The keys to success for Michel Sanchez’s Girona, the standalone leaders of La Liga after MD12

Los Blanquivermells are on the top of the table after 12 matches, racking up a whopping ten wins, a draw and just a single defeat.

Girona keep making history this season in La Liga. With 12 games played, they are now the standalone leaders with 31 points, two ahead of Real Madrid. Their only points dropped so far have been against Real Madrid and Real Sociedad, two Champions League teams.

With last weekend’s victory against Osasuna, they became only the third club other than Real Madrid and Barcelona to win at least 10 of their first 12 matches of a La Liga season, behind only Real Betis (10 in 1934-35) and Atletico Madrid (10 in 2012/-3 and 11 in 2013-14).

The architect of this success is Miguel Angel Sanchez Munoz, better known as Michel, the 47-year-old coach from Madrid who is catching the eye with his entertaining brand of attacking football. Last Saturday’s game was his 50th in charge of Los Blanquivermells in La Liga, and he now boasts a record of 23 wins, 11 draws and 16 defeats. His La Liga win percentage of 46% is by far the best in the club’s history.

Michel isn’t taking this success for granted. He previously achieved promotion into the top division of Spanish football with Rayo Vallecano and with Huesca, the only other two clubs he has managed in his coaching career, but both those teams were relegated the following season and Michel was sacked before the end of each campaign.

With Girona, though, the story is different. After leading them to promotion in his first season in charge at the Estadi Montilivi, when they finished sixth and came up through the 2021-22 Segunda playoffs, Michel secured a 10th-place finish last term. Now, the coach has this team in second position and European qualification is a true possibility.

In fact, in the 2021-22 season, Michel’s Girona reached matchday 12 in 19th place in Segunda. Today, after 12 matchdays in the 2023-24 La Liga season, they are the standalone leaders.

That said, Michel is aware that Girona have never spent three consecutive seasons in La Liga, and achieving this is his primary objective. “The goal is to consolidate the team’s place in the top flight as soon as possible,” he said after Saturday’s win. “I hope we can then look upwards, but collecting points is a struggle and I want the team to understand that the daily grind is what will bring us success.”

The keys to the success of Michel’s Girona

Girona’s impressive start to the season is thanks to their attack more than their defence. Los Blanquivermells have netted the most goals of all teams in La Liga, with 24, while they have created the joint-second-most big chances, with 34. Considering Michel was a prolific goalscorer during his own playing career, which he spent mostly at Rayo Vallecano, where he became the club’s all-time top scorer, it isn’t surprising to see his teams play with such a forward-thinking mentality.

On the defensive end, they have conceded 15 goals, only the seventh-best defensive record in the competition, as this is a team that is willing to take risks. If there is room for improvement then it would be in defence, as the coach has full confidence in what his team is achieving in attack. As he said after the win against Almería: “I’m not worried about the attacking phase of the game, as we can cause problems for any opponent because we have a lot of resources.”

Michel is right to point to the variety in attacking resources in his squad. While summer signing Artem Dovbyk leads the way with five goals, Girona’s success is not about just one player. Far from it. Savio, Aleix Garcia, Daley Blind, Yangel Herrera or Viktor Tsygankov are only some of the pieces that are shining.

Theirs is really a team effort and this is to Michel’s credit. Girona lost several important starters in the summer, such as Oriol Romeu, Taty Castellanos and Rodrigo Riquelme, but the Girona sporting department, led by Quique Carcel, recruited well and Michel has cooked up a feast with the new ingredients.

It truly is an exciting time for Girona and the fact that Michel has a contract at the Estadi Montilivi until 2026 means that there are many more chapters still to be written in this story. The humility of the club and of the coaching staff means that securing survival remains the first priority. The fans are dreaming of European football, and they have every right to.

From La Liga. Watch La Liga on Viaplay, available in the UK on Sky, Virgin TV, Amazon Prime Video and via streaming.

Tags Girona Michel Sanchez
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