Tom Wellman tells us about the brilliant start made by Super Depor
Having enjoyed a year-long siesta from the spotlight Deportivo have rocketed back into focus following their impressive beginning to the new season. A win and a hard-fought draw at Valencia rekindled pre-season dreams of surging towards European qualification over a continual struggle to survive, especially as the recent good form owes more to technical ability than the surge in feel-good emotions following promotion.
As expected the Riazor welcomed the Segunda champions back to La Liga in momentous fashion last week as 46,000 fans roared on and saw Deportivo claim a 2-0 victory over Osasuna. Cries of ‘amo Depor’ continue to ring around A Coruna and chants of ‘Vamos Depor’ barely seem set to waver. The club is abuzz with content fans who clearly missed top flight football last year, despite the magnificent title-winning effort. It is a mood that is almost the inverse of when Depor were last in La Liga.
Years of under achieving and financial mismanagement ultimately resulted in Depor’s dismal downfall; a flat squad almost incapable of scoring and almost resigned to relegation before it had even arrived. Under new management, however, Jose Luis Oltra led the side straight back up and restored the heavily depleted pride and dignity of an honourable club. On top of that Oltra has allowed Depor to express themselves, giving his squad the opportunity to play attractive football and please the fans.
If the opening day win over Osasuna was due to the added momentum following promotion and the excitement of returning to La Liga then the draw with Valencia which followed was about the hunger of bouncing back better than before.
At 3-1 down with half an hour remaining, fans could have been forgiven for thinking that their enjoyment would come to an abrupt end. Nevertheless Deportivo responded and snatched a draw in a thrilling contest. From the outside it looks as if Depor capitalised on Ricardo Costa's harsh red card, but a closer look at the match stats shows that the away side were good value for their point.
Depor managed a greater amount of shots on goal and more possession than the team who finished third last year and had held Real Madrid to a draw at the Bernabeu last week. In fact, Depor could even have won the game late on, but Diego Alves saved Gama's low shot. Two seasons ago it would have been unlikely for Deportivo to get a draw at the Mestalla, let alone score three goals there!
Similarly Deportivo dominated against Osasuna with more shots on goal than their opponents, although Osasuna edged the possession slightly. Irrespective of that Depor still ran out 2-0 winners and even missed a penalty. The fact is that Deportivo are a wholly changed outfit from their last stint in La Liga. Attacking-wise, the team has been transformed during Oltra's spell and have plenty of ability to trouble anyone outside the top two teams.
Considering Andres Guardado, Deportivo's best player last season, lined up against his former club at the Mestalla shows how impressive the current squad is at the club. Guardado assisted 14 goals last season and scored 11 himself as Depor romped to the title. Losing the diminutive Mexican was like Arsenal losing Robin Van Persie during the summer. Instead, the club has boosted their strength in-depth such as Ricardo Oliveira, Abel Aguillar, Riki and Pizzi, all of whom have scored already this season. Uruguayan striker Christian Stuani looks set to complete his medical within the next few days to bolster the attacking unit and try to minimise the loss of Guardado.
Defender Evaldo looked somewhat suspect in the Valencia game, but considering the club also lost centre-back Diego Colotto to Espanyol in the summer this is no surprise. At least the attacking quintet above has all found early form which minimises the risk of another impotent season in front of goal.
Of course the losses of Colotto and Guardado will be felt, more so as the season draws on, but these departures do not limit the growing craving for European football. Ever since promotion was attained any mention of the club's return to La Liga has been blighted by nostalgic memories of when they were once conquering Europe. Now that two games have elapsed and Deportivo have proven their credentials, perhaps a top seven finish could be within their reach.
Coach Oltra has maintained, however, that survival is the club's first ambition, despite the impressive start. Never one to get carried away with things, he has warned Depor fans to not expect the world and understand the awkward financial situation the club are in, especially as Real Madrid and Barcelona await in the coming weeks.
These games could tackle the floating Deportivo bubble back-down to earth and rid the club of its Segunda title memories, but based on the technical ability witnessed in the opening two games, the team will respond and battle back to give themselves the greatest chance of making surge for Europe. Usually the La Liga table leaves itself open to late runs and from what we have seen the club certainly have enough to tread water in mid-table until the final eight or nine games.
Tom is a regular contributor to the site
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