Good omens

It is no secret that Espanyol have not made a good start to the La Liga season, with five consecutive home defeats equalling their worst ever opening on home turf in Barcelona. Perhaps more worrying than this, though, is the lack of goals being scored, and even a genuine goal threat. We wondered how many other team have suffered in a similar way, and what became of them come the end of the season.

In La Liga history 31 teams have scored 4 or fewer goals after 9 matches. 58% survived at the end of the seasn. 42% were relegated to the second division.

So Espanyol’s current goal drought is not all that unusual, and there is even cause for optimism, as the majority of team who have found themselves in a similar situation have managed to find their shooting boots in time. However, the other end of the pitch is also proving troublesome for the current crop of pericos.

But only 12 have had a goal difference as poor as Espanyol's (-11). 50% survived at the end of the seasn. 50% were relegated to the second division.

Hopefully Pablo Machín’s new system will make Espanyol more resilient, as their La Liga future certainly looks to be in the balance.

However, at EFB we are optimists at heart, so we are going to base our hopes on the remarkable Atlético de Madrid side of 68/69.

In those days La Liga was composed of 15 clubs, and Atleti lay in last place after losing 3-2 to Espanyol in Sarrià in round nine. The outlook was bleak, but the side featuring Luís Aragonés and a young Javier Irureta in midfield turned things around, thanks in no small part to the goals of José Eulogio Gárate, who notched 14 overall to claim the first of three consecutive pichichi trophies he would win in Spain’s top division. Atleti ended up in 6th position that year, but this was just the launch pad as the team went on to win La Liga the following year, knocking FC Barcelona off their perch.

OK, maybe we’re not that optimistic, but there are more recent precedents for a successful turnaround. In 17/18, no fewer than three sides were suffering from a lack of potency in front of goal. Of these, only Málaga would eventually be relegated, finishing bottom on 20 points in a truly miserable campaign. Alavés decided to jump on the managerial merry-go-round, showing the door to first Luís Zubeldía and then Giovanni De Blasi, before settling upon Abelardo to lead them out of danger. Their recovery did not begin until early December, with a win in Girona setting the tone as they rose to finish comfortably in 14th. Eibar made even lighter work of their supposedly precarious position, sticking with Mendilibar (who wouldn’t?), they rocketed up the table, from 17th in mid-November to 7th at Christmas. They would end up in 9th on a commendable 51 points.

So, Espanyol’s condition is perhaps not terminal, but the goals will have to come from somewhere. The problem is clear: last season Borja Iglesias got 17 on his own, while no other player scored more than four (Darder). You never know, but it doesn’t look as if the current squad contains such a prolific scorer, so various players will have to chip in. Wu Lei, Ferreyra, Vargas, we’re looking at you. Or will there be an unlikely hero?

Jonathan Calleri in search of goals.
Jonathan Calleri in search of goals.

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