Saturday, January 28, 2023

The nine consecutive victories of a record Real Sociedad

They are one of those streaks that are no longer in style. They are even strange in these times of matches every three days for gigantic clubs like Real Madrid or Barcelona (or City, or PSG, or Bayern). Not, winning nine consecutive games is no longer our daily bread for anyone. And yet, there it is, without making a lot of noise, like someone who doesn’t want to, this Royal Society of infinite growth.

They have not given up a draw since November 6, at home against Valencia, and they have not lost since three days before, also at Anoeta, in this case against Manchester United. And although in between there was a World Cup that distorts the temporary accounting, the gross number is enough by itself to ponder its state of grace: nine consecutive victories between LaLiga and the Copa del Rey, competition in which he will look for the extension of his good fortune this Wednesday, visiting the Camp Nou.

“We are full,” his coach, Imanol Alguacil, acknowledged this Saturday after his ninth accurate shot, executed in Vallecas against Rayo (0-2). A coach who sat on the Txuriurdin bench for the first time on an interim basis, in 2018, relieving Eusebio Sacristán the last nine days of that championship. He returned to the subsidiary to resume his training tasks and Asier Garitano inherited the Anoeta bench… for a short time. Less than half a league later, Real once again surrendered to the arms of Imanol. And so it has been to this day.

The cup title

Any interim aroma was eradicated with the historic achievement, in 2021, of the Copa del Rey for the 19/20 academic year, which Real beat Athletic in the Basque derby of all time. By then, Roberto Olabe had already taken charge of the sports management, reinforcing and improving between them a policy that had already been applied during the previous season, led by Loren Juarros: an open door to the massive participation of homegrown players and a commitment to the signing of talented players who had not yet finished exploding in other clubs.

Mikel Merino, Martin Odegaard and Alex Isak fit that profile, as do Take Kubo, Mohammed Ali Cho, Alexander Sorloth and Brais Méndez now., waiting for what the injured Umar Sadiq can offer. The transfers at high prices of players like Iñigo Martínez (Athletic), Yuri Berchiche (PSG), Diego Llorente (Leeds), Willian José (Betis) and Isak himself (Newcastle) have allowed Real to maintain sustainable growth over time , reinvesting those million-dollar profits without going crazy, both in transfers and in the remodeling of Anoeta, its uncomfortable athletics tracks already mutilated.

success flowerbed

The rest, apart from quality additions such as David Silva and Álex Remiro, has been contributed by a quarry that seems inexhaustible. Mikel Oyarzabal is a star in LaLiga and Martín Zubimendi is established as one of the most solid midfielders in the First Division, while promises like Robert Navarro (signed from Monaco), Ander Barrenetxea, Beñat Turrientes and the now loaned Jon Karrikaburu and Roberto López.

Between all of them they have been perfecting an attractive and combinative style of play, in which the pieces always fit, even though there is a plague of serious injuries like the ones that have been coming together in recent months: Oyarzabal, Sadiq, Carlos Fernández, Barrenetxea… The challenge now for Sheriff is to sustain over time a positive dynamic that he already displayed during September and October, when he linked eight victories in a row, one less than he has now.

Sevilla sunken and Atlético doubtful, Real is today the candidate with the most arguments to play the Champions League next year. In the absence of a journey to the equator, the people from San Sebastian are closer to the leader Barça (six points away) than to fifth place, which is Villarreal (seven points away). An income that, well managed, should allow him to finish the course in the top four. Just what he needs to take the next big leap. And it is still alive in the Europa League and Copa del Rey. Plenty of license to dream.

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