El Centrocampista

SICK AS A PARAKEET – Pochettino faces difficult times ahead

By Olly Dawes

After a shocking end to the 2010/11 season, RCD Espanyol find themselves in trouble once more.

The 4-0 home thumping by Jose Mourinho’s machine-like Madrid  left the Catalan side in an underwhelming position of 15th in La Liga – losing four games out of six so far.

It’s hard to determine what is worse for Espanyol – the problems on the pitch or the problems off the pitch. Let’s start with on.

Madrid’s frontline of Kaka, Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo and hat-trick hero Gonzalo Higuain ran riot against a sieve-like Espanyol defence, leaving the stranded Cristian Alvarez with little or no protection.

The rest of the team played fairly well, but the strength and pace of a buoyant Madrid side was just too much for a side devoid of confidence.

New signing Romaric was the stand-out performer in the side, repaying the faith shown in him by the young and beleaguered Mauricio Pochettino.

There were a few chants from the stands criticising Pochettino for his tactics and substitutions, whilst the Catalan press gave a scathing damnation of Espanyol’s display.

But how much of the blame can be placed on Pochettino’s doorstep?

The ever deteriorating financial conditions of the club has placed strict constraints on Pochettino’s dealings in the transfer market.

The sale of key man and top scorer Pablo Daniel Osvaldo has hit the club hard, as well as selling forward Jose Maria Callejon to Madrid – who predictably scored in the 4-0 defeat.

Despite the sale of Osvaldo for £15m to Serie A giants Roma, little of that money has been given back to Pochettino in the way of transfer funds.

For proof of this, let’s take a look at the Espanyol transfer dealings this summer.

They tied up the signing of Getafe’s forward Juan Angel Albin for £2.5m, although he has been ruled out for three months with an injury, alongside right back Felipe Mattioni.

Next they signed Hector Moreno from AZ Alkmaar.

A Mexican international, Moreno is seen as the replacement for now Valencia centre back Victor Ruiz after Espanyol sold him to Napoli in the January transfer window.

Moreno is of a good age, decent pedigree and came for a relatively low price tag of £3.5m.

If Moreno can realise his potential, Espanyol will have a player on their hands.

But the Moreno deal was two-fold. They ended up signing a much needed sponsorship deal with Mexican resort Cancun to help promote the club and open up a market in Mexico – attempts to sign the Dos Santos brothers; Giovani and Jonathan were made, but inevitably failed.

The rest of the signings were frees or loan deals in the shape of Walter Pandiani, Didac Vila, Vladimir Weiss and Sevilla’s Ivorian midfielder Romaric, as Pochettino attempted to make the most of the limited resources available to him.

The coach was dealt a further blow on deadline day however, as he lost a another member of his dwindling first-team squad.

The Espanyol board inexplicably sold Luis Garcia – a player who held an incredible identity with the club and the fans.

220 appearances in six years with 43 goals and he’d gone to Zaragoza – then showing Espanyol what they were missing by hitting two in another Espanyol away day nightmare – Zaragoza winning the game 2-1.

And finally, Espanyol’s bid to sign the talented but precocious Mounir El Hamdaoui from Ajax fell through in the final minutes of the day, despite the Moroccan striker being in Barcelona on August 31st.

The club remain adamant that El Hamdaoui will be signed in January, but with the club struggling now, there could be a rough few months ahead for los periquitos – despite the emerging talents of strikers Thievy Bifouma and Alvaro Vasquez impressing – as Pochettino begins to feel the heat at the Cornella-El Prat.

The Argentine has even come out in the press with all guns blazing, furious at his own board for talking about the potential signing of El Hamdaoui in public.

With  relations strained and the doom-mongerers circling, his weekend’s game at Rayo Vallecano could be crucial to the future of Espanyol and their beleaguered coach.

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