Season 2016-2017 Preview

Season 2016/7 Preview

By Paul Murray

The opening game of the 2016/7 season sees Real Sociedad host Real Madrid at Anoeta with the game scheduled for Sunday night.  This is not an ideal opening fixture but it appears that Madrid will have some key players absent which will improve our chances.

The close season period was certainly busy for the club with numerous changes made in both on and off field personnel.  Head Coach Eusebio announced at the end of last season that going forward he only wanted a squad of 21-22 players.  Achieving this would required some players to depart.  I am uncertain if this figure is sufficient and think a squad of 23-24 is more appropriate.

Significant departures have been: Jonathas joining Rubin Kazan (€10 m), Alfred Finnbogason joining Augsburg, Alberto De La Bella to Olympiakos (free),

Oier Olazabal (released), Bruma loan ended and Diego Reyes who also ended his loan period.  De La Bella was rewarded for his 7 years service by being allowed to lave without a fee, a generous gesture by the club.

Some junior players were also released including goalkeeper Tanis Marcellan who originally looked very promising but became beset by injuries.  Of the departures the only player I think we will miss is Diego Reyes who could still return to us as his club Porto are unable to find a place for him within their squad.

Other fringe players have been loaned out with Oyarzun returning to Mirandes, Hervias to Elche  and Capilla going to Numancia.  Srdjan Babic, who was promoted from the Sanse squad to join the first team during pre-season has looked very promising and will be loaned out so that he can accumulate some playing time which will help his development. His destination remained uncertain at this time.

It appears there will be few opportunities for

Esteban Granero to play and he was not included in the squad taken to Germany for the Bayer Leverskusen match.  I believe it likely that his high wages are deterring other clubs from signing him.   I also think that Jon Gaztanaga’s squad place is also at risk especially if Diego Reyes does return.

Players arriving are: Tono Ramirez (goalkeeper) from AEK Larnaca, Jon Gaztanaga and David Concha both returning from their loan periods at Numancia,  Willian Jose from Las Palmas and Juanmi from Southampton.

A complex deal regarding Gero Rulli has been struck involving Manchester City and his original parent club Maldonado.  I will make no attempt to explain it as I am completely unable to understand the intricacies of the deal.

Overall the strikers look to be a stronger group than last season which should have a positive impact.  Generally the squad is better balanced which allows us to realistically hope for a challenge for the European qualification places.

Central defender Raul Navas is over his injury nightmare and has looked strong in pre season, he should be a very useful addition to the squad.

Off the pitch we have appointed Robert Olabe as Director of Football, and he commences work on 1st September.  His arrival is most welcome and with other changes made to the back room team we look to have introduced a much stronger management structure to drive us forward.  Existing Sporting Director Loren has only one year left on his existing contract and the new structure is likely to put him under pressure to prove his value.

We go into this opening fixture after a promising pre-season schedule of matches where we remained unbeaten until the final game last Saturday (13th August) away against Bayer Leverkusen, where we suffered a 2-0 defeat.

However the final few pre season games, against better quality opposition, saw us struggle to create clear cut chances and score goals.  This was a recurring theme last season

which I hope that the introduction of striker Willian Jose will help to resolve. He was only added to the squad in the last 2-3 weeks and do it us too early to assess his potential impact.  In any event he will be better than Jonathas who was fairly hopeless last season.

I believe we have good reasons to expect a much stronger season this year, with this squad becoming more consistent, especially at home where we were very disappointing at times last season.  I think we have more diversity on the bench and than can only prove beneficial.

Areas in which we must improve are: our home form, get Illarra to stop being booked so often, get Yuri and Zaldua to stop crosses coming in by marking his opponent tighter, keep Zuru fit, play a pressing game more effectively, concentrate harder at the start of each half, force Pardo to play further forward, improve Rulli’s kicking and encourage Vela to release the ball earlier and significantly improve his general attitude.

Finally we should definitely make Inigo Martinez our Captain.

I wish we did not have to start the season with the fixture we have been given, however we must be confident that we can improve on our performances in the last few season’s opening games.  This will provide us with a strong platform to mount a challenge for the European places instead of having to play catch up after a poor initial 5-6 matches, as has happened in recent years.

At the start of every new season football fans the world over forget what has happened before and always have huge optimism for their team for the forthcoming season.

This will be our year we think,  let’s hope this season we are right and the others are wrong!!


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