It’s been 19 games since Earle took charge of Espanyol marking his first half a season in charge. Since his appointment at the end of February a lot has changed at the Barcelona based club. The changes have been noted in all aspects of the club with the squad, form and coaching all changing. So what has changed for the Spaniards?
Since Earle took over all but one player has been sold and nearly over 40 players have been brought in. The side that Earle came into was dotted with ageing players and not much hope for future seasons. The new squad consists of pace, skill and a youth programme.
The departure of some players has raised questions among some fans. Felipe Caicedo was the first major player to depart. In his 13 games at Espanyol he was yet to score and Earle decided the forward was not the right man to lead upfront. The 27 year old was used in a part exchange deal for England midfielder Nathan Redmond. Jonathan Soriano was another player to leave. The Spaniard moved to Olympiacos in exchange for Leonardo Pavoletti, Lasse Sobiech along with cash. The attacker was also having a poor season at Espanyol and so his departure was expected. The biggest name to depart was German legend Miroslav Klose. Another striker in terrible form and with no real future potential made no real impact on the Spanish side. His departure to Tottenham was used to help gain the services of Edin Visca.
However, despite some big departures the squad seems to have improved. One of the biggest new faces coming in was Fabio Borini from SS Lazio. The Italian was picked to fill in up front. He has featured in all 19 games under Earle. In these games he has scored 8 goals and assisted a further 4. Dutch midfielder Marko Vejinovic was also one of Earles early signings. Since joining from Feyenoord the 26 year old has been second choice to Tomas Rosicky. He has made a strong impact off the bench though and is likely to play a large role next season after the Czech leaves. One of the most recent signings has been Federico Mancuello. The Argentine attracted a lot of attention from Earle and is expected to develop massively in the coming seasons. He can also offer depth in both midfield and defence.
When Earle was appointed as manager Espanyol were on 5 points and sat dead bottom of Division 4. Since then the Spaniards have held impressive form to jump out of the drop zone. After 19 games in charge Earle helped gained Espanyol a further 33 points to reach a current total of 38. With 9 wins, 6 draws and only 4 losses the Spaniards are in top form. With an average of 1.74 points per game, some have suggested that Earle should have been brought in sooner. With this average over 38 games Espanyol could be on 66 points. This would put them deep in the promotion battle and could possibly be named champions. However, this isn’t the case. The Spanish side now sit outside the relegation zone because of a superior goal difference. Earle is hopeful that his side can carry on the food and survive.
The main question left this season is “will we survive“? Another is “where will we finish“? A bottom 2 finish is still a possibility and so is that of the managers future. Earle has said that he wishes to remain at the club even if faced with relegation. When asked about a possible move he has said that there are only two or three teams who he would leave Espanyol for but knows that at the moment he wont be on many teams radars. He has brought in several players who he believes can hugely influence the teams future. Timo Plattel has been brought in from Twente to provide cover in goal. The 22 year old has been one of the top performers in Division 5 this season and signed for a fee of around £550,000. Rob Schoofs was another player who has been brought in to strengthen the clubs future. The Belgian midfielder joined for close to £2 million from KAA Gent and can play in holding or attacking roles. The most promising new player, however, is by far Demarai Gray. Aged only 19, the English winger boasts blistering pace, impressive ball skills and a strong understanding of the game and is only going to improve over time. There is no doubt that under Earle this team can only move up, the questions are what division will they be in and will Earle be in charge? Only time will tell.