Mid-Table in March – Where did it all go wrong for Girona?

Catalonia Football Travel Guide

The simple maths will tell you that Girona are not resigned to the fate of relegation heading into the final round of fixtures of La Liga 2018/19. The glum faces at Full-Time at Montilivi on Sunday and the defeatist tone of Eusebio’s post-game press conference told an entirely different story.

Girona, a club that a little over six weeks ago weren’t even in the relegation picture, somehow find themselves all but down even before the final game of the season. They now need to win at Alavés on Saturday, hope Celta Vigo lose at home to already relegated Rayo and overturn a six goal deficit in the goal difference column to stay up. Realistically it’s not going to happen.

It all begs the question of just where did it all go wrong for a Girona side that won at the Bernabéu in February and headed into the international break in late March on the back of a 2-0 win at Leganes that left them in 12th with 34 points on the board and ten games to go. They were closer to the European places than the relegation zone at that point with a nine point advantage on Celta Vigo in 18th and a host of out-of-form sides providing a useful buffer.

Behind the scenes at the Catalan club, they may well have been already formulating a plan of action for what looked certain to be their third straight top flight campaign in 2019/20. Fast-forward to mid May and they find themselves facing up to the prospect of Segunda División football again and trying to figure out just how and why this has happened.

Hopeless at Home

A quick glance at their home record over the past year and Girona’s impending relegation is a bit easier to explain. Their problems in truth stretch back to the end of last season. Having reeled off six straight home wins to nil over the winter, what was then Pablo Machín’s side ended the campaign with four successive home defeats. It wasn’t enough to deny Girona a fantastic 10th place finish in their debut top flight season but it was very much a sign of things to come.

With Eusebio now at the helm, Girona started the new season with seven points from their opening six home league fixtures, not disastrous form but not exactly an indicator that they were on the road to turning Montilivi into a fortress again. Their 2-1 home victory over Rayo Vallecano in October would though prove to be their last for a staggering six months, a sequence only broken by a 1-0 victory over Sevilla on match-day 35.

That was Girona’s third and final home victory of a season which will end with just 15 points accumulated at Montilivi. They could yet go down with La Liga’s fifth best away record if they win their final road game at Alavés this weekend but impressive victories at the Bernabéu and Mestalla, now do little more than underline just how poorly they’ve performed on their own patch.

Read more – Is this a Real Madrid season review?

Defeats in all the Six-Pointers

When you’re in a relegation battle, consistently losing matches is damaging enough but consistently losing to your direct rivals will invariably have grave consequences. That’s exactly what Girona have done over the past month or two. In the space of ten days in April, they lost to fellow strugglers Villarreal, Celta Vigo and Real Valladolid, all fixtures where victory would have pushed them to the cusp of safety.

By the time Levante visited Catalunya on Sunday, Girona knew they could simply not afford to let another six-pointer slip by with nothing to show for it. They looked set to finally end that sequence when Cristhian Stuani broke the deadlock on the hour mark but the Valencia club fought back to inflict yet another defeat on a Girona in a crunch bottom six showdown and with other results conspiring against them, Eusebio’s men have now ran out of lifelines and will most likely have their fate sealed by events in Vigo this weekend.

An Over-Dependence on Stuani

Cristhian Stuani has for the second season running been one of La Liga’s most prolific marksmen with 19 goals, the fourth best tally in the division behind Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Karim Benzema. Girona will certainly be left to ponder how they’ve managed to end up in this position with a striker who has scored only 13 fewer goals than Real Valladolid, a team who definitely will be playing top flight football again next season.

Stuani has netted 53% of Girona’s goals with no significant contributions from any other player besides Portu with eight. The rest of the squad have mustered just nine strikes in La Liga this term. The picture isn’t entirely different to last season when Stuani and Portu again accounted for well over 60% of their side’s goals but Girona’s failure to address that dependency has certainly been a factor in the club’s ultimate demise.

Read more – Dependencia in La Liga

Too much Faith in Eusebio?

Nobody likes to see a coach get sacked but few sides in Spain have been as patient with their coach as Girona have been with Eusebio this term. Relegation rivals Celta Vigo and Villarreal have both fired two coaches and look to have at least got it right in the end, although Villarreal’s decision to fire and then re-appoint Javi Calleja is hardly the hallmark of sound planning.

The Girona hierarchy may well end up spending much of the summer wondering what might have been had they drafted in a new coach to oversee the final few weeks of the season. All they needed was a bit of a bounce which so often occurs when a new man with new ideas takes over.

Eusebio was always going to have a tough job taking over from Pablo Machín who did such a brilliant job in guiding the Catalan minnows to the top flight for the first time. The former Sociedad boss quickly reverted back to a system more akin to what Machín used to great success last season. However he hasn’t had the luxury of using Pablo Maffeo or Johan Mojica in the wing-back roles that were so pivotal in Girona’s stunning debut campaign with the former departing for Stuttgart and the latter suffering a serious injury in pre-season.

It’s difficult to know where Eusebio goes from here having appeared almost broken on Sunday, accepting responsibility for what at one stage looked a highly improbable relegation. Girona will most likely go again with a new man at the helm in August and this may not be the last we’ve seen of them in the Primera División.

Propped up by the backing of Manchester City, there will be those who won’t exactly shed a tear to see Girona drop out of the top flight but City’s influence is over-stated in some sections of the media and this is still essentially a small community club that will be hit hard by their impending drop to the second tier.

Article via Mark Sochon – Contact: marksochon(at)hotmail.co.uk | @marksoc1 on Twitter

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About Mark Sochon 2072 Articles
Mark is a freelance writer based in Madrid. He has been writing about Spanish football since 2014 and regularly attends and covers matches across Spain. His work has also been published by various newspapers and websites including These Football Times, World Soccer and Guardian Sport. Available for freelance work: marksochon (at) hotmail.co.uk

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