Welcome back to Espanyol and its mid-season point in La Liga, let’s have a look at how our Strikerless system has got on and how our players have adapted.
We kicked off our campaign with an away fixture at Celta de Vigo, where we grabbed a cracking 3-0 victory with goals scored from Duarte, Perez and Baptistao. A quite frankly amazing start to the season and starting to show signs that the system was starting to embed on the players.
Our opening home fixture was a tough one against Atletico Madrid. Moral was high considering we’re coming off a cracking 3-0 victory, an upset could possibly on the cards. Cue the Catchphrase incorrect buzzer.
Simeone’s hard working side were simply too much for us to cope with and they beat us convincingly 3-0. So 3 points from our opening 2 games and a goal difference of 0. Next up is the international break where our players can get a rest a head of our next fixture, a home tie against Granada.
4 games in September starting at home against Granada, where we hoped for something after the drumming our fans saw on the last outing Caicedo from injury and a bit of rotation to freshen things up. Not the performance I was hoping for, a real scrappy game where we should have created much more. We settled for a point in the end but on another day Granada could have easily walked away with all 3.
We follow up this poor home draw with another tough away fixture at Europa League experts, Sevilla. We were hoping for a better performance here and optimistic for some kind of result as Sevilla are sitting in 16th place with only 1 on the board point so far. Our performance was slightly better as we looked capable of creating the defensive block, but Sevilla had too much skill going forward, with goals from Nasri and Vazquez. We lost the game 2-0 and didn’t create any clear cut chances. Ouch, potentially a long season ahead, maybe a top half finish was a bit too optimistic on my part.
We hit the road again for our midweek game, this time we head to Sociedad. Before the game I held a meeting with the lads to pick up the morale, ‘Things haven’t been going our way recently, but I know you have what it takes to turn our fortunes around.’ It seem to have benefited as the attacking performance was raised, unfortunately we were caught out from 2 set pieces, but goals from Diego Reyes and Hernan Perez earnt us a 2-2 draw.
Unfortunately Hoffman suffered a 3 month layoff and I really didn’t see the point of keeping hold of him, so his loan was terminated.
Next up is Osasuna at home where we are hoping to build upon our recent 2-2 draw with Sociedad. The lads put in a much better performance here with Caicedo grabbing his first goal of the season from the Shadow Striker position. The little beauty Piatti also getting his first goal in a comfortable 2-0 win. Finally we have given the home supporters something to cheer about.
An action packed month this October with 5 games to discuss, first up, a home tie against Sporting Gijon. Gijon didn’t show much at all in terms of an attacking threat and our defensive block looked really good here. Gijon defended very bravely but we finally broke through with a goal from Gerard Moreno. In a game where we created lots I was disappointed we only managed to score 1, but looking at the bigger picture, the lads managed the win in the end.
A 3rd home game in a row and this time we host Valencia. A tough fixture with Valencia up in 4th place, but the lads kept up their recent form. The visitors went ahead but we showed resilience and created a decent amount of chances, we just couldn’t finish our dinner. Finally the equaliser came in the 84th minute, a corner from Paitti and Demichellis rises above his marker to nod in. A well earnt 1-1 draw making me feel proud seeing the boys pull it back against a tough side.
2 away trips follow firstly with Malaga then Betis. Espanyol manage to keep the form and run going by winning both games 1-0, Caicedo scoring both goals, extending our run to 6 games without a defeat. Next up the Galacticos!
We managed to create a few chances and at one point we pulled ourselves back level after Bale broke the deadlock. Piatti put us back on level terms but a brace from Ronaldo finished us off. It finished 1-3 to Real Madrid and saw the end of our little run of 6 games.
What better way to kick on from a defeat to Real Madrid, well it has to be an away trip to the Nou Camp surely (feel the sarcasm oozing out). Now as I started this save during BETA I stumbled across an issue during this match (I’m not bitter at all). Baptistao put us into the lead after 50 minutes and on the 70th minute I decided to change from an attacking system to a counter attacking system as Barca were starting to really hassle our box. This is where my issue arose. Normally when I make any changes during a match I always hit the pause button, so as I hit space bar my advanced tactic screen pops up. Rather than pausing the game it goes back to the game with ‘pending changes’ at the top. Nothing has actually changed and I am unable to do anything, this stays like this for the rest of the game. Incredibly we hang on but only until the 87th minute where Neymar scores the equaliser (still unable to do anything). 91st minute Messi scores the winner and the game ends 2-1, as you can imagine FM rage has taken over and game closed for the night. Couldn’t sleep though, still raging over that bloody game.
So the next day, once my stress levels have reduced, I fire up the game again and we are off to Leganes. Jurado is back from his long spell on the side lines and his creativity was something that really cheered me up. We finished of the game 3-1 winners with a goal from the returning Jurado, David Lopez and Jose Reyes.
Our last league fixture in November saw us taking on Bilbao at home. Bilbao are a very organized and solid team and the boys put in a decent performance picking up a 1-1 draw, Baptistao getting the goal from the bench after Caicedo picked up another injury.
The last game of the month was in the Copa del Rey against Cadiz, where I decided to play some of the fringe players and give them an opportunity. 0-0, so they actually showed me nothing except they couldn’t beat a Segunda team.
Our first match sees us taking on Las Palmas at home were we won 3-2. This is a game where we were poor in the first half going 1-0 down, we pegged back to 1-1 only to concede again straight from the kick off. To be fair to the boys and after a bit of touch line shouting, they pull it back and secured the win, but my god they didn’t half make things hard for themselves.
We continued the winning streak by beating Deportivo away 2-0 with a brace from Hernan Perez. A much better performance all round and once we took the lead we never looked like giving it away.
The 2nd leg of our Copa del Rey tie with Cadiz, I put faith in the fringe players again and they decided to turn up this time. A decent 3-0 win in front of our home fans, Alvaro Vazquez, Jose Reyes and Sevilla with the goals.
Our final league match of 2016 was an away game against 18th place Eibar. A very disappointing 0-0 draw, hugely disappointing from the lads, considering we were coming off the back of 3 straight wins.
The transfer window opens and for the first time in ages I have no interest in signing anyone. Why you ask? Well basically I have no money, the money the board gave me for our record sale has been taken away from me as the club have been losing money over the last few months.
Our first game of 2017 saw us taking on Villerreal at home, goals from Baptistao and Oscar Duarte saw us run away 2-1 winners in a game that could have gone either way.
Copa del Rey time again and we are away to Sevilla and a similar story to earlier in the season. A 2-0 defeat, bringing us back down to earth after a decent run. We now have it all to do in the next leg.
Our final game was at home to Alaves who currently sit in 10th place. We came away 2-0 winners with Diego Reyes and Hernan Perez with the goals. That is a decent run in the league, 7 games without defeat and giving me optimism going into the 2nd half of the season.
So after an indiferent start, we are actually sitting in a very nice position at the half way stage. I am optimistic that we can continue with some of the decent performances and I am going to introduce a few more fringe players as a few are starting to moan about not playing.
Stay tuned for the next post where we round up some of the prospects from the youth intake.
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