El Centrocampista

ON A WING AND A PRAYER – Real Sociedad and their attacking options.

By Sam Hughes

Real Sociedad finally returned to the primera division last season after a frustrating three-year stint in the segunda, during which former Wales and Fulham boss Chris Coleman oversaw a six-month period of mediocrity.

The ‘Royal Society of Football’?  Not quite.

Fortunes did improve however.

Under Martin Lasarte they claimed the Segunda division title and went into the 2010/11 season with fresh optimism.

The optimism was warranted to an extent as the club began flirting with the idea of UEFA Europa League qualification following a fantastic start to the season.

However, things started to tail after they sat proudly in the top half – possible European qualification quickly became a relegation battle.

They pulled it off, though, with a massive 2-1 win over the champions Barcelona – the season’s highlight – and a last day draw against Getafe.

The 15th-placed finished was deemed unsatifactory and Martin Lasarte was relieved of his duties.

Although it is worth mentioning that they were only four points worse off that Espanyol who ended the season in 8th place.

Harsh decision? Maybe.

The Frenchman, Philippe Montanier has now been given the job after leaving Valenciennes FC for a two-year deal at the Anoeta.

The task is to build upon a side that obviously has considerable talents given the form shown at the beginning of last season.

But what needs to be done to improve and consolidate the club as a La Liga side?

The glaring weakness is the team’s defence – they conceded the third most goals in La Liga – and if it were to be left unaddressed then another long, hard fight is facing them.

There is also a gap in the side following the decision to not offer defensive midfielder Diego Rivas a new contract.

Assuming a dip into the transfer market and a rediscovery of form solves the defensive woes, the next priority will be to find a goalscorer.

Espanyol hero Raul Tamudo did a decent job as he finished joint top goalscorer with seven.

However, with his contract now up, the search for an out-and-out goalscorer must begin.

Although there is a lot that needs to be done, their were a couple of highlights that should keep the optimism around Real Sociedad alive and kicking.

The Erreala’s use of a five-man midfield is designed to accomodate three attacking outlets in the form of captain; Mikel Aranburu, and the widemen; Xabi Prieto and Antione Greizmann.

Anoine Griezmann can provide a major threat for Real Sociedad

The former two are what set Real Sociedad apart from the other teams that finished around them in La Liga.

The statistics show them both to be the top two wingers throughout the top division in terms of total crosses(181 and 167), crossing accuracy (25% and 27%) and goals (seven each).

Xabi Prieto also comes top of the wingers charts with a dribbling success rate of 44% and a total of 11 assists.

Such figures may come as a surprise considering both play for a side that have battled relegation, but they do show a key strength that can be taken advantage of next season.

Xabi Prieto, statistically the better of the two, is 27 and hitting his peak.

Antione Greizmann is only 20 and has years ahead of him to improve.

Both players are at different stages of their careers but both offer something that many other clubs just do not have – service to the frontman.

With two wingers putting in an average of over five crosses per game each; the Txuri-urdin just need a clinical striker to be waiting there patiently for the perfect delivery.

It is obvious that Montanier has to make Preito and Greizmann his key men – their talent and statistics deserve it.

Though he must make sure that defensive and goal-scoring issues are resolved so the team can benefit directly from two very talented wingers.

Should this be achieved then that brief flirtation with European football in San Sebastian may just become a much more permanent thing.

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