In the words of Bon Jovi, we’re halfway there! At least, that’s what Girona fans will be thinking as they edge ever closer to what looks like probable La Liga survival.
How have they managed it? Well it’s been certainly much more than just City’s shared resources which have helped Girona establish themselves as a worthy top-flight team in Spain.
Instead, a mixture of both old and new faces all singing from the same hymn sheet coupled with a continuation of the same winning mentality from last season’s promotion from the Segunda division has propelled the Catalan outfit to dizzy heights in La Liga.
Luck or talent?
At first it was deemed beginner’s luck, no more than a phase that will pass as the players tire and their initial enthusiasm wanes.
Then it was put down to the club’s so called ‘giant killings’, most notably their victory over Real Madrid, which to some merely papered over the cracks with their true performances throughout the season not matching up to the exploits seen that day at Montilivi.
Yet as each game has passed, even I have began to dispel any previous suggestion that Girona simply weren’t cut out for La Liga, replacing that with a genuine belief that they deserve their league position and the almost certainty of top-flight football next season.
With performing players often comes a manager that defies expectation to extract the most from those under his wing and with Pablo Machín, the Catalan side certainly have that. His man-management has been unbelievable. His commitment to the cause likewise unparalleled. His credentials as a top flight manager – unquestionable.
The way in which the 42-year-old has remained intent on sticking with the majority of his promotion-winning side from last season is one thing, but the manner in which he has transformed these players capable of not only competing but also challenging in the top half of the table is outstanding.
Relatively unknown before the start of the 2017/18 campaign, at least for now his success has gone largely under the radar but if he continues to triumph with Girona it surely won’t be long before his achievements are noticed, deservedly I may add, on a much wider, even global, scale.
As important as good management is to any side however, it’s important to highlight that you can create a squad with eleven better individuals than your opponent but if you don’t play as a team, such an approach is rendered worthless.
Players going above and beyond
Girona’s exceptional team spirit is everywhere to see – on the pitch, in the changing room, between players in their free time on social media – positivity stems right throughout the club and at least from a supporter’s perspective, has aided the club enormously this season.
Additionally, you can’t help but admire the individual quality of some of their players, consistently outperforming their previous weeks’ performance with more admirable showings both home and away.
Take Cristhian Stuani and Portu, a partnership that nobody ever have imagined would amass the number of goals they have done this season. In Pablo Maffeo, one of the very few Manchester City loanees that has earned regular playing time, Girona have enjoyed a number of impressive performances whilst helping develop the perfect understudy to Kyle Walker at the English club next season.
Then there’s Pere Pons, Borja Garcia and Alex Granell, three of the old guard that very much mirror their club’s development in recent years, going from strength to strength each week on the pitch and defying all odds in the process.
The pace of Johan Mojica and unsung hero Aday Benitez meanwhile has helped them instil a pulsating style of play that’s both enjoyable to watch and incredibly frustrating to be facing if you’re the opposition.
Unrivalled team unity
I could go on and on about Girona’s players and their performances but perhaps the point I hope to underline is that the club’s togetherness has been a major factor in their success this season.
With an incredibly settled team, positive team harmony as well as a combination of unrivalled enthusiasm unrivalled, dogged determination and overwhelming optimism to comfortably beat the drop and finish as high as possible in the league table, Girona are in a good place at the moment and long may it continue for the good of the sport in Spain.