Coach: Mauricio Pellegrino
Key signings: Alexis Ruano, Daniel Torres, Marcos Llorente
Key sales: Sergio Pelegrin, Juli, Dani Pacheco
Last season: Segunda winners
This season (predicted finish): 18th
Exactly 10 years on from their last appearance in Spain’s top flight, Alaves earned promotion back to La Liga in 2015-16 by winning the Segunda Division. However, despite topping the country’s second tier, Alaves were far from impressive last season and won the division with the lowest points total and lowest goal difference in seven years. They may have won 21 matches, but 15 of those victories were by a one goal margin, which tells you a little about how narrow the margin was between their success and potential failure.
The club’s board clearly recognised that the promotion-winning team was not up to the standards of La Liga and they sacked promotion-winning Coach Jose Bordalas as a result. It may have been a harsh decision, given he had just led them to Segunda glory, but it was probably better to sack him in the off-season, rather than two months into a doomed top-tier campaign.
In his stead, they have brought in Mauricio Pellegrino, who worked as an assistant Coach at Liverpool and Inter before managing Valencia and then returning to his native Argentina to take charge at Estudiantes and Independiente. As a former centre-back, it’s not too surprising that he has implemented a fairly-conservative style at most of his teams, usually with just one lone forward, but that could be the kind of pragmatism that the Basque club needs to avoid relegation.
Nevertheless, avoiding the drop will still prove incredibly difficult for Los Blanquiazules this season. They have had to build a top-flight calibre squad almost from scratch and it remains to be seen whether or not the collection of new parts will fit together to form a successful team. They lost the exciting Dani Pacheco in the summer, as his loan from Real Betis came to an end, while the team’s ageing spine of centre-back Sergio Pelegrin, midfield warrior Sergio Mora and playmaker Juli have all also departed in the summer months. In their place, Alaves have acquired centre-back Alexis Ruano from Besiktas and Colombian defensive midfielder Daniel Torres from Independiente Medellin, while Real Madrid’s midfield youth teamer Marcos Llorente joins on a season-long loan.
Up front, Gaizka Toquero will continue to lead the Alaves line, but the club has sensibly brought in a couple extra forwards to help him out after Toquero finished as the team’s top scorer last campaign with just nine goals. Ruben Sobrino arrives on loan from Manchester City after impressing with Girona last year, while Venezuela international Christian Santos and ex-Levante man Deyverson also join to reinforce their striking options.
It seems as if Alaves are throwing several strikers at the La Liga wall in the hope that one sticks. If none of them do stick then it could be a long season.
Image courtesy deportivoalaves.com