Imanol Alguacil’s Tactics Used for Real Sociedad: How the Basque Youth System Succeded

March 09, 2024

by xfcedi

Imanol Alguacil's Tactics Used for Real Sociedad

By Eduard Bănulescu

Imanol Alguacil’s tactics have made Real Sociedad into one of the most fun to watch teams in European football over the last few years. And, even though the team has just been eliminated by Paris Saint-Germain from the Champions League, it’s also turned them into a surprisingly successful side.

Last season, Real Sociedad finished fourth in La Liga. That, together with an attacking, visually appealing style turned them into the neutral’s favorites back in Spain.

All of these are the reasons why today I am looking at Imanol Alguacil’s tactics used for Real Sociedad and attempting to predict just how well the team will perform next.

Career Prior to Joining Real Sociedad

Real Sociedad, along with Athletic Bilbao, are the pride of the Basque Country. So much so, in fact, that at one time, Sociedad had a policy of exclusively recruiting Basque youth players. This is an important detail in our story.

Imanol Alguacil Barrenetxea was born in the Basque country and represented Real Sociedad from an early age. A youth graduate of the club, he broke into the first team in 1990 and played for eight years. The right-back also represented teams like Villareal before retiring in 2003.

Alguacil began earning his coaching badges and got the opportunity to manage his boyhood club, Real Sociedad, in 2011. He was first the youth manager but moved up the ranks. Since 2018, he has been the team’s manager. In 2024, he guided the club to a fourth-place finish and followed it up by winning their UCL group. His greatest achievement so far was winning Coppa del Rey in 2020.

Football Philosophy

Imanol Alguacil’s tactics are extremely popular with hardcore football fans. It’s easy to understand why. His football philosophy involves playing attacking, visually pleasing football. He is known to nurture young talent, with the team’s current best players being academy graduates. And it’s all worked. Real Sociedad has battled it out with Real Madrid, Atletico, and FC Barcelona over recent years.

Real Sociedad uses the size of the football pitch to its advantage. The team plays with great width, constantly trying to destabilize opposition teams. In attack, they create a numerical advantage meant to break down defensive lines.

Sociedad players are constantly on the move, switching roles and forcing the opposition to commit players to mark them. Alguacil’s attackers will then try to exploit the open space. Meanwhile, supporting players will ask for the ball regardless of pressure. This encourages a positive, direct passing display.

Imanol Alguacil's Tactics Used for Real Sociedad

Formations and adaptability

Imanol Alguacil is an experienced manager who adapts his tactics to the opposition his team faces. The fact that he has worked with Real Sociedad’s core group of players for a long time certainly helps in asking the players to adopt tactical tweaks.

Before this season, Alguacil was known to primarily use the 4-1-4-1 formation. But, often this is merely the jump-off point to other tactics. This season, Real Sociedad has more often played in a shape resembling a 4-3-3. The manager has even experimented with a five-man defense on a couple of occasions.

In other words, Alguacil is not a slave to a certain set of tactics. His principles can be applied across a variety of scenarios, and the manager is not about making changes that work to his team’s advantage.

Real Sociedad in Defense

Real Sociedad wouldn’t be able to enjoy such attacking freedom unless the defensive structure provided the anchor that the team needs. Imanol Alguacil’s football philosophy at Real Sociedad is anchored on a structured, cohesive defensive approach that emphasizes teamwork, discipline, and tactical intelligence.

In terms of regaining possession, Alguacil is a modern manager who shares Jurgen Klopp‘s gegenpressing philosophy. Alguacil prefers his team to engage in high pressing, where players apply pressure on their opponents high up the pitch. This tactic is designed to disrupt the opposing team’s buildup play and force errors, allowing Real Sociedad to regain possession closer to the opponent’s goal.

lguacil’s side typically employs zonal marking rather than man-to-man. In this system, players are responsible for covering specific areas of the pitch rather than tracking individual opponents. This approach helps maintain the team’s structural integrity and ensures that players are well-positioned to intercept passes and initiate counter-attacks.

In defense, Real Sociedad maintains a compact shape, reducing the space between lines. The team moves as a unit, ensuring that gaps are minimized, and opponents have fewer opportunities to exploit.

Finally, Real Sociedad practices a kind of modern version of Total Football. The full-backs play a crucial role in Alguacil’s defensive setup. They are expected to contribute both offensively and defensively. And, The central midfielders are key in providing defensive support, breaking up play, and covering the spaces left by advancing full-backs.

Real Sociedad in Attack

Sociedad has boasted of having some of the most exciting attacking players in La Liga in recent years. This has worked to such an extent because of the player’s willingness to respect lguacil’s tactical setup.

Sociedad scores most of their goals from inside the penalty area, most specifically from crosses. They rely on great movement, speed and overloading the area to create goalscoring threats. But, they’ve also relied on the skill of players like Mikel Oyarzabal, one of the world’s finest number 10s, as well as Takefusa Kubo or Ander Barrenetxea.

Alguacil favors a possession-based style, where maintaining control of the ball is paramount. The team builds attacks methodically from the back, with players encouraged to retain possession and make thoughtful, calculated passes to advance up the field.

Real Sociedad exploits the width of the pitch, utilizing full-backs and wingers to stretch the opposition’s defense. Overlapping runs by the full-backs contribute to the team’s attacking width, providing crosses into the box and supporting the wingers in creating chances from the flanks.

While the team emphasizes possession, there is also a focus on verticality and quick transitions. When the opportunity arises, Real Sociedad looks to transition rapidly from defense to attack, exploiting spaces left by the opposition. This approach often involves direct passes to bypass midfield lines or quick combinations to move the ball forward efficiently.

Finally, set-pieces are another important aspect of Alguacil’s attacking strategy. The team works on well-rehearsed routines to maximize scoring opportunities from free-kicks and corners, with specific players targeted for their aerial ability and finishing skills.

What next for Imanol Alguacil and Real Sociedad?

Imanol Alguacil is a lucky man. He has the job of his dreams. Real Sociedad is a lucky club that benefits from the talent and commitment of the manager.

Real Sociedad is a team condemned to constantly attempt to improve, scout new talent, and find ways to overcome their wealthier, more famous La Liga opponents. But they are certainly on the right track. Alguacil and Sociedad have built something impressive, and it is only recently that they have begun truly taking advantage of their work.



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