Gerry Johnston spoke Deportivo La Coruna fan, @MoarFootball about the season ahead and the club’s ambitions.
Deportivo La Coruna finished 16th in La Liga last season. Were you happy with that or do you think they could have done better?
In all honesty, it was a disappointment but I would have taken staying up by any means necessary before the season started. Lucas’ departure rattled us, but what killed us completely was the two month period without winning a game. Even with performance levels low, we should have finished higher. Gaizka Garitano was incapable of uniting the team and there were many moments where luck simply was not on our side. We could, and should, have done better. Any other year we would have been relegated.
Pepe Mel came in as manager at the end of February. What are your thoughts on him? Can he take the club forward?
Pepe Mel is the type of coach who motivates his team very well… until they become bored with his archaic coaching tactics. He’s reductive and old school. It simply does not work in this day in age. With Mel in charge, we conceded 8 goals in the first 5 minutes of 1st & 2nd halves. That derailed the team’s momentum every week, to the point where we were in complete and utter free-fall. In fairness to Mel, his opening four games inspired the team: a win against Barcelona and draw against Atléti were certainly the highlights. Can he take the club forward? No. Ultimately, I don’t think he’ll last the entire season. His style simply does not coincide well with the modernity of football.
Deportivo have signed Guilherme and Federico Valverde but lost Pablo Insua, Oriol Riera, German Lux and Laure. What are your thoughts on those moves?
Guilherme and Valverde are great reinforcements to the midfield, in particular the former. We needed numbers and it was crucial that one of those arrived on a permanent deal. For my money, Guilherme was our best midfielder last year — one could even argue that he was our player of the season. Valverde is obviously a work-in-progress. It could be disastrous much like the loan of Marlos Moreno, it could be lukewarm like the loaning of Jose Rodriguez a couple of years back… or it could be something new: an explosion of a wickedly talented young footballer. I’m praying for that.
In regards to the departures, there’s mixed feelings. The players you mention, other than Lux, were largely bit-part (in the case of Laure) or not even at the club (Riera and Insua). I’m gutted about Insua, purely because I’ve been his biggest fan for years, but it’s clear the club had no intention of giving him a starting berth. And he’s too good to be rotting on loan at inferior clubs. Germán Lux’s departure hurts a tad because he spent a long period of his life at the club, similar to Laure. Both devoted everything to the club during years of low wages, relegations and worse. As for Riera, it never really worked out for him here. He was unlucky and, quite simply, not good enough.
Are there any areas in the squad that you think need to be improved on this summer? Has anyone been linked to fill those positions?
The attack certainly needs some attention. Florin Andone is being courted by many clubs, as is Çolak. While it’s plausible that they could remain, we should really be surrounding them with as much talent as possible to persuade them to stay. We currently only have one natural striker at the club, and a severe lack of wingers.
Adalberto Peñaranda is somebody the club are keeping as a plan B option to Lucas Perez, though it’d probably be better to swoop in as quick as possible. We simply do not have the funds to compete with Arsenal’s demands and Peñaranda is a talented forward worth executing a transfer over.
As for wingers, Burgui has been scouted by the club for years. A €5m fee is being touted for his signature, which might just happen.
If you were allowed to make one realistic signing for the club who would you bring in?
I’d love to see Luis Alberto back at the club, either on loan or not. He would bring depth and quality to the flanks, while also providing cover to Çolak. His adaptability and ingenuity was one of his strongest suits when he was first here. Admittedly, I answered Luis Alberto for another reason: he could tempt Lucas to return. The two are great friends and shared spectacular chemistry on the pitch. Perhaps Luis Alberto spending another stellar year in A Coruña could persuade Lucas to return one day?
Is there anyone in the squad that you are concerned might be tempted to move away from Deportivo?
The obvious answer to many here is Florin Andone, but I don’t think it’ll happen. He’s shown loyalty to the club and was the only real vocal leader in the team last year. He’s young, headstrong and realises that another year of being the main man here would only help him reach a higher level. I’m concerned about Emre Çolak. His agent has reported that Liverpool bid €12m for him. Emre has one year left on his deal and I worry that losing him on a free would be a terrible idea; the club needs money. Emre is unlikely to renew here — I say this because he didn’t renew at Galatasaray, a club he professed to support and love. He doesn’t owe us much – if anything at all – so I do think that a hefty fee could sway all parties to move on. It’s sad because we haven’t had a midfielder as creative and effective as him since Valeron left.
What are the clubs plans this summer? Do they have any tours or training camps planned?
There haven’t been any tours planned, purely because the last few in South America have really harmed the squad’s fitness and performance levels. We’ll likely play many of our friendlies locally. There’s also an interesting friendly against West Brom – a club Pepe Mel was formerly maligned at.
Are there any youngsters at the club who you think could make the breakthrough into the first team this season?
We’re notorious for not giving kids from the academy a chance: just look at Insua being let go for peanuts. I would love to see Oscar Pinchi break through. He’s incredibly prolific at youth level. He’s fast, calculated and has the type of movement that all forwards crave. Keep on eye on Edu Exposito – a youth player who made his first-team debut last season even though we had enough midfield options. Pepe Mel really likes him and the energy he brings the team. If anyone is going to break through next year, I’d say Edu is the likeliest.
What are Deportivo’s targets for next season?
Safety. That’s all. I’d rip your hand off right now for survival if you offered it to me. It’s a shame that we can’t aspire for more, but it’s indicative of the club’s economical situation. I’m also very reserved regarding our targets purely because I’m expecting Mel to depart at some point, essentially leading to the arrival of someone new. In short: safety would be perfect.