LA LIGA’S BOTTOM THREE DOOMED FOR DROP DESPITE JANUARY DEALS
La Liga Relegation battle
Granada, Osasuna, Sporting Gijon currently occupy the drop zone in Spain’s top-flight, with even 18th-placed Sporting needing to pick up a minimum of five points in order to clamber towards Leganes. Read more about the La Liga relegation battle!
Granada and Osasuna sit joint-bottom on 10 points with just a solitary win apiece to their name from 20 league matches this season. They have conceded a similar amount of goals, too, with their respective goalkeepers picking the ball out of their own net 44 and 43 times – averaging out to over two goals let in per game. While the trio all possess talented players, it is perhaps an identity outside of resilient relegation-battlers which is lacking.
January signings have been a mixture of necessity and rushed deals that smack of rolling the dice, with several factors bound to keep the alarm bells ringing long into the spring in the bottom three.
FIRE AND HIRE
All three clubs have seen managerial change since the outset of the campaign – Osasuna are onto their third boss already – and a lack of both strong home form and the presence of a leaky defence has left the trio needing to score three times per match day to stand a fighting chance of taking home three points. The table doesn’t make good reading for those who sit cut adrift at the foot of it.
After coach Abelardo helped to lead Sporting Gijon into LaLiga and away from further financial troubles two years ago, form which saw Los Guajes lose 10 games across an 11-game stretch was strong enough cause for the Spaniard’s time at the club to end last month. Enrique Martin and Joaquin Caparros have already been dismissed from Osasuna’s hot-seat, with the latter getting a mere handful of games to try and impress.
The technical decisions have been knee-jerk at times, but an inability to win league games has led to panic within the bottom three. Osasuna and Granada have drawn seven games apiece, a figure which would put them seventh and eighth in the table should LaLiga be based on such results. There is a resilience and a belief, but a lack of goalscorers combined with lax defending has made for a hard-to-correct recipe for disaster.
Sporting’s leading forward Duje Cop has just seven league goals to his name this season, while Osasuna star striker Sergio Leon has only racked up five. Granada frontman Artem Kravets has already scored five times, with loan signing Ezequiel Ponce netting just once in the league despite arriving at Los Carmenes with a youthful reputation from Roma.
Adrian Ramos is the man who has been chosen to add fuel to Granada’s offensive fire in January, with the 31-year-old never given a regular crack of the whip at Borussia Dortmund. The 16-goal Bundesliga campaign for Hertha Berlin which earned him his move to Signal Iduna Park, however, was all the way back in the 2013/2014 season. Loan deals and an experienced striker are the tonic that Granada boss Lucas Alcaraz is trusting in.
Hector has been brought in on loan to remedy the problem area of left-back for Granada, Mubarak Wakaso will join up with the squad after his participation in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, and Panagiotios Kone comes in temporarily from fellow Pozzo-owned club Udinese.
Due to a spate of goalkeeping injuries at El Sadar, Salvatore Sirigu has cut short his loan spell with Sevilla to join Osasuna until the end of the season. With previous experience at the highest level, the Italy international should be a valuable addition, but the Basque club have no real choice but to try and coax more goals out of their go-to striker partnership of Oriol Riera and Sergio Leon.
Sporting, meanwhile, have freshened up their forward line by adding a player who has a slightly different skill set to their current armoury. Lacina Traore offers a physical frame that breaks the two-metre mark, with the former Monaco and Everton striker failing to hit the potential that he was touted to have earlier in his career. A spell with CSKA Moscow was cut short in order to enable the Ivorian to join Los Guajes, and a striker with a point to prove is something that Rubi and company could do with massively. With the further addition of Elderson Echiejile in defence, Sporting have done well to quickly address two problem areas of their squad.
GAP COULD WIDEN
Valencia have improved massively in recent weeks, and could quickly find themselves in the hunt for a top-half finish, while 17th-placed Leganes have strengthened intelligently in the January transfer window. Deportivo may have lost Ryan Babel on a free, but they have replaced him with the signings of Ola John and Gael Kakuta.
Leganes brought in proven LaLiga experience in abundance. Samu Garcia has returned to his native country after a stint out in Russia with Javi Gracia’s Rubin Kazan, while new loan signing Alberto Bueno has a proven goalscoring record for ex-club Rayo Vallecano in Spain. Nabil El Zhar has impressed at times for Las Palmas this season, while Erik Moran is a highly-rated talent from second-tier team Zaragoza.
Those who have been looking over their shoulders have bought well, meaning that it may have to take a come-back effort of epic proportions for even one of those languishing in the depths of the bottom three to poke their head above the surface.