Friday August 19 2016
2016-17 Season Preview: Leganes

Leganes may face a struggle to keep their heads above water this season, but they intend to enjoy the ride, writes Dave Redshaw.

Coach: Asier Garitano

Key signings: Gabriel Appelt, Carl Medjani, Miguel Angel Guerrero, Adrian Marin, Unai Bustinza, Ruben Perez

Key departures: Ruben Pena, Guillermo Fernandez

Last season: 2nd (Segunda)

This season (predicted finish): 20th

The club from the Madrid suburbs will play in the top flight for the first time in their 88-year history this season after ending the 2015-16 campaign as Segunda runners-up. Coach Asier Garitano has overseen Leganes’ rise from Segunda B – Spanish football’s third tier – since taking over in June 2013, and his team have produced some impressive performances in those three years, finishing as the second tier’s joint-top goalscorer last season. But the reality of life among the big boys will be somewhat different as he seeks to put together a squad capable of finishing above the bottom three.

Garitano managed to maintain his players’ freshness last year thanks to a successful rotation policy, while at the same time fashioning a side that was prolific going forward and solid defensively. However, the Basque will not have that luxury against Spain’s top sides, and he was the first to admit that he needed at least 10 new additions just to be able to compete.

Basque-born Garitano places his team’s emphasis on hard work, with individuals taking a back seat to the good of the group, and it has a strong spine with Jon Ander Serantes – who played all 42 League games last season – between the sticks, captain Martin Montavani at the heart of defence, and Brazilian youngster Gabriel Appelt in the middle of the park. Gabriel was on loan from Juventus last term, chipping in with seven goals in 37 appearances, and has had his buy-out clause of €1m activated, while goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli has also been brought in on loan from Juve to provide competition for Serantes.

In defence, Pablo Insua’s successful year-long loan from Deportivo La Coruna has been extended another 12 months, with loan arrangements also in place for Unai Bustinza of Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal’s Adrian Marin. Experienced Algeria international Carl Medjani has also arried from Levante.

Even so, Leganes look particularly lightweight elsewhere, the loss of influential winger Ruben Pena to Eibar a particular blow, along with striker Guillermo Fernandez being recalled by Athletic, although diminutive midfielder Unai Lopez has come in from Bilbao and Ruben Perez has joined on loan from Granada. Garitano is desperate to strengthen a front line that consists of just one out-and-out forward in Miguel Angel Guerrero – snapped up from Sporting Gijon – and has seen a bid for Real Madrid Castilla hitman Mariano rejected. In addition, a number of preseason injuries has not helped his cause.

Los Pepineros’ [the cucumber growers] fate, though, may depend on how many clean sheets their defence can manage over 38 games, along with how many points they can pick up at their tiny 8,138-capacity Butarque stadium. Nonetheless, with the recent unveiling of the club’s new home shirt, which features an innovative ‘scratch ‘n’ sniff’ badge, it seems they are going to enjoy the ride if nothing else.

“Our kit manufacturers proposed the idea of having a badge which tasted and smelled of something like freshly-cut grass and the idea fitted well with how we see ourselves, which is a close-knit club with a sense of fun and a desire to do things differently,” explained director of marketing Daniel Abanda.

Image courtesy @CDLeganes via Twitter

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