Espanyol are certainly a surprise name to be included in La Liga’s Top Five, as the season approaches the end of its first quarter, but their results have warranted their rise up the table.
New manager Joan Francesc Ferrer arrived in June, after steering Huesca to promotion from the Segunda Division last season, and he faces his former club this weekend as Espanyol head to Aragon.
He has looked to establish a solid back bone in the team, as his first port of call as manager, with the same defensive back four starting over 80% of their games so far this season.
Didac Vila, David Lopez (in his second spell at the club), Javier Lopez and Mario Hermoso all played for the club last season, and in the examples of the two Lopez’s even longer, and that has helped to provide a bedrock to the season.
Whilst they have not been overly conservative in their approach, their early results have been based around defensive strength and collecting points by scoring 1 or 2 goals a game at the most.
Their 1-0 win over Eibar at the end of September was arguably their most complete performance, with Hermoso grabbing the winning goal.
That result kick started an unbeaten run of three games, with a 2-2 draw away at Rayo Vallecano and a 3-1 home victory over Europa League side Villarreal.
That win was the first time all season that Ferrer’s side have scored more than two goals in a game, and shows that they are capable of attacking ruthlessly when the opportunity arises.
At the heart of their performance was a relentless counter attack, that pinned Villarreal back inside their own half for much of the game.
Striker Borja Iglesias Quintas also played a crucial role as the figurehead of the attack, as despite missing three good chances to extend his goal tally for the season, he held the ball up brilliantly for his team mates and constantly stretched the visiting defence with his runs in behind.
The trip to Huesca this weekend should warrant another three points for Espanyol, given the struggles of Ferrer’s former club of late.
From there it is another visit to a newly promoted side, Real Valladolid, who are riding high in seventh place currently, before a home game against Athletic BIlbao.
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