If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, these sorts of Q and A’s are not new to you. We are thrilled to have with us Heath Chesters (@HeathGCF) to talk about his beloved Granada, what things look like in the aftermath of Diego Martinez’s departure, and what we can expect in the match on Monday.
The first question has to be about Diego Martinez. He’s a way better manager than anyone outside of Spain realizes, and he did incredible things at Granada. What is the general sentiment that the Granada fanbase has towards him, and how difficult will it be to kick on without him?
Granada fans will always be eternally grateful for what Diego achieved, over three amazing seasons. Promotion back to La Liga in his first campaign, qualifying for Europe and reaching the Copa del Rey semifinals in the second, then an excellent Europa League run and top half of the table in his final campaign. Martínez broke numerous club records, brought the kind of grit and resolve that Granada fans enjoy seeing from players, and certainly embodied the ”Eternal Struggle” club motto. When he left, there was obviously a huge sense of disappointment amongst Granada fans, albeit with some level of acceptance. Martínez had probably taken this team as far as he could, and on his terms.
Despite the departure of Diego, along with being in a much stronger position thanks to his tenure at the helm, I think the club is keen to keep growing and improving at every level. Adapting to a new manager will be tough, Robert Moreno will need time to shape the team around his own preferences and ideas, although I do feel confident about the long-term future of Granada.
The next question, naturally, is about Carlos Bacca. What sort of role will he have in the Granada attack this season and how do Granada fans feel about his signing?
Having sold Roberto Soldado to Levante, signing Carlos Bacca is a direct replacement. Interestingly, the Colombian striker experienced a similar situation when he joined Villarreal, arriving to replace none other than Roberto Soldado. So long as he keeps in good shape and works hard, there’s no reason why he can’t enjoy the same kind of success that Soldado enjoyed, along with fellow veteran Jorge Molina.
Granada fans have reacted well to the arrival of Bacca. He’s a proven scorer at the highest level in LaLiga, plus his experience will be a valuable asset. Likewise, there’s also the opinion he will help get the best from Colombian compatriot Luis Suárez.
What makes Granada special as a club?
Primarily the fans and the people of this wonderful city and province. This is a marvellous location and the locals are proud to welcome everyone who comes here. Under more normal circumstances compared to those of the last two years, Granada fans love mingling with fans of rival teams in the bars and eateries outside the stadium, which always makes for a healthy and positive atmosphere, everyone there to enjoy the game and that’s just how football should be.
The club itself has done remarkable things over the last sixteen years, since I moved to Spain and first began watching them in 2006. They were in the fourth tier back then, so I’ve been blessed with the chance to enjoy a remarkable odyssey, rising up through the divisions and reaching the promised land of La Liga. Lots of great people have played their part within the club during that time, including today, with the same infectious mixture of humility and ambition. There’s very much a family atmosphere around the club, regardless of different ownership changes. Success on the pitch is just an additional and richly deserved bonus.
Luis Suarez was off to a great start last season before muscle injuries completely derailed him and he didn’t look like the same player the rest of the year. How has he looked this preseason and do you expect him to be able to return to form?
It’s always hard to predict how someone will do based on preseason performances, which are more about getting into shape and adapting to what the new manager wants. Luis Suárez is certainly a player with plenty of potential, although only time will tell if he fully realises that potential. I’m of the opinion that if he wants it enough, keeps working hard and seeks to continue improving his game, he could become one of the most complete forwards in Europe.
There’s confidence at Granada that he will succeed, due to the combination of technical and physical attributes, alongside the determination and enthusiasm he shows. Whether he will become a prolific striker is difficult to gauge, as I suspect he’ll be deployed in different roles this season, either as a centre-forward or cutting in from the flanks as an inside forward.
What tactical features has Robert Moreno installed in this preseason that we should keep an eye on Monday?
Compared to the more direct approach of Diego Martínez, it soon became clear in preseason that Robert Moreno wants his team to keep the ball more. That’s not to say he won’t mix things up tactically, based on the players available for any given game. I was fortunate enough to attend a meet and greet Moreno hosted with a group of supporters. Open to all kinds of questions, Moreno was inevitably asked about his tactical and technical preferences. He admitted that while there’s always a preference for possession football, instead of just one approach, he’s flexible enough to embrace whatever works best for the team, rather than one fixed style or approach.
Insofar as shape is concerned, it seems likely that Granada will play either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 shape against Villarreal. One advantage Moreno has is the versatility of many players in the Granada squad, so that could make them difficult to judge heading into games this season.
Everyone in La Liga is talking about this CVC deal. Both Villarreal and Granada signed on to it. What do you think about this deal and what it means for the future of La Liga?
On the whole, I’m hoping it will be a positive step forward for LaLiga clubs. Hopefully the leaders at clubs have read through all the fine print, before agreeing, as CVS weren’t exactly hailed as being saviours with Formula One or for their involvement with Rugby Union in England. After such hard times economically, the CVC investment will come as a welcome financial boost for the majority of Spanish clubs, plus I also like how most of that funding must be spent on infrastructure improvements. If spent wisely, this funding could help LaLiga gain valuable ground on the Premier League, especially with much focus on digital technology and enhancing the global reach of the competition.
Insofar as Granada is concerned, this investment will help in some key areas. The GCF training complex is already one of the best in LaLiga, although it’s actually still unfinished. This funding will allow completion of the B team facilities and stands around their pitch, along with the construction of a residence for players and their families, plus more pitches and other important infrastructure. There are also proposals in place to enhance the Nuevo Los Carmenes stadium, which includes filling the corners with seats initially, then fully realising the commercial potential of the venue.
Score prediction for Monday?
I’d settle for a thrilling 4-4 draw, just like when Granada opened their first season back in LaLiga at Estadio de la Ceramica. This time, I think the current Villarreal side is much stronger under Unai Emery, so they will go into the game as clear favourites to win. It should be a good contest, although I’m obviously hoping Granada can steal a point or three to get the season off to a good start.
We really appreciate Heath taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to us. Do give him a follow on Twitter @HeathGCF. As followers of La Liga clubs outside of the big three, we share so many of the same frustrations, struggles, hopes, and dreams, and so connecting with likeminded people like that is always a huge blessing.
Endavant Villarreal for this matchup but good luck to Granada the rest of the way.