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Friday August 19 2016
2016-17 Season Preview: Granada

A Chinese takeover was supposed to herald a new era in Granada’s history, but another season in the bottom half looks set to follow as Colin Millar explains.

Coach: Paco Jemez

Key signings: Guillermo Ochoa, Tito, Jon Toral

Key sales: Ruben Rochina, Isaac Success, Youssef El-Arabi

Last season: 17th

This season (predicted finish): 15th

Granada go into their sixth consecutive season in the top flight with similar concerns that have riddled them since their promotion in 2011. Survival has been the target in each of those campaigns and it will be no different this time around. The early summer takeover with the promise of significant investment has not yet materialised, with fans concerned of the mass exits and their replacements either loan deals or inexperienced youth players.

The initial plans by the club’s new Chinese owners had been to lure Jorge Sampaoli, but their interest merely alerted Sevilla, for whom the Argentine quickly agreed a deal. The appointment of Paco Jemez does represent somewhat of a coup, and the all-or-nothing Coach will have to replicate similar heroics to his time at Rayo Vallecano if El Grana will survive another season.

Their first team from last season has been gutted. Attacking trio Isaac Success, Youssef El-Arabi and Adalberto Penaranda have all departed, as has star midfielder Ruben Rochina and Colombian attacker Jhon Cordoba. Indeed, eight of last season’s regular starting XI have gone.

Versatile defender Tito has followed Jemez from Rayo, and his leadership qualities will be a vital to a team which will be rather hastily assembled. Another key arrival on that front is Guillermo Ochoa, the Mexican goalkeeper arriving from Malaga. Despite playing second fiddle to Carlos Kameni during his spell at La Rosaleda, he is widely regarded as a commanding goalkeeper and excellent shot-stopper.

He is one of six loan arrivals, with three coming from London. Spanish midfielder Jon Toral has been borrowed from Arsenal after impressive stints at Brentford and Birmingham City and should provide some much-needed creative spark. Chelsea duo Jeremie Boga and Victorien Angban will add depth, if not much experience, to the midfield.

Brazilian full-back Gabriel Silva also arrives for a second loan spell at Granada after numerous clubs in Italy, while Argentine striker Ezequiel Ponce has been drafted in from Roma, where he will compete for a striking position with the highly-rated 21-year-old Ecuadorian Jose Angulo.

Under Jemez, they will be excellent entertainment value, given the Coach’s trademark is playing a high-risk brand of attacking football with possession in advanced areas. He encourages his players to express themselves and often this works to perfection. However, it would be no surprise if, like his Rayo side before, Granada pick up a few heavy defeats along the way.

This squad is young and hugely inexperienced, and many of the squad have no top-level playing time. What is clear is that Jemez has dispensed of many players who he doesn’t feel will ‘buy into’ his ideas and replaced them with those he feels he can trust.

Of those who remain, Isaac Cuenca and David Barral should both prove goal threats, while Rene Krhin should continue his progress in central midfield, with captain Fran Rico proving some form of continuity.

Expect yet another relegation battle and a few more short-term arrivals before the season kicks off.

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