Matchday eight always felt like it was going to be a decisive one for a number of LaLiga bosses. With the international break looming large and providing the opportunity for clubs to reset and find new leadership, the pressure was firmly on the Spanish top flight’s three remaining winless coaches.
After Javi Calleja’s Alavés claimed their first points of the season on MD7 with a surprise win over Atletico Madrid, we were left with Robert Moreno, Paco López and Michel all still awaiting that elusive first victory.
Only one would get it. Granada’s somewhat fortuitous Andalusian derby victory over Sevilla on Sunday night granted Moreno a stay of execution for now at least. However Levante’s Paco López and Getafe’s Michel were not so lucky and both boards were quick to act with the first and second sackings of LaLiga 2021/22 occurring within the space of 24 hours.
It was a fun Ride – Paco López leaves Levante
The first to go was Paco López, LaLiga’s third longest serving coach at the time of his dismissal, behind only Diego Simeone & Álvaro Cervera. A 1-0 defeat away to newly promoted Mallorca on Saturday sealed his fate with Levante in the relegation zone with only 4 points from their opening 8 games.
López’s Levante have entertained their supporters and neutrals alike with their unpredictable and usually attack-minded nature making them perhaps the most watchable bottom half team in LaLiga over the past three and a bit seasons.
He was promoted from his role as B team boss late in the 2017/18 season, Levante’s first back in the top flight, with the side in real relegation danger. Few could have predicted the impact he would have.
A side that had recorded just three league wins all season at that point, won 8 of their first 10 under his guidance to comfortably beat the drop. That sequence ended with a famous 5-4 win over Barcelona on the penultimate matchday, ending the Catalan club’s quest for an unbeaten league season.
That would be the first of six wins for Levante over “big three” opposition in LaLiga under Paco López’s guidance. He has played a huge role in establishing the club back in the top flight and was agonisingly close to guiding them to a Copa del Rey Final earlier this year with Alex Berenguer’s deflected Extra Time strike deciding their Semi-Final against Athletic.
Sadly for Levante, it has largely been downhill since then. A 5-1 home hammering by Valencian neighbours Villarreal in April was the start of a 16 game winless streak which ultimately cost López his job. What many assumed to be a somewhat predictable dip in form at the end of last season after survival had been secured, has turned into something more serious.
López may point to the fact that his side only won one of their opening ten league games last season before turning things around brilliantly during the winter months as reason why the board have been hasty in their actions. xPTS data suggests their performances have merited as many as 10 rather than 4 points this season, with the Valencia club creating more xG than their opponents in 3 of their last 4 matches.
However the reality is that few coaches in modern football can seriously expect to survive a run of 16 games without a victory. It’s a sad ending to one of the most colourful and successful chapters in Levante’s history but it surely won’t be long before we see Paco López back in the Spanish top flight at another club and LaLiga will be all the richer for it.
A first Point not enough to save Michel
By contrast, Michel was a summer appointment at Getafe, returning to the club a decade on from his departure in 2011 after a two year spell at the helm. He guided Getafe to what at the time was their best ever league finish during that period, with 6th place in the 2009/10 season securing European qualification for the South Madrid club for only the second time.
Things did fade quite badly during his second season and it’s safe to say his legacy has been damaged considerably by his decision to return to the club in the summer for what quickly turned into a nightmare spell in charge.
Taking over from Jose Bordalas, Michel inherited a team with a distinctive and often successful way of doing things, albeit one that had struggled for much of the 2020/21 season. Introducing a more eye-catching style of play whilst getting results was not an easy assignment and it wasn’t helped by a tough set of opening fixtures with trips to Valencia and Barcelona either side of a home game against Sevilla, prior to the first international break.
As he settles back into life outside of football once more, Michel must be wondering how things could have panned out differently had his team got something from at least one of those games. He’ll certainly question how his team failed to pick up anything from an opening night trip to Valencia where their opponents were reduced to 10 men inside three minutes. Even against Sevilla and Barça, there were positives and no real signs that this was a team that was going to have to wait until matchday eight just to pick up a point.
However gradually a pattern started to emerge of a side that was lacking in key areas, particularly in terms of creativity and goal threat, even against the weaker sides. While it’s true that they’ve faced five of last season’s top six already, defeats again Elche and Rayo Vallecano paint a much bleaker outlook for a team that has only had one goalscorer so far this season after Stefan Mitrović’s header against Atleti was credited as an own goal. That player is Sandro Ramirez, a striker somewhat cruelly known for his inability to finish chances.
As it would turn out, a first point would also prove the final nail in Michel’s coffin. Sandro’s goal gave them a Half-Time advantage over an injury-ravaged Real Sociedad side at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez on Sunday. However Mikel Oyarzabal’s leveller signalled the beginning of the end for Michel with loud chants for him to leave accompanying the dying moments of the game.
That put pressure on club president Ángel Torres, who had previously stood by Michel despite seven straight losses, to take a decision that came as no great surprise to anyone following Spanish football.
Winless after 8 Games – Does History offer Hope?
The new coaches of Levante and Getafe will inherit difficult situations. They will need to reinvigorate their respective dressing rooms and start delivering results quickly with 30 games remaining to pick up a sufficient number of points to stay in a competitive league.
However history isn’t really on their side. Of the last ten teams to reach matchday 8 in LaLiga having failed to win a match, only two have survived:
|Season||Club||Points after 8 Games||Final Position & Points||Outcome|
|2020/21||Huesca||5||18th – 34||RELEGATED|
|2020/21||Real Valladolid||3||19th – 31||RELEGATED|
|2019/20||Leganes||2||18th – 36||RELEGATED|
|2017/18||Malaga||1||20th – 20||RELEGATED|
|2016/17||Granada||2||20th – 20||RELEGATED|
|2014/15||Cordoba||4||20th – 20||RELEGATED|
|2013/14||Almeria||3||17th – 40||SURVIVED|
|2011/12||Racing Santander||4||20th – 27||RELEGATED|
|2010/11||Zaragoza||3||13th – 45||SURVIVED|
|2010/11||Deportivo La Coruña||4||18th – 43||RELEGATED|
The most recent history doesn’t make great reading for fans of Levante or Getafe. At the same stage last season, the only two winless teams were Huesca and Real Valladolid and both would end up getting relegated, although they did at least take their respective fights for survival until the final weekend of the season. The same was true of Leganes the previous year. Despite having only 2 points after 8 games, the South Madrid club picked up 34 from their final 30, but even that wasn’t enough to keep them afloat.
You have to go back to the 2017/18 season to find a start as bad as that of Getafe’s and Michel was also the coach then! Malaga decided to keep faith with him despite a record of just 1 point from 8 games and things did briefly pick up with three wins before the end of the calendar year but Michel would be given his marching orders in January and Malaga would end up finishing bottom. On a slightly more positive note, Alaves did survive that season despite losing all of their opening 6 games and collecting only 3 points from their opening 8, one fewer than Levante currently have.
The picture looks even bleaker as you go into the mid 2010’s. Granada in 2016/17 and Cordoba in 2014/15 both had to wait until December for their first wins and both were relegated in last position.
The last team to survive in the Primera despite failing to win any of their opening eight games was Almeria in 2013/14. They even lost on MD9 and MD10 as well but the club stuck by the recently appointed Francisco and he turned it around quite spectacularly in the end with the Andalusian club taking 10 points from their final 4 games to seal a great escape.
Real Zaragoza also beat the drop in 2010/11 despite not winning any of their opening 9 games. Javier Aguirre was appointed with the club bottom in November and initially failed to make much impact, failing to win any of his first five games. However the new year would bring a change in fortunes with Zaragoza winning over half of their league games from January onwards including a controversial final day clash with Levante which led to serious match-fixing allegations and a long-running court case. Zaragoza’s victory in that match was partly responsible for relegating Deportivo La Coruña who also started that season with an 8 game winless streak.
Levante and Getafe meet on matchday 9 ensuring the new coaches at both clubs will have a huge game first up. Neither are a lost cause yet, particularly Levante who have a few players capable of big contributions in the final third and they would even climb out of the relegation zone by winning that match.
However the history books suggest both clubs are going to be in for a real struggle this season. All of the last ten teams to start without a win from their first eight games have at the very least gone into the final matchday yet to secure safety. Eight have gone down so it’s understandable why both clubs have felt the need to make changes at this point before the situation deteriorated any further.