Espanyol experienced several changes this past summer ahead of the 2018-19 LaLiga campaign, and they involved different aspects of the club. After underwhelming showings under Quique Sánchez Flores last season, new manager Rubi was brought on from Huesca to lead the team. Always an adjustment when working with new coaches, the summer transfer period also raised significant questions for Los Periquitos.
Several key players departed Catalonia, including goalkeeper Pau López (Real Betis) and right-back Marc Navarro (Watford). But the major loss for Espanyol was seen up front, as star forward Gerard Moreno signed with Villarreal in June. For a squad that did not score a lot of goals, this was a genuine concern. Espanyol netted 36 goals through 38 league matches in 2017-18.
But the club have found success, and are earning important early results in the season’s opening weeks. 14 points from eight fixtures has Espanyol sitting fifth in the table, only two points back of first-place Sevilla.
It is a remarkable achievement against somewhat low expectations, as many would not have been surprised to see them struggle with all the new changes around them, and miss out on Gerard’s production on the front-line. They have countered the loss with a complete team approach, and several individuals are contributing to Espanyol’s bright start.
Sergio García, Pablo Piatti and Borja Iglesias have all scored thus far. The experience of goalkeeper Diego López has been a strength at the back (three clean sheets), while Esteban Granero and Sergi Darder have been outstanding in the midfield. Their last victory against Villarreal was a perfect example, as they frustrated their former forward Gerard throughout the encounter.
Espanyol’s next two matches are both away from home, but they should feel good about gaining maximum points at Huesca (21/10) and Real Valladolid (26/10) after the international break.
Changes affected Espanyol in various ways this past summer. Through it all, manager Rubi impressively has the club going in the right direction at the moment.