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Spanish Column: Nolito finally getting recognition while Sociedad get Moyes

A brand new feature on this website is the introduction of weekly & fortnightly columns focusing on various leagues, countries and regions across the World.  Adam Gray here documents the latest talking points in Spanish football.

Spanish Column Nolito

Nolito finally gets the recognition

At 28, the Celta Vigo winger received his first call up to the Spain squad after an impressive start to the season. Nolito has 5 goals and 5 assists from his 11 appearances and was La Liga’s player of the month for September as the 28 year old has become a driving force behind Celta’s rise up the table under Eduardo Berizzo. Celta have lost only once so far to position themselves seventh, three points off the Champions League qualification spots.

Celta couldn’t quite manage to get past Granada on Saturday evening, being held to a goalless draw by stubborn opposition, though Nolito was a constant threat, managing 4 shots only to be thwarted by Roberto in the Granada goal. In 934 minutes of football in La Liga this season, Nolito has managed to create 26 chances at a rate of 2.4 per game and, positioned on the left-side of an attacking trio, Berizzo has managed to coax the best form out of an undeniably gifted talent who has so far struggled to settle in a nomadic career.

With Diego Costa being rested from Vincent Del Bosque’s latest squad, the attacking positions present an opportunity for more peripheral options to stake a claim for a regular place. Other than Barcelona’s Pedro, who has 46 caps, and Paco Alcacer who has earned 4 after recently breaking into La Roja, Napoli’s Jose Callejon and Juventus’ Alvaro Morata are both uncapped, similarly to Nolito.

Despite a goal last time out against Liechtenstein, Costa has struggled to fit into the Spanish side, compromising their favoured patient build-up play with his direct style, but his absence will give Del Bosque the opportunity to revert to a more fluid approach with a nimble and pacey Alcacer flanked by two supportive mobile wide-men. Spain have a vital European Championship qualifier with Belarus before facing Germany in a friendly in Vigo, giving Nolito the chance to make his long-awaited Spain debut in front of his local home support. Based on his early season form, that will be thoroughly deserved.

Real Sociedad beat the champions and appoint Moyes

La Real average 52.3% possession so far this season and have 13.6 shots per game, though with only 3.3 per game being on target, it paints a picture of a team having desperate troubles in front of goal. That centre-half Inigo Martinez was joint-top scorer for Sociedad going into Sunday’s game with Atletico Madrid was indicative of their goal troubles, though strikers Carlos Vela and Imanol Aggirretxe doubled their season tallies in a well-earned win over the current champions.

They do have battling qualities, the 8 points they have gained from losing positions is a league high and buoyed by the sending off of Guillherme Siquera after Atletico took the lead through Mario Mandzukic, Sociedad were again dominant having 11 shots to Atletico’s 4. They defended stoutly under the caretaker control of Asier Santana following the recent sacking of Jagoba Arrasate, and there will be plenty for a prospective new coach, David Moyes, to be optimistic about before taking charge at the Anoeta.

The ex-Manchester United boss was announced as the new boss of the struggling La Liga side, as he looks to get their season back on track and resurrect his fading reputation.

Bilbao return to defensive duties to make a good point with Valencia

The meeting between Valencia and Athletic Bilbao at the Mestalla was largely forgettable with no goals and just one shot on target in the entire 90 minutes, though it represents another step back in the right direction for Athletic and Ernesto Valverde. The Basques, eliminated from the Champions League on Wednesday night and still missing striker Aritz Aduriz, have restored a solidity to their defence, with Xabier Etxeita returning alongside Aymeric Laporte to keep a third straight clean sheet. Ander Iturraspe was man of the match as him and the hardworking Mikel Rico kept a firm patrol ahead of the back two and Valencia, missing Dani Parejo through injury and with their strikers experiencing a worrying goal drought, struggled to muster any real threat. That will be something for Nuno Espirito Santo to work on over the international break as Los Che can’t just rely on set-pieces if they are to genuinely target a return to Europe’s elite competition.

Barcelona’s struggles masked by the brilliant Suarez

Luis Suarez has yet to score for Barcelona, yet his impact to the Catalans was extremely vital on Saturday as he emerged from the bench to set up 2 goals, rescuing Luis Enrique’s side from 1-0 down at Almeria. It means Suarez has played a part in each of Barca’s last 3 La Liga goals as he set up Neymar and Jordi Alba to cancel out Theivy Bifouma’s opener. Lionel Messi gave the ball away in the build up to that goal and the fact he has now gone three league games without a goal for the first time since January will concern Enrique. Another player struggling under the former Celta Vigo coach is Ivan Rakitic who clocked 53 passes in a largely anonymous display against Almeria, as he seems to have trouble adjusting to his manager’s style.

Talent Radar Player of the Week

Jose Gaya- Valencia- the 19 year old left-back dealt well with Athletic’s Unai Lopez as Valencia and Bilbao shared the spoils of a 0-0 draw in the Mestalla on Sunday evening, though the home side could have edged it had Alcacer converted a near-post header from a Gaya cross on the hour mark. Gaya’s marauding running from full-back were a feature in the game as he completed 3 successful dribbles deep into the Athletic half, even managing a shot that went wide. Despite only Bilbao’s Iturraspe seeing more of the ball than Gaya, he was unable to create a goal with his attacking intent though his athleticism and energy continues to be a major outlet for Nuno Santo as he looks for his full-backs to give width to his favoured 4-2-3-1. He also celebrated another call up to Spain’s under-21 squad for the friendly with Belgium. Here’s a detailed Scout Report on Jose Gaya.

Written by Adam Gray

Adam Gray

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