At the time of writing, Real Sociedad have just beaten Granada to win their 5th game in a row and are sitting pretty at the top of La Liga. Although both Atletico and Real Madrid could surpass Sociedad if they were to win their games in hand, it has undoubtedly been a fantastic start to the season for Txuri-Urdinak (The Whites and Blues).
After putting an extremely depleted Granada side to the sword with a 2-0 victory, Sociedad have extended their lead, at the top of the table, to 2 points, just ahead of Unai Emery’s resurgent Villareal. You might think a strong season was on the cards, after finishing 6th in their last La Liga campaign, however, the current season was met with more pessimism than optimism. This was largely due to a rather underwhelming transfer window which only saw one player join, none other than former Manchester City legend, David Silva. Clearly this was an exciting bit of business by itself, yet it was fairly overshadowed by a combination of a lack of other signings and some outgoings too.
They lost centre back Diego Llorente to Leeds, a player who made 29 very solid appearances in La Liga last season, but is yet to really set the world alight in Yorkshire. The biggest loss to the side was the conclusion of Martin Odegaard’s loan from Real Madrid. The Norwegian midfielder was excellent for Sociedad last season, managing to link up play and be a creative outlet, he also chipped in with 4 goals and 6 assists in the league too. After a strong season, the advice to a team is normally to strengthen further in order to promote progress, however it rather looked as though Sociedad were to content to rest on their laurels instead.
Sociedad’s first success has been their defence, which has really managed to settle this season and in fact they’ve only conceded 4 goals in the league, a tally only bested by Atletico Madrid’s concession of a mere 2. Furthermore, their record of only conceding 0.44 goals per game is actually the third best in all of Europe’s top 5 leagues.
They tend to line up with a back 4 which includes former Arsenal man Nacho Monreal on the left, who has been excellent when he’s played, showing his experience and averaging 2 interceptions per game, more than any of his other teammates can boast. At centre back, the pairing of Aritz Elustundo and Robin Le Normand has been very effective with Elustundo being the more ball playing defender, while Le Normand has been dominant in the air. On the other side, you’ve got right back Androni Gorosabel who loves to bomb forward and dispossess opponents, indeed, no player in the league has made more tackles this season than Gorosabel (26). As well as this, Gorosabel ranks 4th in the league for crosses made into the penalty area, showing that although Monreal can probably be considered more conservative, Gorosabel is a little more adventurous whilst also being robust too.
Moving further up the the pitch and into the midfield, we come to consider former Newcastle and Borussia Dortmund man Mikel Merino. Although pretty highly rated amongst the Toon faithful, since moving back to Spain, Merino has become one of the most effective players in the league. His style of play is perfect to unlock the potential of his fellow midfielders as he quietly goes about his business, more often than not doing the dirty work for the team. We mentioned earlier that Robin Le Normand has been dominant in the air at the back, but perhaps more impressively, so has Merino, winning the exact same number of aerial duels but from midfield, his battling qualities break up many an attack before it can begin.
Not limited to just defensive work, but definitely being a more defensively minded player, Merino has often been the one to kickstart attacks too and is that middleman between turning over the ball and getting it to his creative teammates. This is shown by the fact that he ranks 8th in the league for progressive passes this season and for comparison, that is just 2 passes behind Lionel Messi and Luka Modric, clearly Merino is in good company.
Although their only signing this season, David Silva has been at his majestic best for Sociedad. We know all too well how capable the Spaniard is at dictating a game and although he finds himself entering the twilight of his career, he’s still showing just why he’s one of the best midfielders the Premier League’s seen in the last few years. Silva would have been an excellent signing for most teams this Summer, however, it seems an even smarter bit of business when you see how effortlessly he has filled the Martin Odegaard shaped hole in this side.
In terms of wide options, Sociedad have 28-year-old Portu. A very lively player, Portu is constantly on the move up and down the wing and his direct style of play must be absolutely exhausting to play against. He’s been particularly clinical this season, boasting an xG tally of +3.0, therefore perhaps his output could be a rare part of this side that may be considered unsustainable. Despite being an extremely well balanced team, it would be hard to argue that Mikel Oyarzabal hasn’t been Sociedad’s main man this season. The skipper has an abundance of technical ability and leads not only the team in goals scored but also the whole of La Liga. As well as this, Oyarzabal has 2 assists to his name and his sheer creative talent has meant he has grown massively as a player in the last few years.
In terms of forward options, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Sociedad have a well crafted blend of youth and experience here. At 28-years-old, it would be harsh to say that Willian Jose is a veteran, yet he has been a staple of this team for years now, with approaching 150 appearances for the club and 50 league goals too. A dependable front man, Jose was actually linked with Tottenham Hotspur recently, but finds himself at the summit of the Spanish top flight instead. Mixed in with the Brazilian is the hugely exciting Alexander Isak. The young Swede has started his career with a huge amount of promise and despite a disappointing time at Dortmund, seemed to really find his feet in Spain last year, notching 9 league goals. Yet to really get going this season, Isak is still learning his trade and offers a different aspect to Sociedad’s game.
Overall, this is a hugely exciting Real Sociedad team which promises a lot this season. Not only are the squad extremely talented, but they also have excellent strength in depth with a whole host of dependable back ups waiting for their chance. Boasting solid performers all over the pitch, their biggest asset is the balance which their squad has, something which surely speaks for the chances of this period of success being an extended one. Although probably not quite capable of toppling any Barcelona, Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid dominance just yet, the foundations are most definitely there and they look set for a strong showing this season.
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