“After Monchi left, no one needs to be worried about more changes. Everyone and no one is essential.” These were the words from his successor at Sevilla, Oscar Arias, to AS back in July. Sevilla lost one of their most influential members of staff when Monchi left to join AS Roma earlier this summer. “We are all for sale.” And that’s how Sevilla operated, and operates, with or without Monchi. But for all the fear-mongering and panic about losing him, alongside Jorge Sampaoli, Sevilla remain strong and continue to battle on all fronts.
Like a Salamander, Sevilla are capable of regenerating lost limbs with minimal fuss. For the majority of teams the impending swoop from a richer rival produces fear and anger. At Sevilla, while losing key players is hardly ideal, there are already plans in place should someone end up leaving. The Vitolo saga left a bitter taste in the mouth for Sevilla fans but long-term you sense they’ll do just fine. Making it public was a warning that they won’t be pushed around, even if the end result wasn’t what they wanted.
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Monchi might not be there but his team, structure and planning remain in place. A scouting network which originally only had three members now has 15. Each person has an assignment to find talent in their specific area or country and report back to the man in charge. The resulting players all receive a grade ranging from essential purchase to not good enough. The lists are endless, in various positions. Youngsters, veterans, Europeans, non-Europeans are all included. There isn’t just a Plan B, there’s a Plan A to Z.
The new superstar at Sevilla could reach the very top
Joaquin Correa might not be an Arias signing but he was an alternative to Franco Vazquez when the latter’s deal hit a roadblock. The young Argentine, doing okay in Serie A but still a relative unknown, signed for Sevilla in a €10m deal. Whilst unknown to most, Monchi and the then-coach Sampaoli both highly rated Correa and saw him as a someone who could eventually succeed Ever Banega. In the end Sevilla signed Vazquez too.
In Correa’s first season at Sevilla he showed only brief glimpses of his talent. Due to Sampaoli’s initial reluctance to change his first choice eleven, Correa had to make do with cameos off the bench. He played primarily on the wings with the feeling being that he would find more space to exploit there. He finished the season as first choice, giving him the springboard to explode onto the scene this campaign.
Last night, against Maribor, we are saw another snippet of what this kid is really capable of. His close touch control, flexibility to move on either foot and burst of speed left defenders in his wake. The assist for Wissam Ben Yedder’s first goal is something you’d put at the level of Lionel Messi. The footwork, the movement, the drive and crucially an end product. Now people are beginning to see why Monchi worked so hard to bring him in. Rumours are floating around Spain that even Barcelona are keeping tabs on his development – a potential Coutinho alternative?
Ben Yedder is firing on all cylinders
And person who scored courtesy of Correa’s assist, Ben Yedder, is yet another example of why Sevilla are in safe hands. He had opportunities to change clubs in the summer but decided to stay. Luis Muriel, Sevilla’s record signing, adds even more pressure on the Frenchman to perform but it’s had a positive effect. Ben Yedder has seven goals in eight appearances this season and is deservedly first choice up front.
There’s been heavy criticism of Eduardo Berizzo’s decision to continually rotate his starting eleven. It was an issue he faced while at Celta Vigo too. But Berizzo will point to the success he enjoyed there as reason to trust his methods. Sevilla’s start to the season, with an important Champions League qualifier thrown in, meant they needed to keep key members of the squad fresh. It won’t always work, and some players may disagree with the decisions, but it’s working so far.
We always hear about the first few weeks of the season being about fitness and picking up points whatever way you can. Rhythm, understanding and fluidity takes time and more so under a new coach. There may be similar concepts but it’s still a learning process. Immediate, eye-catching football isn’t common and people forget Sampaoli’s side fell apart not long after Christmas. Patience is key and that’s what Berizzo is looking for.
Rotations galore but the results show Berizzo is on the right track
Those concerns from afar are falling on deaf ears too as the results have been solid. They’ve only lost once in LaLiga and that was last weekend against Atletico Madrid. While the 2-0 scoreline suggests it was comfortable for the home side, it was Sevilla who dominated most of the first half. In the other games they have five victories and one draw. Panic, what panic?
A tricky tie against Turkish side Medipol Basaksehir wasn’t easy in their Champions League qualifier either. The surprise package of last season’s Süper Lig were no pushovers, the 2-2 draw in Spain was proof of that, but Sevilla secured the victory to make the group stages. And again, in Europe, there can be no complaints. A credible 2-2 draw at Anfield was followed by a 3-0 victory over Maribor to see Sevilla go top of the group. Crucially, Liverpool still to travel to the Sanchez-Pizjuan as well. That puts Sevilla in a very strong position.
LaLiga or the Champions League?
As the season wears on Berizzo might need to pick a regular eleven. Although he is likely to encounter the same crossroads that he faced at Celta as to which competition he should prioritise. Sevilla don’t have the squad to challenge on all fronts throughout a season. Sampaoli went for the league, then the Champions League as a backup. It cost him dearly in both competitions.
When Monchi waved goodbye to Sevilla many thought this would signal the end of their success, both on and off the pitch. However Arias has been learning from the best and he’s already shown that in his purchases this summer. Jesus Navas and Nolito returned to Spain, as did former creator-in-chief Banega. Defensive recruits Simon Kjaer and Sebastien Corchia also look like smart buys. The only risky deal is that for Luis Muriel. At €20m there’s little room for error but when you look at Sevilla’s track record, there’s every chance he’ll prove his worth,.