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Tigres’ defense a cause for concern in victory over Santos

Ferretti’s defensive specialists must improve vastly from Saturday’s performance if they wish to be playing come December

Tigres UANL v Santos Laguna - Torneo Guard1anes 2020 Liga MX Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

After a solid first half of the match on Saturday night, Tigres managed to make it count with an André-Pierre Gignac goal in the 14th minute, thanks to a faulty defensive coverage by Diego Valdés coupled with an off-target dive by keeper Carlos Acevedo which ended up sending the ball into his own net. Tigres continued harrassing the Santos goal and prevented them from creating any real threat. That is, until a couple minutes before half-time, when Santos sent a free-kick cross into the box. The entire Tigres defense had planned to run forward in unison, leaving the Santos attackers offside. And it would’ve worked too, had it not been for Gignac’s failed showmanship. In the end, Nahuel Guzmán prevented Santos from tying the game up at 1.

Once the second half was underway, after a header by Francisco Meza and a wide open shot by Vargas were both saved by Acevedo, that was the last we heard from Tigres’ offense until their second goal which came in stoppage time. The final 35 minutes were an armed assault by Santos, with a seemingly non-existent Tigres defense, except for Nahuel Guzmán, of course; a great through ball that Furch was unable to put away, a cross from the left side that squeaked by two wide-open Santos players, a shot fired from outside the box that went just wide of the goal, a corner kick cross that was won by Santos and ended in a Gorriarán shot attempt just out of the six-yard box that was miraculously blocked by Dueñas, a cross sent in during stoppage time, where the ball was left floating in the six-yard box that somehow ended in a missed scissor kick by Santos, and even a throw-in headed Salcedo’s direction, while the Mexican defender appeared to be distracted as he tied his shoe or something of the sort, culminating with the play ending dangerously in Tigres’ box. You get the idea.

All the previously mentioned actions are not usual of the Tigres defense, especially when they all come in one game, and that specific game is being played in the Universitario, against a bottom-third club no less. Ferretti-led teams pride themselves on perfectionist-level organization and hard defending. They always end up in the conversation for league’s lowest goal total allowed. Throughout their golden decade, defense is what got them those five league titles. Their faulty offense is usually bailed out by their all-star defense. On Saturday, however, the four center pieces to Tigres defense (Ayala, Meza, Duelas, and Carioca), were completely overrun in those final 35 minutes. Santos should’ve put up a 3 or 4 spot on Nahuel and company, but as they’ve done all season, they struggled on the road once again, and ultimately payed for it.

In relation to the end result, this wasn’t the typical Tigres victory; all eleven players sitting back in their own half, clinging to a one-goal lead, utterly dominated and ultimately getting lucky. No way. Tigres usually dominate ball possession immensely; on Saturday they barely had 53% of possession. That number is low compared to other home matches. To add insult to injury, the offense was unable to take control of the ball and counter Santos’ attacks in the way they had during the first 55 minutes.

In conclusion, Tigres can in no way expect to contend for a title with this kind of defensive effort. They may be able to escape from lesser talented offensive teams such as Santos, but when facing América, Rayados, or León, they will make them pay. There’s no excuse for allowing your rival so many wide-open attempts, and such a poor defensive showing can only leave one pondering about the future this season holds for Tigres. It also provides explanation for why their season has gone the way it has; with their offense still finding rhythm and their defense allowing just over a goal per game, no wonder they’ve managed to win only three games out of the first ten. While the offensive end for Tigres looked extremely promising on Saturday, but that won’t matter at all if “Tuca” can’t get his defensive end under control and back to what we’re used to seeing. In short, Tigres’ entire ‘title-contender’ status depends on them having a strong defense.