Why are Espanyol struggling in La Liga?
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Thirteen games into the season, Espanyol find themselves in 19th place after picking up a measly eight points. It might seem to be early days, but Los Peroquitos are in serious trouble. Six defeats in seven is relegation form - and it isn't a stretch to say Espanyol have one foot in the relegation scrap.
Borja Iglesias and Mario Hermoso were the two standout players from last term. Both departed in the summer, the former joining Rubi at Real Betis, while Hermoso left for Atletico Madrid. The extent at which the Catalan side has struggled goes to show how much they overachieved under Rubi. Although the squad was an average one, the 41-year-old remarkably led them to the European places.
With Rubi in charge, Espanyol were not the most adventurous side but they knew how to win games. The defence was tough when it needed to be, their central midfielders were hard-working and diligent, while the wingers ran the channels efficiently, whipping in cross after cross without a second thought. The two strikers linked up well and delivered the goods. Home form was key. 11 of their 14 wins last season came at the RCDE Stadium.
Well, Espanyol's ground hardly qualifies fas a fortress this season. Los Peroquitos hasn't picked up a single point at home this campaign. For a team that prides itself on being tough to beat, they have been mighty painful to watch. To compound matters, they don't seem to know where the goalposts are, at least not in La Liga. No team has scored fewer than the seven they have recorded.
In the Europa League, it has been a different story. They top their group and have scored ten goals. At least they can point to a competition they have excelled in. Espanyol fans would probably have preferred those goals came in the league. They were handed a favourable draw but will they go far in Europe? Probably not.
Espanyol has already made a managerial change with Pablo Machin coming in for David Gellego, but over a month on and there has been no tangible improvement. Machin has alternated between a back three and a back four, the goals have kept coming in regardless.
Last season's seventh-place finish was Espanyol's best in 13 years. The club in the last decade had settled for being a mid-table side. Financial challenges have seen them unable to break the glass ceiling and compete with the big boys in the Spanish top-flight. At the end of every season, they are forced to sell their best talents.
When Chinese billionaire Chen Yansheng took over the management of the club in 2016, he promised to take Espanyol to the next level. It wasn't the first time their fans had heard those words, but there was some hope. Three years on, however, those hopes are dead and buried. Next to nothing has been done to improve the situation and Espanyol remain unable to keep its best players.
Many would urge the club to sign two or three faces in the winter transfer window. It's obvious they need a leader at the back and could do with a new striker. Jonathan Calleri, brought in to replace Iglesias, has underwhelmed. In his defence, Espanyol are having a hard time creating clear-cut chances.
Espanyol's needs are numerous, the question is would the money be made available come January? Nevertheless, you look at this Espanyol squad and feel they could do better, even as average as it is. After all, there are inferior sides putting in markedly better performances and results.
There has been talk of a possible return for Mauricio Pochettino in the wake of his sack as Tottenham Hotspur manager; it's all conjecture, though.
Espanyol's next two games are at home to Getafe and Osasuna. They are must-wins and anything less than four points would mean relegation would feel look all the more probable...