Can Merino mend broken Betis?

Sitting in 15th place in La Liga, without a League win since the end of November, no sooner had Real Betis presented their new signings, Martin Montoya and Charly Musonda Jr than President Juan Ollero disconsolately announced his resignation, “I can’t find a solution more than my irrevocable resignation as President of Betis.” Noting the fact that he only stood where he was because “No one else including the council” wanted his job, it’s clear Betis has bigger problems than their on pitch mediocrity.

In the last six years, the Seville club have had six Presidents, five coaches and three sporting directors, creating a toxic climate of extreme instability. The definition of disaster capitalism in football, former owner Manuel Ruiz de Lopera initiated the destruction of the club when he allegedly siphoned millions from Betis into his own companies. Standing accused of having arranged the fraudulent sale of his shares to Luis Oliver in 2010 in order to prevent them from being embargoed, the legal battle is yet to be resolved while the club has seen directors as well as Judge-appointed administrators come and go.

Betis is the sinking ship that may never be rescued. Since Ollero's resignation, Angel Haro has taken over, making him the seventh President in six years. Convinced to take up the role, the first thing he insisted upon to the Press is that Juan Merino, the interim Coach hired after the sacking of Pepe Mel, is the right man to guide the team forward. Haro may never fulfil the many promises made to the fans but he may be right in trusting Merino.

His first match in charge was against Real Madrid, a team far more comfortable under the tutelage of Zinedine Zidane than they ever had been under previous tactician Rafa Benitez. A daunting task, Merino focused less on tactics and more on the psychology of the players to ensure a performance worthy of the stripes on their back.

Exhausted and suffocated by a determined Madrid side desperate to win and keep up with those ahead of them, the manner in which Merino’s squad held on and faithfully defended their goal was to be admired. Antonio Adan was brilliant and the squad’s sacrificial nature earned the fans plaudits, loudly chanting “Merino es de los nuestros”. The Coach was one of them and that 1-1 draw might have just earned the-then Interim trainer the right to remain on the bench until the end of the season.

Having spent 12 years with Real Betis as a player, Merino knows the climate, the fans and exactly what is required to ensure survival. While he can make no guarantees, he has been in this position before, albeit when the team was in the Segunda. In charge of four League games, he walked away with maximum points.

Back in the hot seat for the second time, the challenge is greater and he will need to deliver more but critics have already noticed a change in attitude within the team. The squad seems more united, more committed to delivering a positive result. While Merino’s tactical naivety was evident in the first half against Real Sociedad, he corrected his mistakes and will undoubtedly learn on the job, developing his ideas further to secure better performances.

A man focused on attacking pressure, the signing of Leandro Damiao will surely aid him in his quest to produce better football but in the meantime, he’s doing a tremendous work in helping the players to recover their confidence, motivating them further so that they may fulfil their potential.

Adan has already hailed the tremendous character of his new boss while Alvaro Cejudo was quick to point out the humility of the side, the desire to sacrifice for the sake of the unit. Long may it continue.