Alaves Season Preview 2020/21 – Machin the new man at Mendizorrotza

Alaves season preview

Alaves are an established top flight side now, with this being their 5th season in LaLiga since winning promotion in 2016. Plenty of coaches have come and gone since then with Pablo Machin the latest to take the Mendizorrotza hotseat. Read on for our Alaves season preview.


Last Season – 16th

In many respects it was typical Alaves with their home form pretty strong but things frequently going wrong on the road.

Asier Garitano felt like a good fit when he was appointed in the summer of 2019 but Alaves never fully convinced under his guidance. An average of 2.11 goals per game conceded away compared to 1 per game at home was testament to how badly things fell apart on their travels despite having a defensively minded coach.

Fortunately for Alaves, they had a strong strike partnership with Joselu and Lucas Perez scoring 65% of their team’s goals. Even they struggled for form after the restart though as Alaves lost 6 on the bounce, a sequence which ultimately led to the sacking of Garitano. Juan Muñiz took over in a temporary capacity and helped inspire Alaves to a vital 2-1 win at Betis in their penultimate game to secure safety.


Alaves Summer Transfers

Players IN

Deyverson | from Palmeiras | LOAN

Rodrigo Battaglia | from Sporting | LOAN

Players OUT

Ermedin Demirovic | to Freiburg | €3.7m

Patrick Twumasi | to Hannover | €700k

(Transfers up to 3rd September 2020.)


Coach – Pablo Machin

Machin is an interesting appointment and he’s a coach that divides opinion to some extent. He forged his reputation by taking Girona to the top flight for the first time and keeping them there. Girona set up with a 3-5-2 bordering on 3-4-3 with their wing-backs pushing into very advanced positions and it was a system that many teams struggled to deal with.

He has since tried to replicate that set-up at Sevilla and most recently Espanyol but with considerably less success. Machin may feel a little aggrieved to have been rather hastily dismissed from both jobs and Espanyol’s overall demise last season under multiple coaches certainly suggests he was far from the main reason for their relegation.

Even so, this is something of a reputation rebuild operation for the 45 year old who had been expected to take a job in China before Alaves came calling.


Possible Alaves Line Up 2020/21

Alaves line up

Given Pablo Machin’s history in this league, we can pretty confidently say that it will be a 3-5-2 for Alaves this season and they’ve already been playing that way in pre-season games. With only two new signings so far (both on loan), Machin will largely have to work with players already at the club unless the club can conduct some late business.

The shift in system may be good news for somebody like Ximo Navarro who could slot into a back three for Alaves this term. Luis Rioja looks the most natural fit for the left wing-back role and he’ll be hoping to make more of an impression having struggled to shine in his first season in the top flight.

On the opposite flank, Aleix Vidal would have been very well suited to playing right wing-back in a 3-5-2 but unfortunately for Alaves, his loan spell is now over and he’s back at Sevilla. Edgar Mendez could operate there but it’s likely we’ll see a specialist in the role arrive before the window shuts.

New signing Rodrigo Battaglia looks a strong contender to start regularly in midfield following his move from Sporting Lisbon while fellow loan arrival Deyverson provides a fresh option up top. The Brazilian will most likely have to be patient though with Joselu and Lucas Perez having formed a good partnership in attack for the Basque club.


Key Man – Joselu

Alaves did some excellent business last summer by signing Joselu and Lucas Perez for a combined total of under €5m. Of the two, it’s Joselu who looks like he will benefit more from the new regime and he could play a similar kind of role to the one Cristhian Stuani played in Machin’s successful Girona side.

Joselu may not be quite as clinical in front of goal as the Uruguayan but he’s likely to be the focal point of this team again and the man who much of their attacking play will go through. Alaves will need him to have another good season if they want to avoid a relegation scrap.


One to Watch – Borja Sainz

With the overall health of LaLiga perhaps not what it was, Spanish football needs some bright new names to shine bright this season and Alaves have one such candidate in the form of Borja Sainz. At just 19 years old, he has already shown glimpses of real potential, netting his first goal in LaLiga late last season in the win against Real Sociedad.

He’s a lively winger by trade but is also capable of operating in an attacking midfield role. He has the talent to push on and establish himself as a regular starter in an otherwise relatively underwhelming Alaves midfield this season.


Alaves 2020/21 Targets

Alaves are one of a number of clubs that now appear to be established in the top flight but perhaps lack the resources to truly kick on and operate in the top half of the table. A mid-table finish and a decent cup run would represent a very good season (Alaves were sent packing by 4th tier Jaen in the Copa del Rey last term).

More realistically just avoiding a relegation scrap seems a more likely goal. Joselu should enjoy playing in a Machin team that will get lots of crosses into the box, but there is a danger they could become quite predictable and there’s little in the way of creativity that might offer something of a Plan B. 

There should still (just) be three worse teams than Alaves again. However if at least a couple of the newly promoted teams turn out to be better than we’re expecting, the Vitoria-based side could be serious relegation candidates.

LLE Prediction: 17th


Vitoria - Gasteiz - Alaves
Vitoria-Gasteiz, CC BY 2.0

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Spanish football writer
About Mark Sochon 1703 Articles
Mark is a freelance writer based in Madrid, writing mostly about Spanish football. His work has been published by the likes of Guardian Sport & World Soccer. Contact: marksochon (at) hotmail.co.uk