You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Gallego Zone!
Following Espanyol’s latest humiliation, in the shape of a 0-2 defeat to Valladolid on home turf at the RCDE stadium, David Gallego thought it opportune to turn up to the press conference brandishing a scribbled note of stats as a shield. He pointed out that Espanyol were superior in terms of “possession (56% to 44%), passes (543 to 380), recoveries in the opponent’s half (12 to 8), and shots on goal (16 to 9)”. All undoubtedly impressive in the Gallego Zone, and all undeniably meaningless in the real world.
To paraphrase another famously inadvisable presser, I want to talk about facts. Espanyol have lost their first four La Liga home games for the first time in their 119-year history. They have gone into the dressing room behind at half time and without scoring a single goal in their last six home games in all competitions. (@rcdestats1) They have scored four goals in their first seven league matches. The theoretical first-choice front three of Vargas-Calleri-Wu Lei haven’t scored a goal between them.
And the worst thing is, the numbers don’t even begin to do justice to the sheer, numbing lack of inspiration currently being exhibited by the team. The endless passing between the back line with no discernible progress means that they are little more than an individual error waiting to happen. Against Valladolid, the unfortunate ones were Naldo, whose loose ball led to the corner which resulted in the penalty, and Calero, who took his eye off the ball and then pulled back Sergi Guardiola as the last man, earning himself a red card in the process. Not to mention Víctor Sánchez’s stray arm which gifted Míchel the best of opportunities to open the scoring from the spot.
Calero has been more “unfortunate” than most, and it would be fair to say that his Espanyol career has got off to about as poor a start as it could have done, but the truth is that whoever starts, the result is the same. Likewise, it seems that every other team in La Liga has a world-class left winger: Nolito, Machís, Oyarzabal and Toni Villa have all ripped Espanyol to shreds, almost at will. Clearly, this a systematic problem.
In attack, things are no better. As I said, the front line has drawn a complete blank so far. Wu Lei is running hard but looks as if he may never score again. Vargas is creating what he can from the scraps he is given to feed on, and Calleri has been unlucky not to score from a handful of half chances.
Half chances, because Espanyol have barely created a single clear chance, at least in the home games. You know, the kind of chance that opponents seem to generate every time they break forward.
In the face of such adversity, what do the fans look for from their leader? A public dressing down of the players? No. A blanket admission that the tactical approach was rubbish? Probably not. A slight indication that the coach is living in the real world? Yes. Definitely yes. Yet instead they have to witness the David Brent/Rod Serling mashup from hell, with his statistics.
The whistles at the end of the game were the least of it: once more, the stands had begun to empty long before then. The stadium echoed to the tune of ¡Gallego vete ya! – Gallego out, if you like – twice during the second half, and the next step will be apathy. You know it is a bad day at the office when the positively tropical reception given to the opposing manager brings the biggest cheer.
In our match preview, we asked a few questions. The answers: a. the goals are coming from nowhere. b. Espanyol were at least on top for the opening 15 minutes, until the first mistake was made. And c. No, Gallego does not seem to think Pedrosa can play as left-back, meaning he rarely, if ever, receives the ball with the space ahead of him he needs to unbalance the oppostion with his blistering pace.
There are two games left before the international break: CSKA in Moscow on Thursday and a trip to Mallorca on Sunday. Can Gallego get Espanyol out of the all-too-real relegation zone?