Tarun takes a look at the impressive start Real Sociedad have made to the La Liga season and ponders on what the future holds.
Real Sociedad have had an outstanding month, securing 7 points out of 9 with only a clinical Lionel Messi finish denying them 3 points against a lethargic and disorganised Barcelona. The team is currently an impressive fifth in the table with 23 points (that’s almost half of the points they achieved the whole of last season already, 48). With only teams in the bottom 5 left to play until January, will we be seeing La Real sitting pretty in a Champions League spot having dethroned a major force come the New Year?
The month of November started with a bang at Anoeta as 2 penalties took them to victory against Atlético Madrid; a cute Carlos Vela finish and a powerful Willian José strike coasted Sociedad to victory. Both teams struggled to play out from the back with the heavy rain holding up the ball but as it dried out some clever counter attacks got the better of the static Atlético defence. A routine win against Sporting Gijon capped by a stunning Inigo Martinez free-kick allowed the team to carry on churning out points as a visit from Barcelona loomed. However, only a disallowed goal and a moment of quality from the pairing of Neymar Jr. and Messi denied Sociedad the win. A fervent La Real displayed a scintillating attacking performance but were desperately unlucky, especially with Carlos Vela even managing to hit the post in the dying minutes as well.
Real Sociedad had a quite transfer window as expected as they have a cap on non-Basque players so they struggle to find a high number of eligible players. They have done the opposite to teams like Sevilla and Valencia, who both saw a mass exodus and influx of players, opting to stick with a stable team. However, one of their international additions over the summer has really brought home the goods in the form of Willian José. He has scored 7 goals and assisted 1 to propel Sociedad this season. He is proving to be a great addition to the squad by the manager, Eusebio Sacristan, for only €5.1 million. The team struggled last season as the ineffective Jonathas was unable to cement his position in the starting line-up. Willian José’s poachers finish against Barcelona indicated what the team had been missing during Imanol Agirretxe’s absence through injury. His fast and direct play allows him to mop up after the wingers, Vela and Mikel Oyarzabal, as well as release them in quick counter attacking build-ups. This new MSN-like role has really suited Sociedad and is a very nice change to have a striker focused on speed as opposed to aerial prowess.
We have always recognised and admired Carlos Vela’s talent. He can be world-class on his day but could not seem to be able to deliver week-in week- out. This season though, with 4 goals and 2 assists, he has built consistency into his game; he has finally come of age! He has been vibrant on the right wing and his relationship with Oyarzabal and Willian José has tormented defences. His spectacular strike against Barcelona cannot go unnoticed even though it wasn’t a goal and if the Spanish FA had implemented goal line technology it might even have been one.
Can La Real go all the way? With a solid backline and leaders like Xabi Prieto and Iñigo Martínez - and let’s not forget their own little MSN - they stand in good stead. With a few giant-killings already under their belt, I’m sure they are brimming with confidence that they will win the upcoming battles against Villareal and fierce neighbours Athletic Bilbao in the war for the Europa League spot, and possibly even vie for Champions League qualification. Being only 1 point behind fourth placed Atletico Madrid, they have every right to.
Spanish Football Writer