Its been a roller coaster at Espanyol this season. Manager Glen Mullan who joined from Napoli midway through last season recieved his first full contract with the stipulation of at least a 14th place finish. The squad in general had a decent 1-11 but was always going to struggle with depth and the loss of Sergio Aguero who retired at the end of last season.
The first half of the season was a struggle with Espanyol struggling for goals,and it was only the heroics of Handanovic and the defence keeping the team out of the relegation zone after game 19 saw the club in 17th and with only 21 points. Never affraid to dip into the transfer market, sell key players/assets, Mullan acted swiftly and added Wijnaldrum, Firmino and Suarez to the ranks, sacrificing Oyarzabal, Merino, Pino and Morata.
This proved to be the Catalyst of a much improved second half of the season with the club picking up 37 points from the last 19 games to climb to an unlikely finish of 6th. This included going 16 games unbeaten in the league and Europe and also winning 13 on the trot. In that run the team claimed victories over Chelsea, Porto, Real Madrid and Bayern, whilst also drawing with Juventus.
The grand finale saw Espanyol beat Arsenal in the European Shield 2-0 to secure the clubs first ever trophy and crown an amazing first full season for the manager.
The team ended the season with a run of 8 straight clean sheets and 26 clean sheets for the season giving the team one of the meanest defences in the league.
As the season ends Espanyol have once again completed all their transfer business ahead of next season.
OUT – Alese, Colpani, Charpentier, Gardner-Hickman, Niguez, Vlasic, Barco, Akturkoglu, Aaronson, Suarez, Herrera, Onyango, Nishikawa, Wels, James.
IN Correa, Fofana, Ocampos, Lukeba, Seidu, Aioani, Prestianni, Galarza, Le Douaron, Biancone, Duro, Witzel.
“We got our business done early last pre season and have opted to do so again. We’ve let some top talent go, but those who are arriving have improvement in them. We do a lot of deals to keep evolving, we have used both internal and external markets, sometimes over paying with the knowledge that in the main most of the squad is under 25. Our reward for exceeding our contract is a free hit next season. We are using this time to move on some players in their Veteran stage, with the focus on players who can improve. Finishing 6th this season which contractually has exceeded where we were estimated to be after 3 seasons gives us a lot of satisfaction given the time and effort we’ve all put in to keep us evolving. We have sold a few rating and will need some luck on the updates to ensure we dont take too much of a hit next season. Winning the cup, is the icing on the cake and a trophy I won’t forget as my first in top100.”