Thursday, November 12, 2015

La Liga Week in Review: 11/12

By Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial)

One of the most entertaining match days of the season saw Real Madrid drop their first game of the year, Barcelona rise to the top of the table, and incredible goals all across the league. Who’s rising and falling in La Liga: Find out below

Stock Up      

Inaki Williams (Athletic Bilbao) 

Social media was full of tweets, GIFS, videos, and any other type of technology you can think of. OMG- Did you see "Neymar’s goal?" countless read. Understandable, considering the high degree of difficulty, and Barcelona’s huge following.

Four hours earlier, and still under the moon here in the United States, Inaki Williams did something even better. Flicking the ball over his marker, Inaki sprinted before volleying a missile into the top corner. In the pass, flick, shot sequence- the ball never touched the ground.

It took a while for the 21 year old to settle into the first team, but he now has scored five goals in the last three games. Similarly, after a poor start, Athletic now sit 8th in the standings and 1st in their Europa League group.

Born in Bilbao to a Ghanaian father and a Liberian Mother, Inaki is slowly catching the eye of Spain's National team coach, Vicente Del Bosque. With performances like these, Europe’s heavyweights will also be circling the water like a pack of hungry sharks. A new and improved contract is apparently in the works, and for Athletic fans, it can’t be signed quick enough.

Dani Parejo (Valencia) 

17 shots to 9. 15 corners to 5. 61% to 39% possession.

No, those weren’t Valencia’s stats, they were Celta’s.

Anyone glancing at those numbers would assume a game of utter domination, Valencia on its knees, staring at another defeat.

For the first 44 minutes or so, you would’ve been right. Celta was the much better team in all aspects, except in front of goal.

Sensing an opportunity, captain Dani Parejo took the match into his own hands.

With the score deadlocked at 1-1, Parejo stood over the ball, setting up for a free-kick from 25 yards out. Effortlessly, he launched a shot into the upper left corner, giving the keeper a mere flinch of reaction time.

When the final whistle was blown, Valencia had won 5-1 with Parejo scoring twice, while setting up three others. Valencia now sit in seventh place, just three points off the top four, after neither Villarreal nor Celta picked up points this week. For all of the doom and gloom echoed by its supporters, Valencia’s most impressive win couldn’t have come at a better time.

Yevhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla) 

Remember when you were young, fighting your older brother or that bigger best friend? Trying your hardest to get to him, his hand on your head, feet sliding as if the floor were covered in oil?

Such a defeated and helpless feeling.

For Real Madrid’s defense, this game was much worse.

It only took eleven matches, but the Ukrainian finally made me look smart by predicting him as a “player to watch” in my season preview.

Yevhen ran circles around defenders, turning them inside and out, back and front. The collective chants of ole from the crowd were reminiscent of the oohh’s and aahh’s after an Allen Iverson crossover. On a field consisting of a Ballon D’or winner and World Cup champions, Yevhen was it’s shining star.

His give-and-go assist to Ever Banega set up Sevilla’s 2nd goal, giving the Andalusians the confidence to kill off the game. Much like the rest of his team-mates, Sevilla have been mired in inconsistency. Having now claimed victories over both Barcelona and Real Madrid, Sevilla have flashed the potential of a Champions League side. 

Stock Down  

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)  

Ok, I'll admit it. This is a weird one for me.

Part of me is torn. Am I being too critical? Spoiled by the Portuguese man’s astronomical numbers and consistency? After all, he does have eight goals on the year.

Or, are those days slowly fading from the norm?

Now at 30 years old, Ronaldo has reached a stage at which most footballers must adapt their games. The days of gazelle-like speed and injury recovery aren’t quite where they used to be, but Ronaldo wasn’t most footballers.

Sunday’s match saw him blast five shots, putting only one on target. In somewhat of a season long trend, Ronaldo has missed on a lot of shots. In past seasons, many would have been goals. A chorus of people have even gone as far to say Neymar has surpassed him as the world's second greatest player.

If anything, this “drought” has proven just how invaluable Karim Benzema is. Forced to move into the center of the park in the Frenchman's absence, Ronaldo has struggled with his back to the goal.

Rafa Benitez’s lack of creativity in the offensive third haven’t helped matters either.

Until Sunday, Madrid had yet to lose a game, so all was forgiven. Lose? Yeah, that’ll change the perception.

With El Clasico looming, the magnifying glass of the world will be burning hotter than ever. Beat Barca while scoring in the process?

We’ll all be back gelling our faux hawks and scheduling spray tan appointments.

Koke (Atletico Madrid) 

"Poor form" and Koke's name are rarely uttered in the same statement. Since arriving on the scene in 2009 for his beloved Atletico, the Spaniard has been anything but poor.

Atleti as a whole have struggled to create chances all season. As an attacking midfielder, your primary responsibilities are to create chances for your teammates, while looking for goal when opportunities arise.

For one reason or another, the creativity has been lacking. Consider, Atleti have failed to score more than two goals in any La Liga game since August 30th against Sevilla. For all of the attacking talent brought in over the summer, the return on investment has been disappointing.

Still, Los Colchoneros sit 3rd in La Liga with 1st place Barcelona within striking distance. Koke’s revival of form will be integral to staying in the title hunt.

David Moyes (Real Sociedad)  

If you follow this post weekly, you’ll know that no one is more popular on this list than the Scot.

Unfortunately for me, and you, the good times have come to an end.

It was inevitable, but Real Sociedad finally sacked their manager Monday morning, replacing him with former Barcelona B coach Eusebio Sacristan. Moyes’ tenure lasted until exactly a day before it’s 1-year anniversary, ending in an embarrassing defeat at Las Palmas, in which his players flat-out quit.

It wasn’t that he was a terrible manager. In fairness, Moyes had a lot of things going against him in San Sebastian. Sporting director Loren was in charge of buying the players, stripping Moyes of his most impressive skill. While at Everton, he was able to attract top championship players to a side not usually featuring them.

The language barrier was also a glaring problem. Managers who go abroad and succeed are usually those who most embrace their new environment, fully understanding what’s going on around them. Despite taking language classes once a week, the gap was too immense- his players became disconnected. The that fact he lived out of a hotel is also ironic, considering the long term future envisioned at his introductory press conference.

At the end of the day, it may have been the right coach at the wrong place. Time will tell, but I speak for all when I say, it’s been fun, mate.

Goal(s) of the Week

Some absolutely spectacular goals this week, including two that may be up for goal of the year. Since I’m feeling generous I present you not one, not two, but three goals for your viewing pleasure. Descriptions can’t do them justice, so I’ll just shut up- enjoy!

Inaki Williams (Athletic Bilbao)

Neymar (Barcelona)

The YouTube video of Neymar's amazing goal has been taken down, but you can watch it here.

Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

Games to Watch/Matchday 12

Writers Note: The international break is upon us this week. La Liga action will be back November 21st, with El Clasico taking center stage.

1. Real Madrid vs. Barcelona 11/21 12:15 PM
2. Villarreal vs. Eibar 11/22 10:00 AM
3 .Deportivo vs. Celta de Vigo 11/21 4:05 PM

La Liga Standings

Table: PTOS-points, PJ-games played, PG-games won, PE-games tied, PP-games lost

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