja Iglesias, Juanmi and Luiz Henrique, and this sees them all take turns to run in behind, come short and push wide to further frustrate backlines.

Moreover, the way Iglesias drops deep and occupies defenders to allow runners to then attack the freshly made space (opposite movements) has been a vital weapon as well.

Clever opposite movements as Borja drops deep to create room for Rodri to run in behind

To keep the focus on Iglesias, and the role he plays is a key piece of Betis' puzzle, for he not only offers a fine scoring threat and is instinctive with his movement, but his presence is valuable in helping his team win second balls when his team go long or clear quickly. Able to hold the ball up and outmuscle defenders with his strength, plus win-headed knockdowns and flick-ons, he's a fine target man and outlet.

Expertly timed run in behind by Borja

His aerial prowess comes in handy for crossing situations and set pieces at either end, with this neatly accompanying his crafty depth runs, movement inside the box and link play.

Seeing as Los Verdiblancos will often have one winger come inside, in combination with the buzzing space invaders of Canales and Fekir, this means Iglesias can have support in close proximity to lay the ball off smartly to forward-facing teammates, who can immediately add momentum into their final third excursions.

The wingers and fullbacks then bring so much to the table, with their coalescing amplifying Betis' nuisance. While marauding left-back Alex Moreno has particularly caught the eye with his barnstorming bursts and incisive crossing, the likes of Youssouf Sabaly, Aitor Ruibal and Martin Montoya have done their jobs well on the right too.

Wickedly timed run in behind by Moreno

Getting their mechanics spot on to get the most of their wing play, new signing Henrique will usually supply the width on the right as Moreno does the same on the opposite flank, as they stretch backlines horizontally and vertically and can use their 1v1 skills to make headway.

As a result, whoever plays at left winger, Juanmi or Rodri, can come infield to get dangerous in the 10 and half spaces and get close to Iglesias, thus allowing Moreno to overlap with gusto. Whereas on the right, the full-back can then underlap into gaps due to Henrique's wide stationing.

Neat underlapping run by Montoya as Henrique holds the width

They don't solely use this approach, for they all rotate and mix things up to bring some variety to their wing play in their quest to destabilize their foes.

Some extra points of note come from Carvalho's mazy upfield bursts, how they spring to life on the counter and how well they populate the box on different heights and depths so the ball holder has options at the near or back post and in the middle.

Superb cross and blindside run by Rodri before scoring. Also, note how the forwards occupy the defenders
Going 4v4 as they target different areas with their runs into the box

Able to hurt opponents in so many ways, the numbers illustrate why this multifaceted Betis are so feared, for they rank fourth for goals scored (10), fifth for through balls (6.69 p90), fifth for smart passes (4.91 p90), fifth for fouls suffered (12.20 p90), seventh for 1v1 dribbling (23.21 p90) and eighth for possession (52.40%).

Meanwhile, even though they aren't as exceptional defensively despite only conceding four goals so far (equal third best in LaLiga), where they can be a touch passive, be susceptible to overloads in midfield and get caught in transition courtesy of their desire to pour numbers forward, there's still been much to admire about their stopping output.

Sticking to their tried and trusted 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 shape, their aim when pressing is to block access into key central areas and usher opponents wider, where they can shift across aggressively and use the touchline as an extra defender. Their diagonal pressing is important to note as well, for this means they can use cover shadows to block passing lanes infield to completely hem in their targets.

Eager to mark the deepest central mids and step to the central defenders if possible to cut supply lines then use a pass to the fullbacks or wingbacks as a trigger to ramp up their harrying, Pellegrini always comes prepared.

Betis' smartly coordinated and angled press
Well devised and executed pressing scheme

Another key aspect of their press is how the central defenders aggressively follow their opponents deep when they come towards the ball with their back. Looking to prevent them from turning, controlling cleanly or laying the ball off to kickstart attacks, they've done this successfully to break up moves before they can develop.

Aggressive pressing from center-back when his man drops deep to help Betis regain the ball high

Counterpressing with a good degree of success when they lose the ball high up has meant they've done a solid job of regaining possession as soon as they lose it, in order to attack again vs. disorganized backlines. If they don't win the ball back, though, sometimes they can be badly exposed if their usual protection of the two holding mids and center-backs are out of shape. But all in all, the positives outweigh the negatives in this regard.

Compact, organized and disciplined in a mid-block ahead of the excellent Rui Silva in goal, opponents struggle to break them down in these instances due to their shifting, closing down of spaces and the aerial prowess they have in their last line to deal with balls into the box.

Now in his third season of his outstanding project at the Benito Villamarin, Pellegrini, who has just turned 69 and reached 100 games in charge, is showing little sign of slowing down.

Finding the perfect recipe to get his team firing on all cylinders and mixing it with the heavy hitters in LaLiga, his ability to foster brilliant team chemistry, get everyone on the same page and instill his tactical philosophy has been the catalyst to propel Betis to great heights again this term.

The challenge will now be maintaining their high level, as the battle for glory both domestically and in Europe, in what looms as a hectic and exhilarating ride ahead for this ambitious Betis outfit.

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