The November international break is always a good time to take stock of what we’ve seen in world football so far in 2021/22, and what we expect to follow.
Around one-third of the way through the campaign, there have been a handful of surprise packages this term, but few have caught the eye quite like Real Sociedad.
Home to Socceroo keeper Mat Ryan, the White and Blues find themselves top of the Spanish La Liga table, with a full eleven-point cushion over Barcelona and a five-point gap to reigning champions Atletico Madrid
And Ryan and Co have seen their Europa League odds from Paddy Power slashed to 20/1 after an unbeaten start to their continental campaign – they sit in second place in Group B behind leaders Monaco.
It is, perhaps, a bit premature to recommend that the San Sebastian outfit is going to go on and complete a legendary double of successes. Both Madrid sides will come on strong later in the campaign, while most Europa League tips columns will remind us that some big guns from the Champions League will move into the competition during the knockout phase.
But you suspect that Sociedad will continue to do their thing, and with five wins in their last seven games last term perhaps we should have seen this supreme form coming. And with a smart summer transfer window, in which they brought in Ryan and defenders Robin Le Normand and Aritz Elustondo, bearing fruit, maybe now is their time to end a 30-year wait for major silverware.
Keeping It Tight
Having played the entirety of his career as a right-back, it’s perhaps no major surprise that Imanol Alguacil has carved something of a reputation as a defense-minded coach too.
But it’s Sociedad that are reaping the rewards of such a philosophy, and at the time of writing, they have conceded just ten La Liga goals in 13 outings, with eight clean sheets.
New boys Le Normand and Elustondo have been fantastic so far, and together they are forming one of the most formidable defensive partnerships in Spain – and in the Europa League too, for that matter.
Perhaps luck has slightly been on their side. The Expected Goals stats suggest that Sociedad might have conceded as many as 15 La Liga goals by now based upon the chances yielded, and so it is essential that Alguacil and his staff continue to find ways to improve their side’s shape.
But if you are keeping clean sheets, then you only need to score once to win a football match – something Sociedad has proven very adept at thus far.
They’ve only failed to find the net once while on league duty, and the chief architect of their attacking prowess has undoubtedly been Mikel Oyarzabal, who the Blue and Whites have done extremely well to hang on to with some major clubs lurking to sign him.
The 24-year-old has already been amongst the goals, and his partnership with Alexander Isak will be crucial to Sociedad maintaining their strong start to the season.
If they can, and if the defense remains as stout as it has been all term, who knows what Real Sociedad can go on to achieve this term.