Mathias Olivera: Napoli’s Long-Term Answer at Left Back?

Mathias Olivera is a tall, athletic defender who is rapid and at the same time, significantly strong. After 5 years at Getafe, he has joined Napoli for a fee of €11 million. In this article, we will look into the reasons why Napoli decided to buy Olivera, who is still at a relatively young age, 24.


It is safe to say that Olivera had his best years with José Bordalás in charge, when they led a small club like Getafe to nearly reach the Champions League.  Olivera is known for his intensity, defensive ability, and also his attacking skills, which we will examine in this article. The data shown below is offered by the website 


Defensive Ability


These past years, Getafe has been known for their aggressive and effective defence. In fact, they were known for being a very tough team to play against and as a team that made many fouls.


Olivera played a key role in promoting this image of Getafe as he protected the left flank of the defence very well. He is a player who, as soon as the attacker receives the ball, he is there to press and disturb so that he cannot control well.


This is very helpful for the team because the last thing you want to do is give an attacker time on the ball. In the images below, we see an example. The Betis player has just controlled the ball and Olivera is sprinting towards him.



The Betis player has just controlled the ball and turned around only to find Olivera right next to him, blocking the pass and ending the play.



Below we have another example, where the Ajax player is about to receive the ball and we see how Olivera is already on him, which makes his opponent lose the ball.  



Therefore, it is no surprise that he makes 20.87 pressures per game, with 6.68 of them being successful. Both of these stats are in the 99th percentile, proving his ability in disrupting the opponent’s play. 




Moreover, another factor that helps Olivera when defending is his speed as this lets him be more effective in 1vs1 situations for example. Also, this speed helps him in completing his successful pressures as the faster he gets to his opponent, the less time they have on the ball. 


To show an example of his speed, we use an example against Ajax. In this situation, a long ball has been made but the striker was offside. Knowing this, the striker leaves the ball, which shocks the Getafe defence. This means that the Ajax right-winger had started the run towards the ball before Olivera.



Nonetheless, Olivera’s acceleration is impressive enough that he manages to tackle the player before he can control it, averting the danger.



Body Positioning


Most of the time, his body positioning is good, but sometimes he lacks concentration. Below, we see how the ball is being crossed into the winger. Olivera does well as he is looking at the ball and has his body placed so that he can clear the ball or quickly run towards the winger if he controls it.



Thankfully, the cross was short and he could easily head the ball away, helped by his correct positioning.



Now we get another example from the same game. Here, the attack is down the right and Olivera is being attentive to the pass going into the winger to quickly go press.


At the same time, he is ready for if a long ball is made as he does not have to completely turn around, but just shift his body and start running. These slight differences are key when deciding who gets to the end of a through ball.



Moving on to the bad example of his body positioning, we use an example from the Real Madrid game. Here, we see how he is placed in the defensive line and is just worried about Rodrygo, who is the right-winger. However, he is completely unaware of the right-back making a run in behind. Since this year he played as left wing-back, this is a big mistake.



The pass gets made to the right-back and he has to turn around and run towards the ball. This makes him go into the 1vs1 situation hastily which means that he does not place himself the best way and so does not defend the action well.  



Therefore, the right-back actually manages to get a shot. If he had a better body positioning from the start, he would have gotten quicker to the right-back and maybe not even let him control the ball. However, it caught him unaware and incorrectly placed, which led to this dangerous action.



Other defensive statistics that deserve to be mentioned are him making 2.73 blocks per game (97th percentile) and blocking 2.57 passes per game (99th percentile), showing he is a defender that shows initiative.


Aerial Strength


Olivera also does well in his aerial duels, with Getafe looking specifically for him sometimes when the goalkeeper plays it long. In fact, he wins 4.21 aerial duels per game, placing him in the 99th percentile. This is useful for Getafe as they can look for him when playing long or for set pieces. 


For example, in the game against Real Madrid, Getafe played it long to Olivera as his duel would be against Rodrygo or the right-back, who are both relatively short. This made them win the first duel which increased the chances of them continuing the play. 



Offensive Skills


Apart from defensively, Olivera also contributes in the offence. When he gets the chance, he likes to go up the left flank to create danger, where his speed helps him. Since this season, Getafe have played many times with wing-backs, it meant that he had even more freedom to go up.


Since there was no clear winger, he would surprise defenders by running into the attacking spaces. As seen below, all Getafe players are asking for the ball through the middle, and Olivera takes advantage and goes into the open space.



Another example is seen in the images below. Here, the striker has the ball on the edge of the box but seeing he cannot advance, he intuitively makes a through ball to the left wing, as he knows that Olivera is coming.



Rightly so, Olivera comes sprinting down the wing into the space in order to get a cross in.



Furthermore, even though he does not get the chance to do it often, Olivera is a good carrier of the ball. He can dribble and run with the ball effectively, which is great for a left back. There is an example below, where Olivera fakes going down the left and instead goes down the middle. 



He drives the ball in between two opponents and would have been successful but he was fouled. To his despair, the referee did not give the foul.



The last example is from the game against Ajax. He gets the ball at the left-wing and has decided to try and get a cross in so he drives the ball, and dribbles to try to get space to cross it down the wing.


With this, he manages to get to the byline, where he crosses the ball but is deflected to a corner. Clearly, Olivera is not afraid to contribute to the attack and he could exploit this asset of his game even more in an attack-minded team like Napoli.





Overall, it is clear that Mathias Olivera stands out for his defensive abilities, and is one of the reasons why Getafe surprised European football for two years with their defensive robustness and underdog story. He is a quick, athletic player with great acceleration that has nearly mastered the defensive abilities needed by a left back but still has some lapses in concentration which he will need to solve.


However, his intensity in all his defensive duties is admirable. Moreover, he can also help in the attack as he knows how to run into the open space and can drive the ball well. It will be intriguing to see how the 24-year-old Uruguayan does at a club with more pressure to succeed as is Napoli.


By: Jaime Fernandez Valencia / @jaimeferva

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Pressinphoto / Icon Sport