Diego González’s face said it all. The defender’s expression was desolate and downtrodden after the final whistle of Malaga’s defeat at home to Espanyol – fitting adjectives to describe his team’s season so far, where underwhelming performances have left the side rooted in La Liga’s relegation zone. To rub even more salt into the wound, Espanyol’s winning goal was scored by Sergi Darder, a former Malaga player.
Had Las Palmas not been so shambolic themselves, the glaring disappointment of this season would undoubtedly be attributed to the Andalusians, who have lacked cohesion throughout, and have failed to produce the neat attacking football which has helped to establish the club comfortably in La Liga in recent years.
The shortfall of a clinical goalscorer somewhat explains the problem. Malaga hoped former Bordeaux striker Diego Rolán would provide the main threat upfront, but the Uruguayan has struggled to find consistency in Spanish football.
Adalberto Peñaranda – another South American forward – has shown glimpses to suggest he is one of the most promising young players in world football, but as of now, he lacks the experience to lead the line and has failed to score this season. Malaga’s top goalscorer is Chorey Castro, who predominantly plays as a winger. This tells the tale of a squad lacking in offensive impetus.
Malaga pray that the recent acquisition of striker Alberto Bueno will help solve the problem, but the real issues may lie elsewhere.
If there is one player Los Boquerones miss, it is an all-action central midfielder. The loss of Ignacio Camacho to VfL Wolfsburg has thrust a dagger deep into the heart of the team, and it seems as if there is a deficiency of powerful leaders to fill the Spaniard’s boots.
The side also lacks identity. Less than five years ago, Malaga were amongst the top eight teams in Europe, pushing Borussia Dortmund all the way in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Now they are staring down the barrel of second division football unless they can drag themselves up from their lowly position.
Malaga are not as threatening on the counter-attack compared to recent seasons. A portion of blame needs to be dealt towards manager Míchel, who has failed to foster a culture of fast and creative football. Incision in front of goal has been missing for lengthy spells so far.
Indeed, the decision to appoint Míchel seemed questionable. The former Real Madrid midfielder had been absent from Spanish football management for over four years, following stints in charge of Olympiacos and Marseille in Greece and France respectively. In his most recent La Liga position, he lasted under a year at Sevilla.
This season, fellow strugglers Las Palmas have made a recent managerial replacement, after their decision to swap one Paco for another, with ex-Rayo Vallecano boss Jémez replacing Francisco ‘Pako’ Ayesterán following a sorry run of results. Should Míchel struggle to improve his team’s fortunes, the board will surely decide to twist rather than stick with him.
Appointing Míchel’s successor at this stage would result in Malaga’s fourth manager in just over a year, following the previous dismissals of Juande Ramos and Marcelo Romero.
Malaga have won a measly three games so far in the Spanish top-flight. Despite their poor form, the club is positioned within close range of currently-safe Deportivo, as we reach midway point of the season.