New Deportivo Coach Domingos Paciencia's task of keeping the bottom-placed club in the top flight come the end of the season is not an enviable one.
The Galicians, on 12 points after 17 games, have won just two games all season and are without a win in their last seven matches, and have conceded an average of more than three goals per game. They are also in the financial mire, and on the verge of going into administration.
But nor is survival an impossible task. The teams around them are not doing a whole lot better, with just four points separating Depor from 15th placed Granada. History is also on their side – Sporting Gijon and Real Zaragoza, bottom at the same stage of the season in 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively, and with the same or fewer points Depor have at the moment, managed to stay up.
The appointment of Paciencia was not the most obvious choice for Deportivo. The Portuguese Coach's only experience in Spain was two years as a player with Tenerife and in his six-year coaching career has never been involved in a relegation dogfight. But looking at the make-up of the squad, now consisting of eight Portuguese players after Silvio joined the club on loan from Atletico Madrid, it does not look like such a bad move. He has also worked with a number of these players before, with Evaldo Fabiano, Diogo Salomao and Andre Santos at Sporting, and Silvio and Pizzi at Braga.
His CV is pretty impressive too. After coaching Porto's B team for a season, he achieved more than respectable finishes with Uniao de Leiria and Academica de Coimbra and then lead Sporting Clube de Braga to a historical second place in the League in his first season and a first-ever European final the following year.. This fine record earned him the Sporting Clube de Portugal job, but the transition to one of the big three in Portugal was not an easy one, and Paciencia was sacked just six months into the job with the club in a disappointing fifth place.
Paciencia showed his talents for coaching when he was just 13 years old and playing for a junior team, when he was encouraged by his then Coach to spy on their next opponents and report back on their strengths and weaknesses, a tactic which helped his team win the game.
The 44-year-old likes his teams to play attractive football but with a healthy amount of attention paid to defence. It is the latter area of his new side he must prioritise, as Depor have the worst defensive record in the League and have shipped five or more goals on four separate occasions this season. The good news for Paciencia is that the worst defensive display – the 0-6 thumping at the hands of Atletico Madrid – came with the team fielding their fifth and sixth choice centre-backs, and now first choice pairing Carlos Marchena and Aythami Artiles are fit again.
If his first few training sessions are anything to go by, Paciencia will not be seeking to radically change the team around. He has been practicing with the same formation and line-up his predecessor Jose Luis Oltra went for in his final game in charge of the club, the 0-2 defeat to Espanyol, with the only question mark being whether to choose Dani Aranzubia or German Lux in goal.
The subject of the defence dominated Paciencia’s first Press conference with his new club, ahead of the game against Malaga on Saturday at Riazor, in which he stressed the need for the team to be more balanced, and “do more, and do it better”.
“I like teams that manage the moments of a game well,” he said, explaining his plans for the team. “We want to build a team that is strong when we don’t have the ball, and also strong when we do have it, when we lose it and when we win it back again. If we can pull that off in those four moments, we will be closer to winning.”
Paciencia admitted his team would need to be at their best to beat Manuel Pellegrini’s side, but declared that taking the three points, which would bring them out of the relegation zone, “could change everything”.
Considering Depor’s financial struggles, it is a change that cannot come soon enough.