After a summer which included over 20 player transfers, in and out, few would have demanded immediate success for Sevilla, but their start to the season has been slower than most would have expected.
After 13 La Liga matches they sit in 11th place, while their goals against of 26 is the second worst in the league behind Rayo Vallecano on 30, although the Andalucians finally ended a 22-game winless run away from home when they beat Espanyol on Sunday.
Coach Unai Emery will be hopeful that first win on the road can take some pressure off his back as well as off his players. That particular run may just prove to have been a psychological block, but there is a new problem threatening Sevilla – Diego Perotti.
The Argentine winger is one of the club’s most naturally-gifted players, but he is embroiled at the centre of an escalating problem which has divided the club’s fans. A few years back the winger was reportedly involved in a clash with some supporters and following extended injury problems, a number of them grew frustrated and lost patience with him.
Towards the end of last season he looked to be back to his best and starred in the 4-3 win over Valencia on the final day of the campaign, but there continued to be an underlying resentment. During the Europa League win over Freiburg at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Perotti scored a penalty, but his petulant and arrogant celebration directed at the club’s ultras – the Biris Norte – did not sit well.
Many of those supporters started a Twitter campaign with the hashtag ‘#PerottiVeteYa’, ‘Perotti go now’, with a chant formulated for it as well. The situation finally reached boiling point during the 1-1 at home to Slovan Liberec in the Europa League on Thursday. Perotti, who was the best player on the pitch by far, won a free-kick and put it straight into the top corner for a 1-0 lead, but the Biris Norte chanted ‘Perotti vete ya’ over and over, even more furiously than ever.
The rest of the stadium jeered the chant before singing Perotti’s name themselves. An obvious divide formed, with the club’s own Press officer even tweeting his bitter disappointment at the situation.
It leaves Emery with a problem, too. While many might say he should not be concerned about fan opinions and just play those who are in form, their next fixture after the international break sees Real Betis make the short trip across town. If there is one match in which they want a united crowd, it is the derby.
Emery has himself a serious dilemma in that case. Which does he go for – fan harmony or player form?
Only he knows, but considering how much criticism he has attracted from the fans this season, a bold decision should not be expected. The most likely outcome here is a victory for Biris Norte.