Where has it all gone wrong for Las Palmas?November 24, 2017
It was the 28 August 2016 and Las Palmas sat atop the best league in the world ahead of the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
4-2 and 5-1 wins over Valencia and Granada saw the Canary Island side top with maximum points and a plus six goal difference and looking like a possible surprise European contender even at such an early stage of the season.
Their form didn’t dip too much over the next couple of months, sitting in a very respectable eighth place after 17 matches losing just five times in the process. Those defeats coming at the hands of four of the final top six as well as 15th place Real Betis making things not so bad for the Gran Canaria club who were more than holding their own in the top flight.
Next up, a trip to the Camp Nou to face world heavyweights Barcelona.
Las Palmas were thrashed, as many clubs had been before, but unfortunately for them this defeat seemed to be the catalyst for a collapse no one could have predicted after their wonderful start to the season.
So much so that Las Palmas picked up just three wins from their final 20 games of the season moving no higher than 11th for the rest of the campaign, eventually finishing in 14th place.
The club had survived in the top flight, as is the aim for many of La Liga’s 20 clubs each year, but the way that the club had totally capitulated in the second half of the season was no doubt a worry for the Islanders fans.
The club had played some of the best football its fans had ever seen in the first part of the season with manager Quique Setien not going unnoticed. Despite the end to the season, Setien was definitely seen as the man to keep the club moving in the right direction.
Unfortunately for the club, Real Betis snapped the coach up after he confirmed he would be leaving with the Yellows appointing youth coach Manolo Marquez as his successor for season 2017/18.
Marquez lost his opening two games of the season against Valencia and Atletico Madrid but wins over Malaga and Athletic Bilbao put a nice look on things.
However after another two defeats followed, Marquez handed in his premature resignation, deciding to instead remain in the role he previously occupied.
The club were left managerless for their next match, a 3-0 defeat in quite spectacular surroundings at an empty Camp Nou with ex-Valencia manager Pako Ayestaran brought in to replace Marquez after the game.
In his six games in charge so far, Ayestaran has lost all five in the league with his only victory at Deportivo in the Copa del Rey.
It wasn’t only the manager at the end of the season who departed with several first team players also heading for the exit.
Midfielder and captain Roque Mesa joined Premier League side Swansea for 12.5 million euros, but has only made three league appearances for the Welsh outfit with manager Paul Clement now saying his “adaptation period” is over and that he and others will only be picked on merit. Not surprisingly, the playmaker has been linked with moves back to Spain.
Strikers Marko Livaja and Sergio Araujo both departed the club with Jese Rodriguez’s loan spell ending too. Others including winger Tyronne, goalkeeper Javi Varas and left back Helder Lopes were amongst those who also left the club.
One of the club’s main attacking threats who had performed brilliantly well for Las Palmas in season 2016/17 was Ghanaian international Kevin Prince Boateng.
He was seen as crucial for the upcoming season, expected to form a great bond on the pitch with Jonathan Viera as well as new signing Jonathan Calleri and loanee Vitolo.
However on the eve of their opening match at the Mestalla it was announced that the club had agreed to let him leave for “personal reasons”, believed to be to be nearer his family in Germany. He signed a three year deal with Eintracht Frankfurt leaving Las Palmas another important player short.
Players going out of course means others coming in with a massive nine new players joining the club. Five of those players; Sergi Samper, Jonathan Calleri, Oussama Tannane, Vitolo and Hernan Toledo joined on loan with Vitolo joining Atletico Madrid in January. The other four signings Leandro Chichizola, Loic Remy, Alberto Aquilani and Ximo Navarro joined for free.
Given the amount of new faces it was always going to be tough to get a settled team but even the most avid of Las Palmas fans wouldn’t have envisaged the team’s current situation.
Twelve games played, just two wins and bottom of the table five points from safety, they are most definitely in a relegation battle.
Up next they travel to face Real Sociedad at the Anoeta, a game they are not expected to get anything from against the seventh placed side who have also guaranteed their passage through to the Europa League last 32 with a game to spare.
After that though, they have six games that they should feel able to get something from. Six crucial matches against teams currently sitting in 9th, 10th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th place where they should be aiming for at least 10 points if they want to have a realistic chance of staying up.
These are the sort of games they should be aiming to win and should believe that they can. The fact that after those games their fixtures until the start of April are Valencia, Atletico, Malaga, Athletic, Sevilla, Leganes, Barcelona, Celta, Villarreal, Deportivo and Real Madrid, the next six could be massively important to the Gran Canaria club.
The freefall shown from genuine European contenders to a side who now looks destined for La Liga 1|2|3 in just 11 months is quite astonishing. Whether it is down to the departure of Setien; whose Betis side sit comfortably in the top half; the complete overhaul of the squad or just a serious lack of confidence can be debated but one thing that’s for sure is that they need to dig themselves out of this hole and fast or they could be heading to the Segunda for a very long time.