Considering that Deportiva La Coruna have not won a game in any competition since December 19, with six draws and three losses since their 2-0 win over Eibar, they are in a pretty decent, and more importantly, safe, position.
For a team that only stayed in La Liga thanks to a spirited comeback at Camp Nou on the final day of last season, lying in ninth place, 10 points above the relegation zone is no mean feat. In fact, it is exceeding expectations – avoiding the drop was the aim for Depor in this campaign, and even though they might have dropped out of the European places that they were occupying for a while, their position right now is something to be proud of, with a top-half finish looking likely.
One of their main problems last season was scoring goals. They recorded 35 goals last time round in the League, and in this campaign they already have 31 with 15 games left to play. There is no doubt that a player who has been a major part of this is Lucas Perez, Depor’s top goal scorer and player of the year so with 14 goals. Nonetheless, it has not been all his doing. Perez has formed a lethal partnership in attack with Luis Alberto, and between them they have 19 goals and eight assists. In effect, if Depor score, then expect one of these two men to have a direct contribution to the goal.
It was no different last weekend, when after going behind to a more than fortuitous deflected strike from Sporting Gijon’s Jony, the pair combined to equalise and send the traveling away fans into hysteria. Perez smartly held off his man, turned and played the ball to the unmarked Alberto, who rifled his shot into the roof of the net emphatically.
The two players’ career paths are quite diverse. Perez had to leave Spain for Ukraine and Greece in order to get more playing time, before returning to his homeland to prove himself all over again.
As for Alberto, he has been built up from a young age as a player who is going to have a bright future, with Liverpool paying nearly €9m to secure his services as a 20-year-old from Barcelona B. But after not getting much of a chance to impress in England and a fairly unspectacular loan spell at Malaga last season, the Andalusian had a point to prove at the start of this one, which is where the similarity lies between these two. They are both players who are trying to prove doubters wrong, which they are certainly doing successfully.
The peculiar thing about this blossoming strike partnership is that neither of these two players are actually strikers, or at least they never used to be. For the majority of their careers, they have either been used as wingers or attacking midfielders. Coach Victor Sanchez has clearly seen how well Perez and Alberto complement each other, and kudos to the 39-year-old for trialling the duo. He has found a formula and is reaping the rewards.
Perez is a player willing to sacrifice a lot for the sake of the team, and he works interminably in games to close down defenders and make runs across the pitch to provide continuous outlets for counter-attacks. His style could probably be compared to Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy in some ways because they both have blistering pace that causes defenders nightmares, they both operate as the furthest player forward in 4-4-2 systems and they are both clinical finishers who customarily take their chances when in front of goal.
Alberto acts as the link for Perez and the rest of the team, operating either just in behind the 27-year-old or out on the left-hand-side where he likes to drift to a more central position. The man on loan from Liverpool often releases Perez or likes to run at defenders himself before shooting at goal or providing a killer pass for his teammate. The pair are compatible and harmonious together as players, and this has been evident recently.
In an interview with La Opinion A Coruna, Sanchez spoke of the team’s collective capabilities as well as Lucas’s contribution, pinpointing Alberto. “Lucas (Perez) has scored, but Luis Alberto scores and so does Faycal,” the Depor Coach said. “Obviously, as you have a player with 14 goals, that weighs heavily on the team's performance. It happens in all teams. There are players who have helped in different positions and that has helped to score points. The good news is that one of the qualities of this team is the collective capacity.”
The Galician side will be aiming for their first win of 2016 over Real Betis this weekend to cement their status as a La Liga club, and as a top half La Liga club for that matter. Whatever happens in their remaining games, expect their strike duo to be involved, just as they have been all season.