Mallorca were ready to make history. After three wins and two draws that saw them sitting pretty in third place in La Liga, all they had to do was beat Getafe and they would record the best ever start to a league campaign in their history. Things were looking up.
They were even daring to dream bigger. “We can’t lose sight of the fact that our main aim is to stay up, “midfielder Tomas Pina said. “But beyond that, there’s no reason why we can’t strive to achieve bigger things. We are an ambitious team.” A spot in Europe seemed realistic whilst even a tilt at qualifying for the Champions League did not seem completely beyond them. Last season they came within touching distance of making the grade. Perhaps this season they actually would make it.
In a footballing culture fabled for how easily dispensable its Coaches are there were rumours that Joaquin Caparros, the mastermind behind the club’s swelling early season success, was going to be offered a contract that would see him remain in the Balearic Islands until 2016. Such lengthy deals are almost unheard of in the volatile waters of Spain’s managerial landscape.
However, it did not pan out exactly to plan for Caparros’ side. They were undone at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez and with it went their chance to make history. And, unfortunately for Los Bermellones, their loss in the south of Madrid proved not to be a one-off.
Mallorca went on to lose their next five matches in the league. They actually have not won since their 2-0 victory over Valencia in late September – in all competitions. After their loss to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday they are now winless in 11 La Liga matches. From the highs of being in third place and in contention for European football, they have now sunk to a lowly 18th position and should they not remedy their current plight soon, the only thing they will be fighting for come the tail-end of the season is survival.
Caparros’ teams in the past have never been known for playing pretty football. But, his direct, defensively disciplined and physical aggressive approach to the game has been known for getting pretty good results, as his successes at Sevilla and later Athletic Bilbao attest to. However, defensively Mallorca have been a shambles. Their central-defensive Brazilian duo of Pedro Geromel and Anderson Conceicao have been at the heart of a defence that has leaked 31 goals in their last four matches – 11 of them have come in their last three games.
Mallorca have their problems at the other end, too. The goals have simply dried up having managing just one goal in their last six fixtures across all competitions. It of course came from Tomar Hemed, who has netted seven of the club’s 14 in La Liga. However, their over- reliance on their Israeli marksman has contributed to their downfall as he himself has recently struggled for form.
After being mauled 5-0 by Sevilla at home four days ago, Caparros was defiant saying, “We have not hit the bottom, I believe in the players and I feel that they support me. We’re all in a mess but we will raise ourselves for the game on Saturday against Athletic and go forward as we can. Will I resign? No, if I fall down seven times then I will get up an eighth time, and if I fall eight times then I will get up for a ninth time, I won’t stop.”
However, Caparros’ side were unable to raise their game against Athletic as they succumbed to their third successive defeat. Above anyone else, after such a horrible run of results, his team’s continuing inability to turn their season around must surely lay at his feet. His methods and philosophy are no longer having the desired effect and so perhaps it is time for someone new.
“I will not yield”, said Caparros after his side’s home reverse to the Basques, but, perhaps the club’s board will be the ones who ultimately decide his fate, not him. Unless he can swiftly get his troops firing again in the New Year, it is difficult not to see the club pulling the plug on him and, if they do, it will be completely understandable.