After Atletico Madrid’s 2-0 loss at Anoeta against Real Sociedad on Saturday afternoon, much of the post-match focus was on the away side’s troubles on the road and how they had slipped behind in the title race once more after their loss at Sevilla the last time they had been on their travels.
But one thing that probably needs to be highlighted is the burgeoning form of Eusebio Sacristan’s Sociedad side, who have now won three consecutive games since their Basque derby defeat at San Mames, lying in sixth place and just two points off a Champions League spot.
It did take two penalties to claim the three points against Atleti, but they were without their leader and best defender Inigo Martinez and had some decent chances to score from open play. Diego Simeone’s men went close too, yet things seem to be going La Real’s way at the moment, and it’s no less than they deserve.
The victory was their fourth straight win at Anoeta, something that has not happened since the 2013-14 season, when Saturday’s opponents’ star man Antoine Griezmann was banging them in for Los Txuriurdin. That goes to show the topsy-turvy couple of campaigns that came with the tenures of Jagoba Arrasate and David Moyes, and things clearly have not been the same since the French contingent of Griezmann and former Coach Philippe Montanier departed. After Champions League qualification was achieved in 12-13, their La Liga finishes have read seventh, 12th and ninth.
It seems that now, though, they may just have turned a corner under Eusebio. The 52-year-old has reinvigorated a team that looked like it needed some serious investment, and they should challenge for a European place this season.
Their front three of Carlos Vela, Willian Jose and Mikel Oyarzabal are flying, particularly in the case of the former two, who have scored over 55 percent of La Real’s goals so far between them. It looks like Vela has recovered from his peculiar period of disinterestedness to continue as the goalscoring winger who wreaks havoc amongst Spain’s defences, and he is certainly being given a helping hand in that department by Willian Jose.
The Brazilian is doing a very good job of replacing his compatriot Jonathas and filling in for the injured Imanol Agirretxe by scoring six goals already, and he seems to have all the attributes to play as the lone striker in Eusebio’s system – excellent link-up play and a huge threat in the box.
Going further back down the pitch, Asier Illarramendi’s diligence is permitting David Zurutuza and Xabi Prieto to create and chip in with goals when they are needed.
There were signs towards the end of last season that the former Barcelona B Coach was starting to get it right in San Sebastian, and right now, it looks like he has. Sure, the season is still young, but this is the best form La Real have enjoyed in a while, and there’s no reason why it should not continue.