Two goals conceded in the final moment of each half against Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad have suffered yet another defeat to weaken their confidence and raise concerns with their style of play.
Since that beautiful performance against Lyon, the San Sebastian side have not won a single one of the seven matches played. Drawing three and losing four, Jagoba Arrasate’s side have struggled to create many chances, converting even less.
Against Leverkusen, despite seeing more of the ball, they looked less likely to score – a common theme this season. Playing without any real urgency, barring the ‘10 minutes of fire’ as the Spanish Press dubbed it, Real Sociedad have lacked that intensity that once won upon a time brought with it the desired result.
It was much the same in the League match against Sevilla over the weekend. Boasting 65 per cent possession, the Basque outfit looked largely impotent in front of goal whilst their opponents looked more capable. Their Coach feels it’s down to the fact their rivals are better prepared this season. Indeed Unai Emery had organised a near perfect defence that consistently frustrated La Real’s forwards.
The general feeling is that Real Sociedad are no longer able to spring a surprise. Their transitional game that astounded opponents last season is now better understood and better neutralised. They are an easier side to study, their methods of play more understood and thus the Coach believes they must improve the little things to win the games they have struggled to win so far this season.
Against the Germans in last night’s Champions League game, the tactician attempted to change things by ditching the 4-2-3-1 and opting for a 4-3-3 formation to counter the home side’s physicality and pack the midfield. However, on account of their inexperience, or naivety if you will, Leverkusen scored twice in the final moments of each half to plunge a dagger in the hearts of the Spaniards.
They were aware of the Germans’ threat from set pieces yet that was how they were forced to give up the one point they had earned. By the 80th minute, it was clear Arrasate’s men were happy to play for the draw. They showed no real desire to win the game like they did last season, when they performed without fear against the likes of Barcelona. This is a somewhat timid side by comparison, even as others may well argue it was wise to be cautious when playing away from home.
Caution is indeed sensible but only if the team is capable of remaining focused in the final minutes. Giving away free-kicks in dangerous areas and then conceding a last-minute wonder of a goal from a set-piece serves to only remind the Spaniards that perhaps that intensity and courage they showed last term was the more effective route to take.
Until the squad regain their intensity and rediscover the love of the game that made them so unplayable last year, positive results will be harder to achieve this time around.