Like most European national soccer leagues, the Spanish La Liga has also reached its conclusion. Summer break is on the schedule and we will all have to endure couple of months of anticipation before we can enjoy the magic of Spanish club’s soccer wizards again.
Anyway, it’s time to do the recap of the 2016/2017 season and get our minds set for the next one while also addressing some early predictions for the next year.
Spanish La Liga – 2016/2017 Campaign Review
The battle for the title was again led between the two biggest Spanish teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Real won the fight for the first time since 2012 and became the champions of Spain for the record 33rd time. Entire season was featured by the domination of these two teams while head to head clashes ended in a draw at Camp Nou (1:1) and a road win by the Catalonians at Santiago Bernabeu (2:3).
Nevertheless, two Barcelona’s defeats in last two months of play against Deportivo La Coruna and Malaga on the road proved to be very costly and gave Real the final title push as they had only three points more than Blau Grana after the final round. On Saturday, Barcelona team provided their fans with some consolation by winning the Spanish Cup (Copa del Rey) after defeating Alaves in the finals (3:1).
The second team from Madrid, Atletico finished the season ranked third for the third straight year, while FC Sevilla snatched the No. 4 and final spot that leads to the most prominent European team competition next year, the UEFA Champions League. Villareal and Real Sociedad will also see some European competition action next season as these two squads ended the year ranked fifth and sixth and qualified for the Europa League next season. Another Europa League participant will be the Alaves team who lost the finals match-up of Spanish Cup against Barcelona, but since the Catalonians already qualified for the UEFA CL, the blue-whites from the north of Spain will go to the UEFA EL instead of them. The team that has eight league titles Athletic Bilbao was just one point short of the No.6 spot that leads to the European competitions and I’m sure that there are many disappointed fans right now in the Bay of Biscay City.
Sporting Gijon, Osasuna and Granada are the teams that got relegated from the Spanish La Liga and they will compete in the Second Spanish League (Segunda) next season. The last two were also the main candidates for the relegation since the start of the season as they were constantly ranked below the relegation line but Sporting had some solid chances for survival after a solid run at the end of the season, but those hopes got crushed by some good performances from other “danger zone” teams, especially Leganes who had only one defeat in the last five rounds.
On the other side, in Segunda Division, Levante and Girona hold the upper hand two rounds before the end of regular schedule when it comes to the promotion to the Spanish La Liga while the third traveler will be decided after promotion playoffs between the teams ranked from No. 3 to No. 6 spot.
Individual and team stats accomplishments
Argentina’s and Barcelona’s guru, Lionel Messi led the league in scoring this season with astonishing 37 goals (one less of goal per game honor) while his teammate Luis Suarez recorded 29. Suarez also topped the Spanish La Liga in the assists with 13 while Toni Kroos from Real Madrid collected 12. Messi also topped the league in total shots aspect with 178 while Crisitano Ronaldo had second most with 160. Passing segment belonged to Steven N’Zonzi from Sevilla and Roque Mesa from Las Palmas as they collected 2413 and 2246 total passes.
On the defensive side of the field, Gijon’s Sergio Alvarez topped the league with 103 total tackles while Gabi from Atletico Madrid collected 97. Mario from Villareal recorded most blocks this season (94) in 36 appearances. Goalkeepers Jan Oblak (15) from Atletico Madrid and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (13) had most games with clean sheets while their colleague from Granada, Guillermo Ochoa recorded league-high 158 saves. Most undisciplined players of the Spanish La Liga were Fernando Amorebieta with 17 yellow cards in only 27 appearances while Asier Riesgo from Eibar, Sergi Gomez from Celta, Victor Ruiz from Villareal, Uche Agbo from Granada, Cristiano Piccini from Betis, Zouhair Feddall from Alaves and Kevin-Prince Boateng from Las Palmas all collected two red cards each.
On the overall stat sheet, the season was very effective on the goal scoring aspect as we saw almost three goals per match (2.94). It’s a significant raise in comparison to the previous season (2.74). There were 48% of home wins, 23% of draws and 29% of the away wins. 56% of games saw both teams scoring while 1118 total goals were conceded. 78% of the matchups had over 1.5 goals, 56% had over 2.5 goals while 34% had over 3.5 goals in total. Home teams averaged 1.66 goals per match while visiting teams averaged 1.28 goals per match. 7.9% of the goals were scored from penalty kicks.
The Champions and the followers
The new Spanish La Liga Champions, Real Madrid, led the death race with their biggest rivals Barcelona until the very end and they emerged victorious with 93 total points collected. Overall record at the end was 29-6-3 (14-4-1 at home, 15-2-2 on the road) and they scored 106 goals while conceding 42. The team entered the season furiously with the first defeat coming on January 15th after 17 rounds of play. During the winter months of January and February, the team from Santiago Bernabeu recorded couple of, for their standards, under-average performances (two losses in six rounds) but hit the top gear as the season moved forward and collected 13 wins in 16 matches including only one but hurtful defeat against Catalonians at home.
When we add that the team will play against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League final game on June 3rd, we can say that the French expert, Zinedine Zidane had a very good year at the helm of the Whites from the Spanish capital. There is no question that Real Madrid will represent a formidable force both in Spanish La Liga and in the CL next season.
FC Barcelona had a pretty unsuccessful year in the eyes of their fans. Only one accolade (Spanish Cup) this season is not enough to satisfy the appetite after the team spoiled their supporters with high-achieving seasons in previous years. Barcelona ended the season ranked 2nd having won a total of 90 points, with a 28-6-4 overall record (15-3-1 at home, 13-3-3 on the road) and they scored league-high 116 goals while conceding only 37 goals.
The seasons start was pretty bumpy with two defeats in the first seven rounds but after that, the team entered the unbelievable streak of 19 undefeated rounds including 14 victories. Last part of the year was also pretty solid as they collected 16 wins in 18 matches from the beginning of February but those two games left were losses that made the difference in the final. This was also the final year for manager Luis Enrique at the helm and it’s still unsure who will replace him but nevertheless, we expect that Messi and Co. are able to make the impact both domestically and internationally next season.
Atletico Madrid is probably the third best team in Spain in the last decade, especially during the Diego Simeone era (they were the Champions three years ago), but this last year can be characterized as the one with a slight downfall in the performances. They ranked third in the Spanish La Liga but unlike in the past, they weren’t the contenders for the title as they collected 15 points less than Real (78).
Overall record was 23-9-6 (14-2-3 at home, 9-7-3 on the road) and they managed to score 70 while conceding league-low 27 goals. Season started well but quickly after that they entered the period of poor results as they collected four defeats in seven games from October 23rd until December 17th, the streak that removed the squad from a title race. When it comes to the next season, it is hard to predict anything at this point, but as long as Diego Simeone is in charge of the team, the Los Rojiblancos will surely be in the very top of the Spanish La Liga.
The Europa League specialists FC Sevilla (they won this competition five times in their history including three titles in the last four years) have earned the UEFA CL spot for the second year in a row, but this time they accomplished that through the domestic league. The team finished the season ranked fourth in the Spanish La Liga table with a 21-9-8 overall record (14-4-1 at home, 7-5-7 away) while scoring 69 and conceding 49 goals.
Longest undefeated streak this year was between February 5th and March 19th (seven games) after which the team strengthened their No. 4 spot case. Relatively poor form of the other traditional UEFA CL contenders was also helpful and I’m sure that big number of fans from Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is looking forward to the next season.
The “Yellow Submarine,” a popular nickname for the Villareal team is emerging again but this time in the Europa League competition and that may be considered as a setback as they finished the last season ranked fourth in the league table. No UEFA CL means less money and less satisfied fans but I’m sure that there will be no nitpicking on the south of Spain.
After a prolific start of the season with nine undefeated games, the team slowly started to wear down, recording couple of unexpected losses especially at home (against Alaves and Valencia during December and January) but pretty solid run in the last nine rounds sealed the deal (6-1-2). Overall record was 19-10-9 (11-4-4 at home, 8-6-5 on the road) and goal difference was +23 (56 goals scored, 33 goals conceded). Traditionally, Villareal is almost always in the top five or six teams in Spain and I don’t see why it should be any different next season.
Final European competition spot in the Spanish La Liga table was snatched by Real Sociedad team. After a poor start of the year (four defeats in first eight rounds), team regrouped and consolidated with couple of solid mid season streaks (eight wins in 12 games between October 22nd and January 7th) and finished the season with only one loss in the last eight rounds including a six games undefeated streak in the last six rounds.
Overall record was 19-7-12 (10-5-4 at home, 9-2-8 away) and the blue-whites scored 59 while also conceding 53 goals. As the award for these solid performances, the fans at the Anoeta Stadium will witness the Europa League match-ups next year for the first time since 2013. Also, if the board can address couple of roster needs, I can definitely see Sociedad as the contenders for one of the CL spots in the Spanish La Liga next year.
We can’t run from the impression that Alaves team was pretty lucky when it comes to their match-ups in the Copa del Rey this season. Wins over Gimnastic, Deportivo La Coruna, Alcorcon and Celta were enough to advance to the final game (they avoided top 15 ranked squads in the league). A loss in the final game against Barcelona (3:1, Theo Hernandez was the only scorer for Alaves) was expected but it also meant that the fans of blue-whites from Baskia will be able to see some European competitions action Mendizorrotza Stadium next season.
Alaves ended the season ranked ninth in the Spanish La Liga table with 55 total points and 14-13-11 overall record (7-8-4 at home, 7-5-7 on the road) while scoring 41 and conceding 43 goals. We’ll see how they cope with the challenges next year but it looks like they are going in the right direction.
The mid part of the table features the teams with different satisfaction levels, from truly disappointing to completely satisfying. Biggest floppers were Athletic Bilbao who were just one point short of the Europa League spot and Valencia team whose survival was in question in the first part of the season. Two more underperformers were Real Betis and Deportivo La Coruna, squads that finished ranked just above the relegation line at 15th and 16th position in the league table.
Positive surprise represents the ranking of Eibar (10th) while Las Palmas also finished the season ranked above the pre-season expectations. It’s really ungrateful to make some kind of next season projections for these teams and we will restrain ourselves from that.
First of the three relegated teams is Sporting Gijon. After seven of possible nine points earned in first three rounds, things went downwards and couple of long winless streaks costed them greatly. The newcomers to the Spanish La Liga recorded only three wins from September 17th last year until May 6th this year (32 rounds) before waking up at the very end of the season, but as expected, that just wasn’t enough to secure the survival. Overall record of the season was 7-10-21 (5-4-10 at home, 2-6-11 on the road) while goal difference was -30 (42-72). Having in mind their performances this season in Primera, I firmly believe that they can be a contenders in the Segunda next season.
Team from Osasuna was one of the three teams that had the biggest odds for the relegation at the beginning of the season and they didn’t disappoint. Season started terribly with seven games winless streak. The fact that they recorded their first home win on April 9th after 31 rounds of play speaks volumes. Their overall record this season was 4-10-24 (2-7-10 at home, 2-3-14 on the road) and the goal difference was astonishing -54 (40-94). With these kinds of numbers you just can’t expect to compete at the highest level of the Spanish soccer. I’m also not sure that they can make an immediate impact in the Segunda.
The title of the worst squad in the Spanish La Liga this season goes to the homonymous team from one of the most important historical and cultural city centers in Spain, Granada. Team served as a cannon fodder this year with slightly better goal difference then one spot above ranked Osasuna team, -52, but they also scored least goals (30). Most nefarious streak came at the very end of the season when the team recorded 12 losses in the last 13 rounds (winless during this streak) to kill any hope of securing the survival. Overall record was 4-8-26 (4-4-11 at home, 0-4-15 away) and if we take the general level of performances during the year, this team most definitely deserved the relegation to the lower rank competition.
It’s time to say Goodbye
In the end, there are winners and there are losers of the year depending on the pre-season expectations. The new Spanish La Liga Champions Real Madrid can definitely be content with their accomplishments while Barcelona can find some consolation in the Copa del Rey title and the fact that they are the only team that emerged victorious from Santiago Bernabeu this year. Also, transfer market should be very exciting this year and we’ll see what kind of roster upgrades will be at place during the offseason.
Next season will start at the end of the August and I’m sure that everybody will look forward to it. I personally am excited to see how the newcomers Levante will perform next year, having in mind the dominating year in Segunda that propelled them to the promotion. Until the next season, goodbye.
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