Being a football hipster is serious business with knowledge about the young starlet making waves for a non-mainstream mid table side often a prerequisite rather than a feather in the cap. To further enhance your, perhaps, burgeoning reputation as a true hipster, Outside of the Boot is on hand to provide an in-depth guide to some of the less celebrated teams around Europe. In this edition of the series, Tom Canton casts his lens on Deportivo La Coruna.
THE PREVIOUS CAMPAIGN
Deportivo de La Coruna have, in recent times, been described as a “yo-yo” type club in the Spanish leagues. Since their La Liga title back in 2000, Deportivo journeyed on a gradual decline which culminated in the club’s relegation in 2011. Their relegation began a 3-year period where the club achieved a promotion, followed by relegation, succeeded by a second promotion.
They broke their vicious cycle in 2015, finishing 16th to avoid another relegation, with former player Victor Sanchez taking over for the last 8 games of the season. It was thought that he would be the man to lead Deportivo into an era of establishment in Spain’s top-flight once again.
Whilst their objective of surviving another season in La Liga was achieved during 2015/16, it was a campaign which, during the second half of the season, looked as though the Northerners would drop back into the second tier.
Depor began well, by the end of 2015 they had lost only two matches, including draws against Valencia and Atletico Madrid. Most impressive though, in December they came from two goals behind to earn a point at the Camp Nou.
After building the perfect base to finish the season strongly, Deportivo’s ambitions of a top half finish rapidly collapsed. They recorded just 2 wins from their final 22 matches, the strength of preventing losses had become their hindrance. Deportivo finished the season with 18 draws, 6 more than any other team, only securing safety in their penultimate match of the season.
The sacking of Victor Sanchez at the end of the 2015/16 campaign meant Deportivo’s original rejuvenation plan looked to be stuttering. Their next appointment would be critical in determining the short and long term future of the club.
On June 10th 2016 it was announced that former Eibar boss Gaizka Garitano would become their new manager.
Garitano only recently began coaching in 2009 after finishing a long playing career in Spain. He joined Eibar as an assistant; the club for which he had amassed over 150 league appearances. He took over as manager of Eibar in 2012 and masterminded the club’s miraculous back-to back promotion seasons, reaching the Spanish top-flight for the first time in their history.
Garitano and Eibar began their first season in Spain’s top-flight with ambition and the results certainly highlighted this; after 19 matches Garitano had amassed 27 points for his side. Typically, in the Primera Division, and similarly to the Premier League, a team with the knowledge that they will be facing a fight for survival will set out to achieve at least 40 points. During their final 19 matches Eibar could only earn 8, subsequently condemning them to relegation.
Garitano handed in his resignation following the club’s drop to the second tier, stating that he had not earned another season as the club’s manager. Eibar remained in the Primera Division however, replacing Elche who were forcibly relegated due to financial difficulties.
During the summer of 2015 Garitano took the helm of second division side Real Valladolid but only survived 9 matches, winning just 2 before being relieved of his responsibilities.
Now though, Garitano has an opportunity to build a stable platform for Deportivo, in an attempt to bring new found success to the historic club. Tactically, it could simply boil down to one task: turning those draws into wins.
When analysing the tactics of a team which have gained a new manager, it can sometimes be a difficult task to try and predict whether a manger will implement his own style on the club, or, take into consideration the style which the squad are most acquitted to and develop around that foundation.
As previously mentioned, Deportivo, last season, were a side which amassed a large amount of draws. They conceded 61 goals throughout the campaign but this was the joint best defensive record for the bottom 8 teams.
They deployed several formations over the course of last season, but for the majority of the season they deployed a 4-2-3-1 system. Acquiring the services of Faycal Fajr, on loan from Elche, was extremely instrumental in the choice to play this way, the Moroccan scored 5 goals and achieved 4 assists during the campaign. Often the Moroccan would burst down the flank to combine with star player Lucas Perez.
Speaking of Perez, when playing as a lone striker, the priority of the team would be to get the ball in behind the opposition’s defence for the Spaniard to run onto. Perez finished the season on 17 league goals and 10 assists, keeping him may be Deportivo’s best transfer business of the summer.
The use of defensive midfield pairings throughout the season are second to Perez’s influence in the factors of their survival. Pedro Mosquera followed Fajr from Elche to Deportivo in the same summer and, similarly to the Moroccan, was a favourite of Victor Sanchez.
Sanchez trialled a 4-3-3 system during the second half of last season, with Mosquera a lone defensive midfielder. The system was used just 4 times and Deportivo lost to Espanyol, Granada and Atletico Madrid in three of the four matches; the other result being a 3-3 draw against Malaga. This tactical disaster is what led to the club’s plunge into relegation troubles and the eventual sacking of Sanchez.
During Garitano’s time at Eibar, the Spaniard operated with a 4-2-3-1 system for most of the season. In fact, during his final season with Eibar, Garitano only deviated from his favoured formation on 4 occasions, 2 of these changes occurred during a 7 game losing streak; coincidentally this streak ended when Garitano reverted from a 5-3-2 system back to the typical 4-2-3-1 formation to draw away at Granada.
During his 9 matches at Real Valladolid he played 4-2-3-1 for all of the games, this time though, not to great effect.
At Deportivo, with this knowledge, it can be assumed Garitano would likely play this 4-2-3-1 system again. As I mentioned, Garitano’s primary job will be converting the draws into wins and whilst their defensive record last season was decent, they conceded in 30 of their 38 matches. Garitano had an equal record during his sole La Liga season with Eibar but with more resources and equipped with higher quality players, the Spaniard should find improving this record achievable.
TRANSFER MARKET ACTIVITY
I mentioned that Deportivo’s priority during the transfer period would be keeping Lucas Perez, however, they have prepared themselves were he to leave. Depor have paid Cordoba £3.4 million to sign Romanian striker Florin Andone. Depor will hope to keep Perez so that Andone can occupy the striking role with Perez dropping into an attacking midfield role where he can also be very effective.
The £425k signing of Poland international goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton from Stuttgart, will provide some much needed competition for German Lux and will likely be the Argentinian’s long-term replacement.
An array of free transfers arrived in La Coruna: attacking midfielder Emre Colak from Galatasaray the pick of the bunch. Furthermore, Depor acquired the services of Aston Villa’s Carlos Gil on a season long loan deal, whilst the Spaniard didn’t raise too many eyebrows in England, there were glimpses of potential within him. Most impressively, in my opinion, is the signature of Derby defender Raul Albentosa, who impressed at Malaga last season, he will certainly bring more defensive stability at Depor.
THREE KEY PLAYERS
Lucas Perez: It seems that Lucas Perez has become a running theme throughout this profile, however, it is for good reason. Without Perez’s goals Depor would most certainly have been relegated once again and he will again be critical in being a focal point for the side in both quality attacking strength and providing a leadership presence.
Raul Albentosa: I spoke about Albentosa being Depor’s most impressive signing and quite rightly. Albentosa is a tall but mobile centre-half, whilst also being a threat from crosses; he scored the equaliser for Malaga last season against Real Madrid, instinctively half-volleying past Keylor Navas.
Borja Valle: Finally, Depor lacked goals from midfield last season and the acquisition of Borja Valle from Real Oviedo on a free may prove fruitful. The 24-year-old Spaniard scored 6 league goals last season and whilst he is still approaching the peak years of his career, were Garitano to give him regular playing time, Valle could become an established player in the Depor setup.
TALENT RADAR KEY YOUNG PLAYER
Saul Garcia: The majority of Deportivo’s side is filled with more experienced players, with little focus given to the development of young players in recent times. Last season the young players which received regular game time were Federico Cartabia, Luis Alberto and Jonathan Rodriguez, who were all brought in on loan from Valencia, Liverpool and Benfica respectively.
Young 21-year-old left-back Saul Garcia has returned from a successful loan spell at Tenerife where he played 20 times for the club. With the aging Fernando Navarro reaching the end of his career this could lead to Garcia getting more game time.
If Deportivo are to improve as a club, developing their own youngsters to either become established players in their line-up or to be sold on to provide further financial security will be imperative to the clubs long-term hopes in the league.
CONCLUSION AND EXPECTATION
It is hard to predict how Deportivo may perform this coming season under a new manager. Whilst some Depor fans may worry about their new manager’s inexperience with a side such as themselves, they can confide in the success he brought to a tiny Eibar side. If he can turn the trend of Depor’s drawing nature and bring the club more victories, then he will have certainly created a winning formula.
It would be nice to see further youth development take place at the club in the future, with the likes of Saul Garcia getting further opportunity to play. Garitano has always been a manager to show loyalty to players which have performed for him and he will hope the likes of Lucas Perez, Fajr, Albentosa and many others will show the quality they possess for the coming season.
Written by Tom Canton
Read all our 2016-17 Hipster Guide articles here.
- 20 Key Young Players to Watch from 20 La Liga Teams - August 15, 2018
- La Liga’s 10 Young Breakthrough Players to Watch in 2017-18 - August 21, 2017
- Journey to the Top: The Rise of Marco Asensio - November 12, 2016