Espanyol: New and Improved.

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After their month long transfer ban ended, Espanyol have been very busy making up for lost time. Since the start of the ban several players were sold externally to make room in the squad for the planned recruits. Lasse Sobiech moved back to Germany for a fee of £3 million to join St Pauli. Vitória de Setúbal made a trio of signings from the Spanish side spending just over £5 million to gain the services of Joao Costinha, Lukas Raeder and Andre Claro. Zinho Gano was the 5th player to be sold this season sealing a £1.1 million move back to Waasland-Beveren after a poor two and a half months in Spain. Rafael Marquez also departed Espanyol. The veteran defender had fallen out of favour under Earle and wanted to return home to finish his career. Following the end of the ban a further five players were sold. Jan Kliment made a £3 million move to Sao Paulo while Alvaro Arbeloa has joined Besiktas for around £2.5 million. Danny Simpson, Marko Vejinovic and Leonardo Pavoletti have also departed in part exchange deals.

Since the end of the ban Espanyol have made a number of signings. Here we will take a brief look at these players including in game expectations and real life statistics.
Players in as Part Exchange
          Christian Kabasele – (Joining as one of three players in exchange for Leonardo Pavoletti)
Real Life – Currently playing for KRC Genk, the Belgian defender has played every minute of every league game this season and has only missed one game in all competitions contributing 5 goals. This impressive season has led to him being selected for the Belgian Euro side and has been named in the Pro League team of the season.
In Game – With a rating of 85 he may not be an immediate starter, however the 25-year-old will play a big role in cup and championship matches. It is also expected that he will get a decent rise soon as a result of a fantastic season and international selection.
          Onyinye Ndidi – (Joining as one of three players in exchange for Leonardo Pavoletti)
Real Life – Also playing for KRC Genk, the 19-year-old has made 43 appearances this season with a total of 3688 minutes under his belt. He is primarily a defensive midfielder but has filled in at centre back when needed. He has also represented Nigeria on three occasions and has been voted into the Pro League team of the season.
In Game – Despite being of little significance to the first team, he will play a large role in Earles youth cup push. With the ability to play at centre and left back along with defence midfield, the 82 rated youngster will be a regular in the youth squad.
          Jean Luc Dompe – (Already joined for £4 million as part of Leonardo Pavoletti deal)
Real Life – Having signed for Standard Liege in January the 20-year-old winger was one to watch. He initially struggled to get into the squad but came on as a sub against his former club, Sint-Truiden, to make his debut. He has contributed two goals and an assist in his 10 games for Liege and has played a number of attacking roles. He has also represented France at Under 20s level.
In Game – Similar to Ndidi, the Frenchman won’t push for first team football but will play a key role in the youth squad. With a rating of 82 he is likely to be one of the major players in the Espanyol youth cup team.
          Azevedo Silvio – (Joining as part of the deal for Marko Vejinovic)
Real Life – Having spent two seasons on loan at Benfica from Atletico Madrid, the full back has played only a minor role at the Portuguese side playing only 1129 minutes in 14 games this season. Returning to Atletico for the season to come could see a change of fortune for the 28-year-old. He has made 11 appearances for Portugal since 2010, the last of which was in 2013.
In Game – With a questionable rating of 87, and the ability to play at left and right back, Silvio will play a big role at Espanyol. With Simpson departing the staring spot will be his.
          Abdoulaye Doucoure – (Joining as part of the deal for Danny Simpson)
Real Life – Starting his season at Stade Rennes, Doucoure made 16 Ligue 1 appearances before joining Watford for just under £8 million in February. He then joined Grenada on loan appearing in 15 La Liga games. The 23-year-old Frenchman will return to Watford for next season and can hopefully perform well in the Premier League.
In Game – With Marko Vejinovic leaving, Earle will look to Doucoure to fill in at centre midfield. With a rating of 86 his position will be far from secure but if he plays well he can make it his own.
Cash Transfers from Managed Clubs
Earles new most
expensive signing
          Benjamin Moukandjo – (Joining from Atalanta for £6.2 million)
Real Life – Having joined FC Lorient this season the forward has had an outstanding first season. With 13 goals and 2 assists in his 31 Ligue 1 matches the 27-year-old has been linked with Sunderland and Crystal Palace. He has also been a regular in the Cameroon squad since 2011 with a total of 36 international caps.
In Game – With a rating of 87, and the potential for more, the versatile forward will fill in for Leonardo Pavoletti. He is now Earles mos expensive signing and is likely to be a key asset up front.
          Pablo Armero – (Joining from Boca Juniors for £4 million)
Real Life – The Columbian left back is far from what he once was back when he first signed for Udinese back in 2010. Having moved to Napoli and back and having had around 4 loan spells at clubs ranging from West Ham to Flamengo the 29-year-old has certainly got experience.  However, he has only played 5 games this season and, despite having 66 caps, hasn’t represented Colombia since June 2015.
In Game – Another questionable rating of 87, the left back will be a starter but will face competition from current left back Jony. A good short term solution but is likely to fall soon.
Cash Transfers from External Clubs
          Salvador Agra – (Joining for £2.8 million from CD Nacional)
Real Life – Having joined Nacional from Braga for free, his former club will be kicking themselves. He has appeared in 41 games throughout all competitions, and the 24-year-old winger has been nothing short of extraordinary. 13 goals and 14 assists made him one of the most impactful players in Portugal. As a result, he was named in the Liga NOS team of the season.
In Game – He is only rated 85 at the moment but should certainly rise following an outstanding season. He could make a good impact on the cup team and, depending on a rise, could push for a starting spot.
          Aleksandr Erokhin – (Joining for £2.6 million from FK Rostov)
Real Life – Starting the season at Russian side Ural, the attacking midfielder played 12 games scoring 4 goals and assisting a further 5. In February he completed a free transfer to league rivals FK Rostov where he has featured in a further 11 games bagging another 2 goals and helping his new team to 2nd in the league.
In Game – Another potential riser who currently has a rating of only 85. With the ability to play central midfield, attacking midfield and centre forward Erokhin will be a strong asset for the cup squad and possibly the first team depending on rating changes.
          Michael Santos – (Joining for £2 million from River Plate de Montevideo)
Real Life – With 30 played games this season in all competitions, the Uruguayan forward scored 15 goals. After a fantastic season and with time on his side, the 23-year-old will move to Malaga for next season where it looks as though he will play a large role up front. He has also represented Uruguay twice.
In Game – Rated only 83 for now, the young forward will play a small role at Espanyol. With the likes of Pizarro, Moukandjo, Demir and Wagner all rated better and with Demir rated the same it will be tough to make an impact.
          Omer Ali Sahiner – (Joining for £2 million from Konyaspor)
Real Life – Aged only 24, the Turkish speedster can play anywhere from right back to right wing. Moving up and down the right side throughout his 33 league appearances for Konyaspor this season has resulted in 3 goals and 6 assists for Sahiner. Due to this he made it into the Super Lig team of the season.
In Game – With Silvio coming in, it is unlikely the 83 rated Turk will start. However, with Espanyols next best right back being youth defender Ntim, rated 76, Sahiner would be the first choice back up in case of injury or for in cup games. He is also likely to see a decent rise anytime soon.
Key youth member
          Sergio Gonzalez – (Joining for £1.4 million from Lanus)
Real Life – Currently playing in Argentina for Lanus, the 21-year-old is already showing potential. With over 1000 minutes last season and 4 goals he is surely one to watch.
In Game – A steal for the youth squad of Espanyol, the Argentine youngster will be a first choice youth cup player up front with a rating of 80. He will be the final piece in the Spanish youth squad which will look to cause an upset in the tournament this season.
          Fernando Bob – (Joining for £1.2 million from Free Agency)
Real Life – Having spent last season on loan at Ponte Preta and making 47 appearances, the Brazilians market value went up from £450k to over £3.3 million. A transfer to Internacional then followed where he has played 22 games and has helped them to become current Serie A leaders. This has seen a further rise in value to over £4 million.
In Game – A low rating of 83 means the 28-year-old won’t play much of an impact on the squad. But surely a rise is soon to come for the central midfielder who has had a very strong season and has got a decent market value.

That sums up the recent transfers for Espanyol. Some have suggested the moves are negative with Earle letting go some of the clubs most highly rated players. However, Earle has assured fans that changes were needed and the new recruits will provide enough ability to fill the first team while offering developmental depth at the same time. He has previously said he would happily remain in Division 5 for as long as it takes for the team to take shape as he does not wish to be rushed and make desperate signings to cope with higher pressures. He said he feels the team he has built has the potential to gain promotion, it’s just a matter of time for the players to settle and clear leaders to be established.
With these moves we have put together the expected starting XI for now.
GK – Volkan Demirel – After a lot of speculation it looks as though the veteran will start in goal.
RB – Azevedo Silvio – The best right back in the squad by some distance should be a regular.
LB – Pablo Armero – Despite pressure from others we expect Armero to command this position.
CB – Robson Weligton – With a move away looking less likely the Brazilian will be key in defence.
CB – Ragnar Klavan – Already with 2 goals this season, Klavan looks to be ahead of Rolando so far.
DM – Abdoulaye Doucoure – A young spark in midfield could be key to the teams season.
RM – Jose Reyes – After a good season last year the Spaniard should be a leader in the squad.
LM – Edin Visca – Should offer creativity down the flanks but could face competition.
AM – Ricky Alvarez – Should be the first name on the team sheet every week.
CF – Claudio Pizarro – Providing a target in the box as well as experience in tough games.
CF – Benjamin Moukandjo – Offering pace and power along with a bit of flair to keep fans excited.
Other players threatening for a first team spot could include the following;
CB – Jorge Rolando – Having made one start already, the Portuguese could push for a bigger role.
LB – Rodriguez Jony – With 4 starts this season, Jony could look to outclass Armero at full back.
DM – Federico Mancuello – With a new unproven midfielder starting, the spot is far from secure.
CM – Lukas Rupp – Similar to Mancuello, Rupp could push for a starting midfield role.
CM – Aleksandr Erokhin – A more attacking option for games where they need a boost.
AM – Nathan Redmond – Was a regular last season and impressed many.
CF – Andy Delort – Has already showed his worth scoring twice in the championship match.
CF – Sandro Wagner – Yet to make his full debut but could impress in the cup and get into the team.
A number of others sit in wait of their opportunity with a number of youngsters in the squad. Earle is unlikely to make many changes now and says he is very happy with how the squad has shaped up. With two wins in a row Earle will hope their form can carry on and that the new players will integrate well with the existing squad.

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