As you saw last week in our conversation with a Granada fan, we are a Villarreal site that likes to shine some spotlight on all of La Liga’s special clubs when we get the chance. Today we get to speak with Christian, an Espanyol socio currently based in Poland. He has followed his team through a terrible relegation followed by a redemption campaign through Segunda- something we know all too much about.
Welcome back to La Liga! We know a thing or two here about quickly bouncing back to the top flight. You and Mallorca took the Segunda title battle to the very end. Did winning the second division matter to you as a fan or was it all about promotion?
Promotion was the most important thing for me, and I think the majority (if not all of our fans). However, winning the league is always a nice bonus. We stumbled over the line in the end, with a lot of players away on international duties at the time. I’m glad we already had promotion sealed at that point, otherwise it could’ve been a much more stressful end to the season.
What is it that makes Espanyol special as a club?
Espanyol as a club is all about the fans, and the people involved with it. We were founded by Spanish students, which is the complete opposite to our near neighbours. That sense of local community is still there.
The club mantra ‘La Força D’un Sentiment’ (the strength of a feeling) says a lot about what Espanyol represents.
With Espanyol, you most definitely won’t witness your club winning everything, but you will feel every moment of a campaign as a community - good or bad.
Vicente Moreno is, in many ways, still a coach establishing himself in the world of Spanish football. What are your thoughts on him and what tactical features should we be on the lookout for from his side?
For me, Vicente Moreno’s tenure as our coach has been a mixed one. Yes, we won promotion and the segunda title. But it wasn’t without frustrating moments.
Last season, we came where we were expected to finish. So by all extends and purposes he met the expectations set for him. But there were times when excessive caution and tactical stubbornness almost prevented that.
Moreno certainly has his favourite players. And for the most part of the early season, he was determined to play a 4231 system. That never really suited the players we had, or the players he was determined to play.
Eventually, Keidi Bare settled and we added Dimata to the squad in the winter. That moment was integral to our title win, as Moreno switched to a much more suited 442. That also meant no Wu Lei on the wing , as well as a few others that were previously forced to play out of position.
Despite his often stubborn tactical setup, I can’t criticise his man management, as he seems to keep morale high and the majority of players happy at the moment.
My worry this season is he may revert to his cautious nature and return to 4231. That could also be forced on him if we lose Dimata, due to the lack of depth in the area. Having said that, Moreno has proven he can adapt, albeit reluctantly. So we will see how that goes.
Raul De Tomas did a lot of heavy lifting in terms of goalscoring last campaign and y’all have been pretty quiet in the transfer market. Are there enough goals to in this team to stay up and truly get back on track as an established top flight side?
RDT may have been our main goalscorer last season, but there certainly are other goal threats, who offer enough to help us stay up and build from there.
Puado, Dimata and Embarba will all likely contribute to the goalscoring - and I’m hoping Wu can add a few too.
The only issue there is once again the depth. One injury and the whole tactical system is unviable, lessening the goal threat with it. For that reason, keeping RDT and Dimata both fit is vital if we are to stay up.
Miguelón is a player with some talent who never really found a place here at Villarreal, how does he fit in to Espanyol’s plans?
Miguelon’s situation is an odd one now that we’ve signed Aleix Vidal. In my opinion, that was an unnecessary buy when we could’ve strengthened other areas and had only just purchased Miguelon due to the promotion clause. But that’s done now.
Miguelon started last season as our primary right back, but eventually lost out to Oscar Gil. His injury at the end of the season then knocked him out of contention.
With the new signing of Vidal, I’m not sure where in the pecking order he is anymore. He may arguably be our 4th choice right back, behind Oscar Gil, Vidal, and the returning Victor Gomez. Perhaps one of those players is on the way out after the purchase of Vidal. But either way, Miguelon looks as if he’ll struggle for game time.
We’re really excited to see how Manu Morlanes gets on in the top flight. Is he expected to start much in your double pivot or will he mostly have a role off the bench this season?
At the very minimum, Morlanes adds much needed depth. I’m not entirely sure if he will start over Darder (if he does he will likely play alongside Keidi Bare). I’m also not sure what our plan is in terms of the squad, as this pushes other players further from contention. So there’s still a lot to be decided.
My best guess would be that Morlanes will get his chance in terms of starts. If he impresses then he may well become a regular. But if not, I imagine he’ll still get 35+ minutes most weeks.
What does success look like this season for Espanyol?
I think survival would be a success this season.
Our first 11 is reasonable, and we have enough ability to stay up and even achieve more. Issues will present themselves if we pick up injuries however.
I also have concerns with our defence, as it’s not the strongest. If Moreno does revert to his more cautious nature, and they make the same mistakes they made in the segunda, it will cost us.
In contrast, if we play positively and stay fit, our attack is good enough to win us any of the 50/50 games, such as ties against the likes of Getafe, Levante, or Granada.
Score prediction for Saturday?
Villarreal clearly have the better players at the moment.
However, home advantage with our fans back in the stadium will be a massive factor. And for that reason, as well as the nature of both coaches, I believe we can take something, 1-1.
Editor’s Note: Thanks again to Christian for speaking to us. Espanyol is a great club and it’s good to have them back in the top flight! I hope they do achieve survival this season, I just hope they don’t get any of the points they need for that on Saturday.