WhoScored La Liga All Star XI - Gameweeks 4-5

Real Betis top the table after five rounds of La Liga matches, though just two points separate them from 7th-placed Valencia, in what has been a refreshing start to the Spanish season. Barcelona lead the chasing pack though, just one point off the summit after another Lionel Messi hat-trick ended Atletico’s good run of form. Real Madrid recovered from an unexpected draw at Santander to put six past Rayo Vallecano, while big-spending Malaga ground out the results to climb up to 6th in the table. In a week where we saw two rounds of matches for each team, here’s the lowdown on three of the best performers from WhoScored’s La Liga XI:

Alvaro Dominguez, Atletico Madrid. WhoScored rating 8.9
The centre half played in only one of his side’s two games, the 4-0 home romp over Gijon. The match saw Atletico pick up their second win in a row and they bossed the proceedings, with 61% possession. Gijon arrived on the back of three straight losses but Dominguez’s performance at the back ensured they were never likely to end this losing streak- the visitors managed just 3 shots all game, with only 1 on target.


WhoScored La Liga All Star XI - Gameweeks 4-5

As the player position map (right) shows, defensive central midfielder Paulo Assuncao (12) dropped deep and protected the centre halves Dominguez (18) and Miranda (23). With the centre backs spread apart, the full-backs were afforded plenty of license to attack. Assuncao made 5 tackles before being replaced by Mario Suarez (3 tackles, 2 interceptions) while behind them, Dominguez was the stand-out central defender. He made 4 tackles and 3 interceptions compared to Miranda’s 1 and 2 respectively. Dominguez was also magnificent in the air, winning 100% of his aerial duels, while Miranda won 50%.

In possession, Dominguez had 69 touches and played 57 passes –the third most of the home side- with a brilliant 89% accuracy. He also had 2 shots at goal, scoring his side’s second in the 68th minute. In spite of his display, Domiguez was surprisingly benched for Atletico’s next match- a trip to Barcelona. Replacement Diego Godin could do little about the 5-0 loss, coming away with a WhoScored rating of just 5.5.

Jeremy Toulalan, Malaga. WhoScored rating 8.3
While Santi Cazorla hogs the headlines for the big-spenders, Toulalan – a summer signing from Lyon- has been brilliantly and quietly efficient. With three wins and a draw in their last four games, Malaga have climbed to 6th in La Liga –just two points off the top- and with only two goals conceded, have the best defensive record in the division.

Playing in the double pivot in his side’s 4-2-3-1, the Frenchman adds steel in front of his back-four and allows the likes of Cazorla and Joaquin the freedom to create further up the pitch. His displays in both Malaga’s matches last week personify his style of play. A 1-0 home win over Athletic Bilbao saw the visitors manage 59% possession but just 3 shots on target and Toulalan’s defensive output was fantastic- 6 tackles and 8 interceptions, in addition to 2 clearances, demonstrates his reading of the game as he broke up attack after attack.

Toulalan rarely gets involved in the build-up play- just 53 touches and 29 passes, with an 83% possession, but his stand-out defensive work earned him 7.85 in the victory- second only to goalscorer Cazorla.


WhoScored La Liga All Star XI - Gameweeks 4-5

The second match saw Malaga travel to Zaragoza; with the home side winning the previous match in front of their own fans, Toulalan’s side were perhaps the underdogs. Malaga controlled the game, however, with 56% possession, and once again much was down to a sublime defensive performance from the Frenchman.


As this player position map shows (above left), Toulalan (8) is quite happy just to sit deep, affording Duda (17), his partner in the double pivot, a slightly more advanced role. Malaga made 23 tackles over the course of the game and Toulalan produced 10 of those- a magnificent effort. Still, this paled into insignificance when compared to his 13 interceptions, as he produced a one-man midfield barrier to defy his hosts.

Again, his passes (42) were fairly minimal, with an 83% accuracy, as the Frenchman had 77 touches overall. A WhoScored rating of 8.8 earned him the man of the match award and overall for the season, his 7.75 rating is even threatening Cazorla’s 7.96- a clear indication of how Toulalan will be just as key to Malaga’s success this season as the ex-Villarreal man.

Roque Santa Cruz, Real Betis. WhoScored rating 8.9
The former Man City striker earned his place in the WhoScored XI for his display in Betis’ one game of the week, a 4-3 home win over Real Zaragoza. The shock leaders have had a brilliant start to the campaign, winning their first four games and despite losing at Getafe on Monday, still head Barcelona by a point at the summit.


WhoScored La Liga All Star XI - Gameweeks 4-5

Fielded as the lone forward in Betis’ 4-2-3-1, the player position map (right) show Santa Cruz (16) played relatively deep, with right winger Jonathan Pereira (9) bombing on forward but this is only half the story of how the match unfolded. Santa Cruz did tend to drop back, winning 6 aerial duels as he flicked on high balls and crosses for his team mates, but it also has plenty to do with a red card for home keeper Casto in the 69th minute of the match.

Santa Cruz had opened the scoring after just 7 minutes and by the time he scored his second goal, Betis were 4-1 up and cruising after just 49 minutes. The sending off, however, forced Betis to adopt a more defensive mind-set and this handed the attacking initiative to their opponents. Zaragoza swarmed forward, finally winning the battle for possession (52%) and fired off 17 shots to their hosts’ 7. Despite two late goals from substitute Juan Carlos to pull it back to 4-3, Betis held on for their fourth straight win.

Santa Cruz was integral to the victory- he had 3 of his side’s 7 goal attempts, scoring with both his shots on target and had 69 touches. He also played 51 passes-the second-highest of the home side- and made 2 tackles as he helped his team defy a rampant Zaragoza and picked up the man of the match award for his display.


WhoScored La Liga All Star XI - Gameweeks 4-5