Form is an important part of football. Aside from two encounters with an insanely potent Barcelona side, Villarreal were unbeaten in 18 matches before yesterday’s trip to Rayo Vallecano. In stark contrast, with a mere two wins in their last 11 going into Sunday's match form was not on Rayo’s side.
Yet by some miracle, it was the Madrid minnows who toppled the Yellow Submarine. Perhaps reeling after two losses to Barcelona in the League and Copa Del Rey, Rayo pounced on Villarreal’s fatigue and fragility to come away with an unexpected win.
The win sees them leap from 16th to 11th, which is indicative of how tight things are in the middle of the table. Such a jump can only serve as a morale booster to Paco Jemez’s men. One loss could see them slide right back into danger, so they need to kick on. As it stands, Rayo currently sit a place higher than their finish last year. And they do have a top half finish in them, landing eighth in 2013, and could’ve bettered last year’s 12th had they not lost their last three matches.
In truth, Rayo have benefited greatly from the underachievement of Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao, who both finished above them last season. Rayo have at times been bad, but others have been significantly worse. Only two sides have conceded more goals this season, which must serve as a constant worry to Jemez. Their poor defensive record has plagued them since their return to La Liga, as they conceded the most goals in the League last season , nearly twice the amount they scored.
But Coach Jemez should be cut some slack. Things have been tough for the former centre-back on the financial front. Rayo only spent €540,000 this summer, but managed to bring in 15 players, of which six were loan signings. They also had 14 departures with influential players such as Joaquin Larrivey and Saul Niguez [loan] leaving to Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid respectively. On shoe-string, he’s managed to secure the services of former striker Leo Baptistao and Gael Kakuta.
Bearing that in mind, Jemez has done well with his resources, especially for a side who only returned to the top flight three seasons ago. Dealing with such a squad upheaval takes time, and it is of little surprise that they failed to win any of their first four La Liga matches.
It is the hope of fans of Los Franjirrojos that this could spur them into a run of form. Rayo’s next two matches are against sides below them in the table. If they want to do anything positive with their season, they’ll need to take all six points from those matches and continuously do so against the sides below them.