I used to really enjoy watching Spanish football. Back when Valencia were an actual threat, when Villarreal were knocking up the top end of the league and Real Madrid and Barcelona might still have won, but it wasn’t quite such a steam-rollering as it is now. There was
competition. That’s not there so much any more. Except at the bottom, and the teams at the bottom tend to have their games shunted around like who-knows-what. I covered the last day of last season HERE (and it reviewed well) as Villarreal slipped out of the top flight but this year has been a little more arms length. Except. Except my friend (who has a friend) lives in A Coruña and won’t shut up about Depor’s recent form. Indeed, it is impressive. I thought they were dead and buried a few weeks hence, but judging by the scenes as Mallorca netted a last second bobble off Giovani last night, I think its Celta Vigo who are doomed. As an aside, Celta’s font for names and numbers is one of the most vile things I have ever seen on a football field, so they probably deserve relegation for that alone.
This post, then, has the potential to become epic. Ostensibly, I’m focusing on Depor, but taking them in the context of the context of the relegation zone at the moment. They sit mercifully above the dotted line as it stands, with another seven games to play, but only after an epic run – Sid Lowe reckoning it’s the first time in their Liga history Depor have won four in a row scoring at least three in each game; historic run, too, then.
You can see how its affected Depor’s form over the season (same graph styles as before, with results in the faded blue) on the graph above. That recent turn-up in results has come, it seems, out of the blue. I figure, as with Frankfurt the other day, I ought to analyse the effectiveness of both ends of Depor’s games over the course of the season; in terms of shots and shots allowed (the faded lines are the running 6-game averages).
To be honest, nothing’s changed, has it? Both figures are rising, slowly, but there’s nothing particularly dramatic come in the last few games to indicate what’s gone on there. It’s a similar story, you can see here, with Depor’s opponents. The numbers may vary wildly (that’s always going to happen in a league with teams such as Barcelona and Real Madrid), but overall, the pattern is that generally, Depor have about 0.5 shots fewer on target than their opponents. Not enough to condemn them to certain relegation, surely?
So there must be more to it. There is. I noticed, as you might also have, that Depor’s recent victories have not been against the most imposing teams in the league – Celta Vigo (20th), Mallorca (19th), Real Zaragoza (18th) and Levante (12th). So yes, while winning four in a row is impressive; there’s been some calculation behind Depor’s run. If the plan was to attack, in other words (as management have claimed) then they were picking on the prospective games against weak to do so. However, it has worked, hasn’t it? Here’s another graph, detailing the average league position (as it stands) of the teams each of the bottom six has beaten this season.
Now, that’s quite something, isn’t it? Mallorca’s victories have come against far more tricky opposition than Depor’s (though – conversely – their defeats must have come against ‘easier’ opposition). What that does seem to suggest, however, is that Depor are acquiring their stock of points against weaker teams. That might prove a problem if their forthcoming fixtures are against the better teams in the league. I extrapolated the league as it stands, though (I’m a fan of
extrapolation, as you know) to see where teams would end up if their current performance against the Top 7, the Middle 6 and the Bottom 7 is continued in the games they have left against them.
It looks like, according to the extrapolation, its going to be an incredibly tight end to the season at the bottom of La Liga. Depor, in that sense, have the advantage if all three teams are level as I projected that they will be. However, in terms of head-to-head record, they’d be below Granada (though above Mallorca) if they were the only two teams level on points, by virtue of the islanders 0-3 victory in the Riazor. This weekend sees Deportivo hosting Athletic Bilbao – now, Bilbao are 14th currently, well within that group of teams Depor have beaten. A victory would, in all probably lift the Galicians above Osasuna, who host Barcelona at the weekend. The psychological boost from that could be crucial, as the next week brings a trip to the season’s surprise package Real Betis.
I think, honestly, what we’ve seen is that Depor aren’t doing much differently in recent weeks to what they were before; they’ve just been playing against weaker opposition. That said, to carry momentum and belief forward, and form, could be very important – if they are to survive, this run needs to serve as a springboard – ideally extended to five wins on the weekend; it has to be built upon, as on its own, it will not be enough.