El Centrocampista

WALKING THE PLANK – Two more La Liga coaches head for the exit

If any of the big betting firms were taking odds on the next La Liga coach to lose his job, right now there is little doubt that Sevilla’s Marcelino would be the man at the top of their list: what is equally certain is that he would be sharing top billing with Phillipe Montanier at Real Sociedad.

Both men only began their new jobs in the summer, but defeat for either of their sides this weekend might well be the final straw for their trigger happy bosses.

Sevilla’s recent return of nine points out of a possible thirty, coupled with failure to progress to the Cup quarter finals and to even make the group stages of the Europa League is simply not good enough for a set of fans who have grown used to success over the last five years, having previously gone 58 years without winning a trophy.

Indeed even Gregorio Manzano’s fifth place finish was not enough to save him from the chop at the end of last season, with failure to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in three seasons being deemed enough of an excuse to show him the door.

Yet Marcelino has been given little money with which to strengthen the squad (the recent homecoming of Jose Antonio Reyes being a notable, and some would argue unnecessary exception), and despite this Sevilla remain very much in touch with the top four as the season reaches its halfway point.

Just four goals scored away from home all season may go some way to explaining the growing clamour for the former Santander and Zaragoza coach to be replaced. However it is interesting to note that as well as the usual criticism aimed at the coach and president of a club in troubled times, in this case the seemingly prison bound Angel Del Nido, there is also a real sense amongst the supporters that it is above all the players who are letting the club down.

Anyone who has had the good fortune to stand amongst the ‘biris del Gol Norte’, a huge band of supporters named after the affectionate term for a hugely popular Gambian forward in the 70s, will know that perhaps more than anywhere else in Spain, the fans’ passion for their club is all-consuming and relentless. Any sense that the players do not share their passion is swiftly noted and duly condemned.

Earlier this week the players had to apologise for failing to acknowledge their travelling fans after their third successive league defeat last Sunday at Rayo Vallecano. Then after the Valencia tie had ended in victory but ultimately cup elimination, leading to all too familiar cries of ‘mercenaries’, underwhelming summer signing Emir Spahic and team mate Ivan Rakitic had to beat a hasty retreat after being set upon in a bar near the Sanchez Pijuan.

Having said all that, there is little doubt that defeat at home to a buoyant Espanyol side will push Marcelino even closer to the exit door.
Meanwhile more than 500 miles north of the Andalucian capital, Montanier is again on the ropes, after a mini revival before Christmas seemed to have eased the pressure on him.

Having sacked previous incumbent Martin Lasarte and paid French club Valenciennes half a million euros in compensation so that he could appoint his eighth new coach in five years, Sociedad president Jokin Aperribay’s finger must have been hovering dangerously near the trigger by early November, with the Txurri-urdin sitting rock bottom with just nine points from their first eleven games.

A run of two wins and two draws soon put an end to that statistic, but Tuesday’s humiliating 6-1 Cup defeat at Mallorca was enough to persuade Aperribay to make an appearance in person at the training ground yesterday to tell the players what he thought of their performance.

In the immediate future, Montanier’s saving grace may well be that the sides below his are poor enough to ensure that his charges stay out of the bottom three, regardless of how many points they manage against two tough opponents in Valencia and a revitalised Atletico Madrid. However a bad result against Sporting in two weeks’ time will surely spell the end for him – if he even makes it that far.

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