A month is a long time in football, so six months are an eternity. Just half a year ago, Sevilla were in complete crisis.
They’d just lost the Copa del Rey final 5-0 to Barcelona, turning in a lethargic performance that angered their fans, some of whom confronted the players at the train station on their way back to Seville. They were well off the pace in LaLiga and risked missing out on Europa League qualification. Logically, the coach Vincenzo Montella was under fire and would soon be replaced by the veteran Joaquín Caparrós to make the Spaniard their third permanent coach of the season.
Caparrós managed to salvage seventh place and European football for Los Rojiblancos, but Sevilla had put together their poorest season since 2012/13, their worst of José Castro’s presidency. Alarm bells were ringing.
Now, as they head into the October international break, they sit top of the league table. Things still aren’t perfect and they endured a three-match goalless streak in LaLiga through weeks two to four, but this team is much improved and, in this crazy LaLiga season where the giants are dropping points like Hansel does breadcrumbs, it has been enough to put them top with 16 points after eight matches.
For this, Sevilla fans have a number of people to thank. The sporting department deserves some credit, having finally been able to move on from Monchi’s 2017 departure and put together a functioning squad of their own, making astute summer singings like Tomas Vaclik, Sergi Gómez and André Silva.
The primary hero, though, is Pablo Machín, their new coach. This is only his second ever season in the top division of Spanish football, having done such a good job with newly promoted Girona in 2017/18 that he was the chosen one to take over the dugout at the Estadio Sánchez Pizjuán.
Last year, his 3-4-2-1 system confused teams across Spain and few sides could come up with a way to stop it. The 43-year-old has introduced many elements of this system in his new role, while also making the tweaks necessary for this to work at a club with much greater resources than a modest outfit like Girona.
The back three has stayed and has been non-negotiable. While the front seven has been put together in a variety of different shapes, Sevilla have used a three-man back line in all of their matches so far. A two-man central midfield has been a consistent feature too, with these players flanked by wing-backs. Up front, Machín has managed to give significant playing time to each of André Silva, Wissam Ben Yedder, Franco Vázquez and Pablo Sarabia, with each player scoring more frequently than they did last season. Keeping all of these offensive players active and happy has been an achievement in itself.
All of the above has combined to make Sevilla a truly dangerous threat when they go forward. Besides the aforementioned three-game goalless blip, they have been banging in the goals for fun. They already have 42 to their name in 2018/19 and, while this is in part due to the fact they played some pretty poor teams during Europa League qualifying, it’s worth noting that only Paris Saint-Germain have scored more than Sevilla out of all the teams in Europe’s top five leagues. It has been the Andalusian club’s best goalscoring start to a season since 1955 and it’s certainly not to be sniffed at.
Will they keep this up and will they challenge for the league title? Almost certainly not. The three giants of Spanish football are surely too strong. But Sevilla have put themselves in an excellent position to qualify for the Champions League. A few months ago, that would have been unthinkable.
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