Welcome back to the mid season update with RCD Espanyol. In the last post we discuss our tactical vision for the up coming season and pointed out its flaws. We start off the campaign with a very tough CL qualifier against the Rossoneri.
A quite varied month to be honest, with mixed emotions. Definitely one of those moments where you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall. An incredible 2-2 draw in the San Siro thanks to debutant Dolberg and Jurado, earning us 2 vital away goals and the upper hand in the return leg. Only to be brought straight back down to earth with a home defeat to Las Palmas, bloody Las Palmas are swiftly becoming a bogey team. We didn’t really create much going forward and looked pretty cagey at the back, not something I expected after the togetherness of 3 days before. The only thing I could take from the game was Lasse Schone scored his first goal for the club.
Now there is extreme pressure on us to get a result against AC Milan, the fans are obviously disappointed from the last viewing they had at home. Not the best start as Carlos Bacca, put the visitors in front after 10 minutes, oh dear, dream over. Emotions changing again as we went from behind to 2-1 up after the break, thanks to Marc Roca and Leo Baptistao. The lads show their resilience and keep out the determined Milan and we walk away 2-1 winners on the night. Champions League group stages here we come!
Once again we come crashing back down after a trip to the Bernabéu. We got our asses handed to us, a ‘Real’ demoralising 3-0 defeat. Like I said earlier, a very mixed bag of emotions to the start of this season. Hopefully not a sign of things to come.
So after making it past Milan, the groups were drawn. Espanyol were unseeded so potentially we could face a very tough group. So I sat there, watching the draw unfold and seeing top team after top team being drawn. Then finally it was over, Group H our destination and 3 tough oppositions. Liverpool, Shakhtar and Porto. Not impossible but definitely a hard task to make it through. Perhaps 3rd place is the best I can hope for, actually I’d be happy just to get a win. We are all just in awe of the whole spectacle.
So back to the league and after 2 disappointing defeats, we were in need of getting some points on the board. In our way stood Valencia where we could only manage a 1-1 draw, Schone though scored his second goal of the campaign. Maybe this tactical switch was a bit premature? No I have seen some decent things so far, I need to stick with it and let the new faces adjust to the system. More on this to follow…
Perseverance was key in this moment of doubt and so the European dream continued. An excellent performance at Anfield saw us leave Liverpool with a 1-0 win thanks to Sambueza. We controlled the match superbly and didn’t give Liverpool the slightest look at goal. The one thing I decided to change was my approach when facing stronger sides. Some thing I will go into more detail later. We got that first win in the CL, 3 points on the board, maybe 3rd place is an option after all?
Back to La Liga and we managed our first win in the league with a 1-0 win over newly promoted Alcorcon. Not the most spectacular win, as we created so much but couldn’t finish them off. But ultimately a win is a win and we thank Ruben Duarte. Next follow back to back 2-2 draws away at Celta and Bilbao respectively. Goals from Schone and Jota grabbing his first at Celta, followed by a brace from Dolberg in Bilbao.
Back to the CL and our first home tie against Shakhtar. We continued our form in Europe with another 1-0 win thanks to an own goal, we will take them any way they come.That’s 6 points from 6 and two clean sheets, the story of the underdog.
Our final match in September was at home to newly promoted Huesca and this time we took our chances well. Probably our best performance so far in the league and run away 3-0 winners, with goals coming from Dolberg again, Roca and Jota. A much better month, an unbeaten month in fact. Sitting top of group H with two wins from two and 9 points from 15 in the league, a much better turn around following our opening two defeats.
Another decent month for us picking up 1 win, 2 draws and a defeat in the league. now this still leaves us floating around 12th place but only a few points separate us and 7th, so I’m not panicking. The defeat came to the hands of our arch rivals Barcelona and once again the beat us 2-1 (the same result and scoreline 3 times in a row), Jota did manage to score again, him arriving on a free is making these performances feel even better. A cracking 3-0 win against Granada, thanks to Ruben Duarte, Dolberg and Jota and both draws came against Alaves and Atletico, the latter I am happy with as they are the current champions of Spain, but we should have beaten Alaves. We couldn’t hit a barn door in that game. Schone once again scoring, getting the vital goal against Atletico.
Our European adventure continues though and its another 1-0 win thanks to Sambueza, at home against Porto. 9 points from 9, when I was barely expecting 3 from 18. We could be in with a chance of qualifying now, no don’t anything, we might jinx it. But with results going our way, we are one win away from the next round.
So we hit November and we approach Portugal knowing that a win will see us through to the last 16. Unfortunately we conceded our first goal in the group stages but it came with 3 points and 3 goals thanks to Schone, Roca and Jota. 3-1 winners in Portugal and qualification to the last 16, Espanyol into the last 16, an unreal moment.
Another unbeaten month in the league saw us pick up a 3-1 win at home to Deportivo and a hatrick from Sambueza, the little beaut. Unfortunately draws away to Levante and Sevilla respectively, Schone with the goal again, another gem on a free transfer. Another poor shooting accuracy day for us at Levante, if we could have turned some of these blanks into wins the end of the season could be a whole lot different. Let’s hope it doesn’t come back to sting us. We are currently sitting in 9th place, overall I am content with this as my pre season expectation stated.
As we had already qualified to the last 16, yes I know I keep banging on about it, a put a weakened side out against Liverpool as we had nothing to lose. We played very well but it was only due to a late goal from Coutinho that saw us off. Our unbeaten CL run was over after a 2-1 defeat. Sambueza did get the equaliser but it wasn’t enough on the day.
Copa del Rey time and the aim this year is for a decent run to the quarter finals, first up in our way, Hercules. I fielded the same side that faced Liverpool and the boys did not disappoint, they ran out 2-0 winners and put us in a great position going into the 2nd leg. A brace from Sambueza again, showing me why he wants a starting place.
Another cracking month winning 4 out of 4 in the league, taking our unbeaten run to 9 games. Back to back 2-0 wins to high flying Malaga and Villarreal, goals from Dolberg and Lucas Silva firstly and then Jota and Roca. A 2-1 win over Sociedad thanks to Rodri and Sambueza, then a 1-0 win over Betis with the winner from Lucas Silva. Beautiful that should see us rise up the table.
Between that saw us play our final CL group game away to Shakhtar. Nothing special here other than a 0-0 draw saw the final standing look like this:
Our 2nd leg of the Copa del Rey was a 1-0 win putting us through to the next round, thanks to Jose Antonio Reyes. An almost perfect month, Things are starting to look much better now and some of the football we are producing is lovely to watch.
So at the mid way stage, this is how the league shapes up. After a poor and inconsistent start we have start to get the results. Performances have been much better and I am optimistic going forward. We are only 5 points behind 3rd place so that ever so nice CL isn’t too far away. Avoiding those poor draws and we may well get there.
Team setup adjustments
I mentioned earlier that against stronger opposition I adjusted my setup. I wanted to keep the ball against better sides, not letting them have the ball means they can’t do anything with it. Well that’s my idea anyway.
We still play with an Attacking mentality, but instead of being direct, we aim to keep hold of the ball in an attempt to stop the opposition from playing. The defensive line drops back to normal, we retain possession, play at a lower pace and try to exploit the middle. The look for the overlap is also removed as I want to play as narrow as possible here and stifle the opposition in the centre of the pitch.
An example of our passing and movement:
So that it where we will leave things for this post, thank you all for reading. Next post will return for a youth update.
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