As Haris Seferovic netted the club’s second exquisite goal of the night against Lyon, he laid to rest the many doubts that surrounded the team, La Real had confirmed their status as winners for the second time in a week, delighting the crowd on both occasions with a fluid style of football.
Combining lightening-quick attacks with cohesive movements on the pitch, the squad bursting with inexperience demonstrated maturity and determination to win at the Stade de Gerland on Tuesday night. Despite the second goal and the evident fatigue in their legs, the Spaniards refused to stop, continuously seeking another to please new Coach, Jagoba Arrasate.
Undoubtedly, the decision to promote from within this summer raised a few eyebrows, when it was announced Philippe Montanier would be leaving and that Arrasate would be his replacement – especially in light of the Champions League challenge that lay ahead. Yet those who knew the young Coach thought it a wise move, pointing to his studious and determined nature.
Having never quite made it as a player, Arrasate was once-upon-a-time a striker. Short, rather slow and inaccurate with his passing, he was surrounded by technically better and more physically imposing players. The forward was forced to find ways of masking his weaknesses to demonstrate his strengths, using his footballing intelligence to position himself accurately and score the necessary goals to get noticed.
Tactics, he found, made this technically under-par player one to look out for and it was then that Arrasate realised his desire and potential ability to coach one day. Known for studying relentlessly, when the tactician arrived in the summer, he spoke of wanting to create a brave and proactive side that took the initiative in games, yet boasted discipline and balance.
Under Montanier, Real Sociedad may have embarked on what has been described as a fairy-tale route to the Champions League preliminaries, but Arrasate has still sought further improvement, wanting to especially develop the players’ tactical intelligence to gain more wins against stronger opponents.
Pre-season friendlies failed to provide answers and served to only raise more questions. La Real may have been the highest scoring team over the summer, managing 30 goals in six games, but even the level of the opposition was mocked by their own players. They knew how to win against semi-professional sides such as Histon FC but how were they going to manage in tougher challenges and without Asier Illarramendi, arguably their best player from last season?
Whilst onlookers spent the summer doubting the team, Arrasate worked on developing his players, toying between the 4-3-3 formation – his favourite – and the 4-2-3-1. Working on the transitions within the game, against both Getafe and Lyon, we witnessed a side that was quick thinking in both their thoughts and their manoeuvres.
Seferovic, the notable new arrival is both strong and fast, combining mobility with an eye for a goal. Gorka Elustondo, a Real Sociedad youth product, has impressed with his ability to both tackle and win back possession whilst Ruben Pardo it is expected will hopefully provide the consistency needed to succeed.
Convincing performances have so far made the Arrasate’s promotion look like a risk worth taking. If they manage to complete the job against Lyon, it is entirely possible La Real will have yet another magical season.