La Liga’s recent history has been dominated by a handful of free scoring attacking tridents such as Real Madrid’s BBC and Barcelona’s MSN. These lethal trios have undoubtedly defined an era in both clubs histories and an era in La Liga football that will be known for free flowing attacking play. This season, injuries have stopped the Spanish paper debating the qualities of one trio over the other, however, there has been another lethal trio plying their trade outside of the big names of Spanish football. Celta de Vigo’s GAS trident of Maxi Gomez, Iago Aspas and Pione Sisto have indisputably been among the best attacking forces in La Liga this season and at the halfway stage, their numbers are beginning to match some of Spain’s best strike forces of recent past.
The first cog of this goal scoring machine was bought two years as Iago Aspas came back to Celta after a horrific spell at Liverpool, indeed the gif of his famous corner are still doing the rounds on the internet, but, the 30-year-old has been a completely different player since returning to Vigo. Last year, he finished 2017 as the highest scoring Spaniard in La Liga, beating the evergreen Aritz Aduriz and Isco to the title. The following July, Celta bought Pione Sisto who, despite struggling in his first season with the club, has experienced a breakout season with the Celts this season and sits with Lionel Messi at the top of this season’s assists charts with 10. Maxi Gomez’s arrival at the Balaídos has seemed to correspond with Aspas and Sisto taking their numbers to the next level. The Uruguayan took his home nation by storm and was dubbed “the new Luis Suarez” by the local media before he too made the move to Vigo last summer.
Since then and under the tutelage of Juan Carlos Unzue, Celta Vigo have become among the most entertaining sides in La Liga, something which is important to the fans, which was pointed out to me by Joseph Sexton, a Celta fan and European journalist I interviewed while writing this article “It’s great to see the attractive attacking style implanted by Toto Berizzo – and, to a lesser extent, Luis Enrique – persist under Unzué. I think that’s very important for the fans in Vigo, we’re a club that has never won a national top level title, so we like to be entertained.”
Celta are currently the fourth highest scorers in La Liga this season, trailing Barcelona, Valencia and Real Madrid respectively. They are one of just three clubs (Barcelona and Valencia) to have two of their strikers (Iago Aspas and Maxi Gomez) in the top ten top goalscorers this season. In fact, Aspas and Gomez sit third and fourth in the goalscoring charts respectively, with only Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez stopping the Galicans front men from dominating La Liga’s offensive statistics outright. Perhaps some would laugh at the idea of comparing the newly anointed GAS with some of Spain’s other attacking tridents of recent past. Judging on individual numbers, the superstars of Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi would blow Celta’s less prolific trident out of the water, however the hard numbers of goals and assists aren’t the only way to judge the importance of a strike force to a team.
If we take Celta Vigo’s GAS trident after 20 matchdays and compare them to two of Spain’s best strike forces at their peak (MSN during the 15/16 season, BBC during the 14/15 season) you will find that the MSN had scored 88% of Barcelona’s goals after 20 games during the 2015/16 and the BBC had scored 74% of Real Madrid’s goals during the 2014/15 season. After 20 match weeks this season, GAS have scored 74% of Celta de Vigo’s 35 goals this season, meaning the match up to Barcelona’s and Real Madrid’s best tridents in terms of reliability. There is an argument that Celta de Vigo have only scored a fraction of the goals that Real Madrid and Barcelona had scored, this is true, both Real Madrid and Barcelona had scored 66 and 53 goals respectively at this stage of the season, however, it should be considered that Celta Vigo’s club record for most goals scored in a single season is 69 goals. It is also worth considering that Celta Vigo paid just over 15 million for this trident combined, in a market where a striker that regularly scores 30 goals a season is going for closer to 70 million.
Shrewd transfer dealings seem to be in Celta’s blood and the squad is brimming with talent outside of three musketeers up front. Joseph Sexton made special mention to Daniel Wass “He’s often overlooked but playing anywhere across the midfield, or even at full-back, he is such a vital cog in the machine.” The club also possess La Liga’s more seasoned full back pairing in Hugo Mallo and Jonny Castro and have a promising Ruben Blanco, who has adapted to Unzue’s scheme well enough that he has has replaced normal starter Sergio Alvarez. It would be fair to say that Celta Vigo are having a golden generation and its perhaps here that GAS fall short. Although they match Celta Vigo’s legendary outfit of 1998/1999 for numbers, the 98/99 squad were fourth at the halfway point of the season, having spent a short part of the first half of the season fighting for the title. The current Celta team sit 7th, four points behind Sevilla in the European spot and if this squad wish to go down as one of the best Celta teams of all time, Europe should be the objective. It should be an interesting end to the season for Celta and if only one thing is for certain, it is guaranteed to be entertaining.