Takeaways/thoughts from the Eibar match:
(1) Maybe Gio is beginning to come around. Marce flip-flopped Gio and Joel Campbell during the match, and that worked. When Gio received the ball in midfield he looked to take it toward the outside anyway, so why not start him there and let him move in? His back-heel flick pass to Vietto for the goal was sublime, and exactly the sort of play we've been missing from him.
(2) Eric Bailly had an impressive debut. Admittedly, Eibar set out to defend and counterattack now and then rather than come straight at us, so Bailly had little to do defensively a lot of the time. But he did make one key intervention--a sliding clearance of a ball in our area with an attacker ready to pounce. He also supported the attack well--he is much more comfortable with the ball at his feet than Gabriel was. Bailly said later he was quite nervous at the start--he didn't show it.
(3) Sergio Marcos, where have you been all this time? Yes, he's 23, but bringing a player from Segunda B to fill Bruno's shoes is asking a lot--and Marcos responded brilliantly. He and Jonathan dos Santos worked well together, and Marcos even provided a bit of Bruno's "pausa"--that ability to slow the play down and then make an incisive pass. It's asking a lot to expect this sort of play week after week, but his two starts have been excellent.
(4) Failure to finish almost cost us an easy win. Moi Gómez and Gerard Moreno each had two great chances to score--can't blame them for the two on goal that were saved (especially Moi's when we had just gone 1-0 up) but the volleys that missed from each in the first half should have been netted. It's hard to fault the effort (the two together took 11 of our 21 shots), but if you're going to shoot that much, you need to get more than three on target.
(5) Rukavina and Jaume Costa deserve some praise. This was probably Rukavina's best match--he led us in tackles and clearances. Jaume Costa did well defensively and made a fine pass to Moi which could have resulted in our second goal. We tend to overlook Costa's defensive effort, and he does pick up a lot of cards, but he also provides a lot of physicality down his side of the pitch.
(6) Marcelino's rotation policy may pay dividends down the road. On the face of it, resting key players against Rayo made a lot of sense, just as it did against Eibar. The difference was that against Rayo many players didn't respond. We had only 9 shots total, and Vietto had 4 of those in 34 minutes; the only other player with more than one was.....Victor Ruiz! It's not as if players were being asked to play unfamiliar roles or play out of position!
Here's an interesting fact. In 2010-11 we had 46 points after 24 matches, the only time we've had more points at this stage of the season. But that 2010-11 team only ended up with 62 points. Partly that was because we had the run to the Europa League semifinals, but also, Garrido ran his starting XI into the ground. We had 10 outfield players with more than 1800 minutes in the league alone--and Rossi, Cazorla and Valero had ~3000 minutes or more. Our final four matches of the season, after we were knocked out of the EL, we were dead tired, and it showed.
Right now, of the players available to Marcelino, only Mario has played 1800 minutes. That should help us in the final third of the season, especially if we are able to progress in the Europa League or the Copa.