At the halfway stage of my third season in Eibar we were sitting in 8th position in La Liga. We’d actually only lost three matches though, the same number as Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and were five points off Valencia, who were in 4th spot.
I couldn’t have predicted what would happen next…
What happened to Valencia?
As I said, they were sitting 4th at the halfway point of the season after winning 10 of their 18 league matches. They then proceeded to only win five more matches across the second half of the season in a shocking run of form.
Albert Celades was relieved of his duties as they tumbled to 7th, only just qualifying for the Europa Conference League on goal difference ahead of newly promoted Tenerife. What happened to them? It’s difficult to determine but let’s have a brief look at our 2-0 win against them in January.
Valencia lined up in a 4-4-1-1, with Dani Olmo supporting Divock Origi in attack. Gonçalo Guedes is a former FM love of mine and he’s always a danger, he started on the left hand side of midfield. I always downplay the quality of my team, I much prefer to be the underdog, so on paper this Valencia side should really be beating us. Ahead of this one we’d only managed to beat them once in our five encounters, with Valencia winning 3-0 at the Mestalla earlier on this season too, Guedes and Origi being among the scorers that day.
I’m stubborn. Despite that loss I saw no reason why I should change the way we play and how we approached this encounter with Celades’ men. It was my usual 3-5-2, I felt like Eddie Nketiah and Thomas Amang could cause Gabriel Paulista and Mouctar Diakhaby problems, and they did.
Amang assisted for Eddie and Eddie assisted for Amang to get our 2-0 victory. Both goals came in the second half as Valencia tried to push further forward, a mistake against us with Amang’s pace a constant danger in behind.
Someone had to finish 4th. If it wasn’t going to be Valencia…
2021/22 January to May
Barring a couple of disappointing results against Athletic Club and Levante at home, plus an annoying narrow 4-3 loss in Sevilla, the second half of the season was superb. We played some brilliant football throughout and someone had to qualify for the Champions League at Valencia’s expense…
In my third season at little Eibar we’ve managed to qualify for the Champions League. A tremendous achievement and one that’ll enable the club to really kick on the next level, in all aspects. Here comes the money.
We really were there to capitalise on the mistakes and slip ups of others, some of the stats back that up. Our points tally of 70 is only one higher than in my first season at the club, in which we finished 5th. We scored exactly the same number of goals this season as we did last, a 6th place finish, and our goals conceded is actually four worse off than that first season and just one better than last season.
What of the other competitions? Well our 3rd place finish in that tricky Europa League group alongside Manchester United and Marseille luckily took us into the Europa Conference League. After managing to get through against Spurs in the 2nd knockout round, I was confident we could go all the way and lift the trophy but Wolfsburg had other ideas. Ademola Lookman hit a first half hattrick in the second leg to shoot down those hopes. Our opponents would’ve been league rivals, Levante, followed by Besiktas in the semi. As it was we lost to the eventual winners. What could’ve been.
Decent progress in the Copa del Rey continues to elude us. At 3-1 up in extra time against Betis at home we managed to concede and then concede again and go out on penalties. We’ll win a trophy eventually.
The Dynamic Duo
Or another cliche to describe two players who performed ridiculously well alongside each other this season. Looking at those results screenshots from the season, you might notice a couple of names appearing more than others.
You’ve already seen evidence in this post of how dangerous Amang can be. I focused on him previously here and he followed up last season’s total of 16 goals with another 22 this time round. Not bad at all for someone with 10 finishing who cost £475k. He’s now valued at £13.25m and I’m sure he’ll cause a few more defences some problems next season too.
Amang’s partner up top this season was Arsenal loanee, Eddie Nketiah. What a ridiculous season this man had. Not quite 1,000 goals but I’m happy enough with the 32 he scored in all competitions, 27 of those coming in La Liga to finish just one behind Alvaro Morata in both the league and European Golden Boot awards.
It’ll be really tough to replace his goals next season. I think I might continue to go down the loan route and get a player in that we can’t afford to buy but who’ll make the difference.
I can’t quite believe I’ve finished 4th this season and will be playing Champions League football with Eibar next season. It’s a big summer as I look to improve the squad where possible to ensure we can compete on multiple fronts with a budget of £16m to spend. Time to get resourceful.
We’re living in strange times. Things are a struggle for everyone but if you can at all, the below charities are vitally important and will certainly continue to be at this time, please consider donating to them.
CALM – leading the movement against the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK, suicide.