Much of the focus on La Liga recently has been on one of the most enthralling title races in history between the top three teams in Spain, but the relegation fight at the opposite end of the table has been captivating once again.
Granada are a team who are finally safe for yet another season after walking on thin ice for a while – it is the fifth time running that the Andalusians have escaped the drop, and the difference with this campaign is that their salvation did not come on the final day, but on the penultimate one.
The Nazaries did it in some style too, with a sensational 1-4 win at Sevilla. Admittedly, this particular Andalusian derby did not mean quite as much to the home side with a Europa League final on the horizon, but Jose Gonzalez’s side took full advantage of their complacency to become only the second team in Spain to score more than three goals at the Sanchez Pizjuan this season, alongside Atletico Madrid.
The same attacking intent that has drove Granada to vital wins against Las Palmas and Levante was in evidence again, with Ruben Rochina, Adalberto Penaranda, Youssef El-Arabi and Isaac Cuenca, who scored twice, causing problems for the Sevilla defence all game. Gonzalez has given these attacking players the freedom to create, which has seen them score 14 goals in the past four games. Their fighting spirit and willingness to outscore their opponents, somewhat of a new approach for Granada, has given them the necessary momentum to help salvage their season.
A recurrent theme with Granada’s rescue missions is the instalment of a new Coach in the second half of the season. This is first seen in 2012, their first campaign back in the top flight, when Abel Resino saved them, followed by Lucas Alcaraz, who actually saved them two years running in his spell at the club, then Jose Ramon Sandoval and finally his successor, Gonzalez. Every one of these men were employed in order to steer Granada away from the Segunda Division, and with the exception of the first time Alcaraz did it, they were all either sacked or not given new contracts after a short period of time.
Evidently, the chopping and changing of Coaches works wonders for Granada, and it is something that the Pozzo family, the owners of the club, have no qualms about doing. Perhaps it is not the best method for stability, but Granada’s aim year on year is to avoid relegation, and that is something they are achieving repeatedly.
When a new Coach is brought in, players naturally want to impress in order to retain or earn their place in the team, and therefore motivation levels are high. Combine that with the prospect of playing Second Division football, and you have a group of players who want to win very, very badly.
On the other hand, a new Coach can have a minimal effect on a team, like Rubi’s appointment at Levante, who have already been relegated. If Granada want to improve as a club and not find themselves in this position every year, then they will need to change their ways, but at the moment, they are quite content with their spot in La Liga.