Two weeks ago, Deportivo La Coruna were fighting relegation, even after Pepe Mel had replaced Gaizka Garitano as Coach. Garitano had not won a game in 2017 after a decent end to 2016, meaning Depor had been dragged further and further down the table to the point where relegation was becoming a real possibility.
Mel has changed all of that though- the former Real Betis and West Brom Coach drew with Atletico Madrid in his first game in charge and beat Barcelona on Sunday in a game that proved his side really are too good to go down. Depor are unbeaten after four games with Mel in charge and the gap to the drop zone has increased to eight points, alleviating the fears of another relegation for the Riazor faithful.
The funny thing is, not much has really changed in terms of personnel, and if it has, that is only down to injuries. The team are still playing the same system, but the difference is that the 54-year-old Coach has given the squad a new lease of life and made them enjoy football again, something that seemed to be seriously lacking towards the latter end of Garitano’s regime.
Sunday’s game saw the Galicians without top goalscorer Florin Andone, Pedro Mosquera, Sidnei and Guilherme, four players that probably would have started, but they did not play as though they were missing four important players and the most influential player in the squad. They played like a team who wanted to win the game a lot more than their opponents and fought tooth and nail for every ball. They looked confident, sharp, full of vigour and certainly deserved the win in the end.
"I loved the way my team reacted after Barca scored,” Mel told Onda Cero. “Had that happened a few months ago, Depor would have lost that game. Now we believe we are capable of anything. Since I have come here, I try to talk about the positives. We try to solve the negatives but not to dwell on them too much. This team had been stuck on a pessimistic loop that didn't allow it to perform. That we are eight points clear of the drop zone is something that appeared unthinkable several weeks ago.”
Mel’s words really do tell the story. He has motivated and changed the mentality of his squad, which is exactly what those in charge of Los Turcos would have wanted from their decision to employ the man renowned for his success at Betis.
Barca may have been suffering from a hangover from their historic Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain and they may have been missing Neymar, but that doesn’t take anything away from the fact Depor were on hand to bring the Catalans right back down to earth.
The attitude shift and the belief that Mel has brought to the Riazor might not last forever, but heading into the Galician derby with Celta Vigo this weekend, Depor fans will not mind at all as long as they are staying in La Liga.