The four ever-presents so far this season have been Diego López in goal, Didac Vilá and Mario Hermoso in defence, and youth team graduate Marc Roca excelling in midfield at the tender age of just TWENTY-ONE
Since the last time they featured in this column in May, Espanyol have undergone quite the transformation. A change of head coach has brought a new philosophy to the club and seen the stale excuses, complaints and criticisms of former coach Quique Sánchez Flores consigned to the rubbish dump as the appointment of Joan Francesc Ferrer or ’Rubi’ ushers in a bright new era (see the following pages for an extensive interview with Espanyol’s new head coach).
Rubi claims that if he has a proper pre-season, his teams always start well, and in this case there can be little argument given the results and performances of the season so far. Six straight wins in pre-season, including impressive victories at Burnley and Borussia Mönchengladbach, have been followed by similar form in La Liga, bringing Espanyol fans flocking back in their droves to watch a side that is now as entertaining as it is effective. At the time of writing, the Periquitos lie in 3rd place in La Liga with 17 points from 9 games after securing five wins and two draws from their opening fixtures. The goal difference is plus 6 with 13 goals for and 7 against. The two defeats have come away from home - 1-0 against Real Madrid and 2-1 at a strong looking Alavés, who are currently second - and the home form has been highly impressive, with four wins out of four against Valencia (2-0), Levante (1-0), Eibar (1-0) and Villarreal (3-1) placing them top of the league on home form with twelve points out of twelve.
The contrast with last season’s dour fare could hardly be starker, and Rubi’s more offensive approach has won over players and fans alike. In the nine league games to date, Espanyol have averaged 14.7 shots on goal, 49.8% possession and an 81% pass success rate, all stats an improvement compared to under QSF last season. The signing of Borja Iglesias from Zaragoza, for whom he netted 22 times last season, has brought immediate rewards, as the striker has four goals and two assists to his name so far. But more important than that is the strong team spirit Rubi has instilled in his players, with sterling performances all over the park contributing to a transformed team. The four ever-presents so far this season have been Diego López in goal, Didac Vilá and Mario Hermoso in defence, and youth team graduate Marc Roca excelling in midfield at the tender age of just twenty-one. At the other end of the age spectrum, Espanyol legend Sergio García is also having a big impact this season at the age of 35, and has featured in all games so far, starting in seven.
All in all then, Rubi has brought a ray of sunshine to the club that has journalists enthusing, fans with a smile on their faces and even new supporters emerging to fill the half empty stadium on match days. And he has promised more of the same, claiming there is no point in changing the team's philosophy even if results start to go against the team, as they inevitably will at some point. The RCDE is already turning into a fortress in terms of results, how long then before it becomes a cauldron of noise that forces its opponents into submission?
Indeed, if things continue like this, fans will be rubbing there hands together in anticipation of the first derby match of the season when Barcelona visit the RCDE stadium on December 9.
Espanyol begin this month with an away fixture against Cadíz in the King’s Cup on November 1. The return game at the RCDE stadium takes place on December 5.
As for La Liga, they have the following games before the end of this calendar year:
5/11/18 Athletic Bilbao (h)
11/11/18 Sevilla (a)
25/11/18 Girona (h)
2/12/18 Getafe (a)
9/12/18 Barcelona (h)
16/12/18 Betis (h)
22/12/18 Atl. Madrid (a)