With survival secured in Osasuna’s return to La Liga, all eyes were on improving upon last season’s 17th place finish. Could our Osasuna heroes improve or would second season syndrome be a thing in our virtual world as well?…
We had absolutely no right to stay up at all. With one of the smallest budgets in the top-tier of Spanish football we more than held our own and, in my slightly biased opinion, full deserved to remain a La Liga side. The problem now is improving – the hard part has been done but a new season presents new challenges and I was wary of complacency from the boys. So, how have we got on?
Well, the squad needed strengthening. There was no doubt about that. And, as mentioned in the previous part, I had already made some signings but had not revealed any names. So who were these mystery men? Well, the first one was a new experienced striker from Sweden that cost me a cool £1.4 million. It’s none other than Marcus Berg! Talk about an anti-climax. So, we have Berg after Benfica wanted shot of him and at 31, he had some time left to give us and was a massive upgrade up front. The second face brought in was Welsh midfielder Emyr Huws on a free from Wigan. I wasn’t struggling in the middle of the park but Huws was a quality free transfer at just 24 years old and will slot in beautifully. With our two up top system meaning we need more options up top, I took a risk and gave Paraguayan side Libertad £600.000 for 18-year-old striker William Burgos. He’s a bit of a special talent that had flown under the radar and I thought he would be someone we could sell for a profit if things didn’t work out. Defensive cover was also prioritised and I loaned in Udinese utility defender Carlos Vigaray to provide it. At 23, with a good all-round skill set, he’s a decent acquisition with a future fee involved if he turns out to be amazing. A departure in January actually saw me have to dip into the transfer market for some depth and I loaned in Stuttgart’s Timo Werner for the rest of the season. And that was it. A whole £2.3 million spent to improve the squad in a number of important areas.
On the outs, there were a couple of sad releases. Florian Trinks had his season in La Liga demolished by injury and he wanted extortionate money so he left and joined FC Pandurii in Romania while Elton Martins simply wasn’t good enough for the top flight and joined Ponferradina. There were some less sad releases too – the awful Bobley Anderson, Alexis Larriere (who strangely joined Castilla – the Real Madrid B team!) and Guillermo Mendez (who never made it out of the B team). We also managed to sell Luis Fernandez for £500,000 to Dynamo Dresden in Germany. Mugs. My impulsive nature on FM meant that backup keeper Dejan Stojanovic was also sold to allow youngster Jesus Maria Martinez to get first team minutes. The Macedonian joined Inter for £225,000. There were also the standard amount of young players leaving on loans. January saw the loan departure of Ghanaian Yaw Yeboah to Numancia as he wanted game time while we sold Aitor Simon for £5 million to Schalke. There had been interest from big clubs for Simon all through January and I wouldn’t budge from his release clause before Schalke eventually decided they wanted him that bad. Simon’s sale also facilitated Werner’s arrival which actually turned out to be a bit of a bust but we’ll get to that.
So, performances. To summarise, we were consistently inconsistent. For all of our brilliance in certain games, we were appalling in others. We managed to beat Athletic 3-0 at home, Eibar 3-2, Villarreal 4-3 at El Madrigal, Granada away and we did the double over Getafe. We showed resilience to come from 3 down to draw with Real Betis as well at one point but most of these great results happened at the start of the season. Once the new year ticked over, our form fell off a cliff. A 5-0 home pounding by Real Madrid (which I cheekily asked for a new deal after and got it), defeats at Betis and Malaga, a 3-0 massacre by Atletico at home, Eibar away, Sociedad at home. It wasn’t good enough as we tumbled into the relegation zone. I was annoyed, bemused by our decline. Admittedly, injuries didn’t help and the form of some players left much to be desired (looking at you Kuki) but the 4-3-1-2 was flopping horribly and was awfully imbalanced. It seemed like we were pointlessly tanking. Change was needed. Balance had to be achieved. So, with 9 games left and all hope seemingly lost, I switched to a tactic I’d developed with some success in a save I have with Dutch side Heerenveen. A 4-3-3 that just works on this game and, you know, it just went and worked for Osasuna. 3 wins, 4 draws and very close defeats to Barcelona and Valencia kept us up as all of a sudden we just began to play wonderfully. Our home win over Celta secured safety with a game to spare and we finished the season a dizzying 16th – a whole one place better! This wasn’t one to celebrate though. It was relief as we were abhorrent after January and I actually seriously thought of preparing for the second tier. But we have survived and it will be a third season in the top tier.
The cup once again was the cause of much embarrassment for us. We managed to sneak past Real Zaragoza in Round 4 but Las Palamas butchered us in Round 5 as their regen Amado Puente had an incredible season with 30+ goals in all competitions.
Player performance was actually improved this season as many impressed and adapted to La Liga. Aitor Bunuel had the highest average rating at 7.13 and ended up leaving club captain Oier the forgotten man languishing on the bench. Player of the season went to Antonio Otegui who had his best season for me in midfield and is our first name on the team sheet at 21. William Burgos was a revelation and while our poor form slowed him down as did injury, he still bagged 14 goals in an impressive debut season. Jonathan Parr earned himself a new one year deal with his performances while Carlos Vigaray will be joining permanently. Kuki’s decline was a sharp one as injuries destroyed his season and he finished with just two goals all season while Marcus Berg flattered to deceive despite his 7 goals. Spare a thought for Jurgen Mossmer who broke his ankle early in the season and never really got a chance to feature.
So, we’re safe once again but how do we go improving on this season? Well, I can confirm I’ve went on a mini spending spree to combat some of our weaknesses and got some very interesting players in. I can also sadly confirm that an original Osasuna player has left the club permanently as well. But what can this all mean? Will we finish 15th? Find out next time.