Last night, for the first time this season, Espanyol moved out of the relegation zone. A string of strong form saw them leapfrog last nights opponents, West Brom, to gain a one point advantage over the drop zone. Since Earle has taken over the Spaniards have lost only 3 of their 17 league fixtures while recording 9 wins. On the 17th of April a tough defeat to Dynamo Moskva seemed to doom Earles side but a 3 game winning streak has seen hope reappear.
|The keeper Espanyol
On the 21st Espanyol welcomed Chievo Verona to Spain. With the likes of Bradley and Sow it looked a tough game but within 6 minutes Tomas Rosicky put his side ahead. The lead was then doubled by the struggling Leonardo Pavoletti who scored only his second goal since signing in the 30th minute. The in form Fabio Borini then made it 3-0 with moments left in the first half. Coming into the second half it was obvious that Chievo didn’t want to leave empty handed and came out with goals on their mind. Despite their 9 shots on target throughout the game the Italians couldn’t beat keeper Jimenez Roberto on his debut. The Spaniard joined on loan from Milan the day before and was voted man of the match due to his outstanding performance.
Three days after their impressive victory the Spaniards traveled to face fellow relegation threatened Celta Vigo away. Confident from their previous result Espanyol got off to another strong start with an unexpected screamer from 37 year old center back Rafael Marquez in the 11th minute. However, the lead lasted only 7 minutes as Lewis Holtby leveled the score. With half time approaching it looked as though the teams would be going in at 1-1 but 3 minutes before half time the boot of Rafael Marquez found the ball again and sent it sailing into the top corner for the Mexicans second goal of the game and season. Coming into the second half it looked hard for Celta Vigo, this was made tougher when a rash challenge by Alessio Romagnoli resulted in a second yellow. Following the sending off Espanyol took control and Leonardo Pavolleti scored before Marko Vejinovic wrapped up a 4-1 victory for Espanyol. Jimenez Roberto was again voted man of the match with another strong performance in goal.
|4 goals in 3 games
Heading into the match against West Brom with two solid wins and Jimenez Roberto between the posts Espanyol were at their most dangerous this season and it showed with Leonardo Pavoletti scoring in the 12th minute. The Italian forward then scored his fourth in three games in the 36th minute to make it 2-0. Four minutes into the second half West Brom were given a lifeline by Bafetimbi Gomis who bagged his 13th of the season, however, they quickly lost focus and let Tomas Rosicky squeezed in a third goal for the Spaniards. This made the final score 3-1 and saw Espanyol jump ahead of West Brom in the table.
In an interview after the game the following was said.
So that’s 3 wins in a row, what would you say has lead to this string of results?
Well we have a strong squad with some strong players and obviously most of them are new so I think they’ve just taken their time finding their feet. Now that some of the boys like Leonardo (Pavoletti) are finding their form I think these types of results should become a regular occurrence.
How important is Jimenez Roberto to the team at the moment and what are your plans for next season?
Yes he’s very important, every keeper is to their team. But you look at the 3 games he’s had for us and you can see how impressive he is. We’ve been in contact with Milan about possibly loaning him next season but we are unsure about that at the moment, if we can’t get him then I’m sure Volkan (Demirel) can step up and Eloy (Room) will be eager to get on too. We are also bringing in Timo Plattel who has had a very impressive season at Twente and so he could be in with a shot too.
Some fans have said you aren’t focusing enough on bringing in top players to help the first team and that some of the players brought in aren’t what are needed, what would you say to them?
Well firstly not many of the fans can say much as hardly any of them turn up, we had just over 20,000 tonight and we have the lowest total attendance in the all 5 divisions this seasom which is disappointing and could have a pretty negative impact on the players. As for my transfers that’s not accurate, Alvaro Arbeloa, Edin Visca, Jose Reyes, Jorge Rolando, Ragnar Klavan and Volkan Demirel have all joined this April, all are in or threatening for a first team spot.
What about the likes of Sandro Wagner, Muhammet Demir, Andre Claro, Federico Macuello and so on?
What about them? Why have I signed them? Because I think they are great assets for our team. If I don’t think a player is good enough I wont sign them. People asked questions when I signed Sofiane (Hanni) because he wasn’t “first team material”. Well all I can say is since joining he’s been our most consistent performer. He hasn’t had a start but has come on eight times and each time has had a solid game, and so will all the players when they are called upon.
|£5.5 million signing.
A few eyebrows were raised at the price you payed for Andy Delort, is he worth that fee and do you think he’ll live up to the title of “your most expensive player”?
Would I pay a fee I didn’t feel a player was worth? Not at all. We payed what we had to to get him as other teams were bidding. And yes I think he will. Maybe not this season as we have two top players playing up front and he’s still settling in but soon enough he’ll prove his worth.
Okay and just finally, survival, is it possible?
Of course we are out of the relegation zone and our key players are hitting top form. If we can replicate our recent form I think we can survive. We have some very tough games but the team is ready for anything and want to stay up.
Next up for Espanyol are SC Internacional away. The Brazilians have drawn their past 3 games and can either move to the top of the league or drop out of the top 7 depending on how the fixtures go.
In transfer news the past 2 weeks have seen the arrival of 5 new players. Demarai Gray joined from Sunderland in exchange for Ruben Duarte. The 19 year old winger was labeled as the clubs most valuable asset by local papers and has high expectations for future seasons. French forward Andy Delort joined from SM Caen and became Earles most expensive signing fetching a £5.5 million price tag. Federico Mancuello and Rob Schoofs both joined last Saturday from All Boys and KAA Gent respectively for a combined fee of over £4 million. Ernesto Vega became the latest addition to the Division 4 side just 3 days ago. Signing from Toluca for £320,000 the 18 year old joins a host of youngsters in a growing youth squad. Timo Plattel will also join the Spaniards from Division 5 side FC Twente. The Dutch keeper will cost £550,000 and could challenge for a starting spot if Jimenez Roberto is not re-signed. The 22 year old has made 17 appearances this season earning an average rating of 7.71 and 5 man of the match awards. Earle is very excited to see if the keeper can replicate this form in post and pre season. Club captain Tomas Rosicky is expected to depart at the end of the season with interest from Feyenoord, Lille, CSKA and Sampdoria.