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Santa Cruz de Tenerife Part 5 – Against All Odds (End of Season Review)

After securing promotion to La Liga through the playoffs little was expected of the side from the isle of Tenerife. It’s been a stunning return however, with critic’s dumbfounded and pre-season predictions crushed. Find out how it all unfolded in Tenerife’s return to top flight football.

Win or Lose

Young striker Nano had a decent first half of the season as an impact sub before going out on loan

Young striker Nano had a decent first half of the season as an impact sub before going out on loan

As the newly promoted club via the playoffs we were expected to really struggle this season with relegation the likeliest of outcomes. We started strongly though and never looked backed, occupying 3rd or 4th position since very early on in the campaign. My expectation was that we’d tail off in the second half of the season but the players showed great resilience whenever we lost a game. Back to back defeats featured only twice all season, with the team bouncing back quickly from setbacks. A 3rd placed finish and a Champions League spot were our just rewards. It’s been a sensational season and was topped off when the Spanish press honoured us with the Most Improved Team of the Year award, the finishing touch.

It’s a new record high league finish with 5th being the previous record back in 92/93, just 24 years ago! 3rd place secures automatic qualification and Tenerife’s first ever bow into the Champions League. We were actually very close to piping Barcelona to the runners up spot, just a point in our last game would have been enough but alas, it wasn’t to be. Subsequently Joachim Löw has been sacked by the Catalan giants after a miserable trophy-less season (Thomas Tuchel takes his place).

Last year’s Liga Adelante champions, Almeria, consolidated their place in La Liga too with a 15th placed finish. Its curtains for Mallorca though, last year’s Liga Adelante runners-up have been relegated alongside Rayo and Las Palmas.

La Liga End of Season Table, Season 2 (2016-17)

The Big Three

Let’s take a look at how we performed against the three biggest clubs in Spain. This is the best way to gauge how we might fair against the elite opposition of the Champions League next season:

  • Tenerife 2-1 Atletico Madrid (W)
  • Real Madrid 3-1 Tenerife (L)
  • Tenerife 1-3 Barcelona (L)
  • Atletico Madrid 0-1 Tenerife (W)
  • Barcelona 1-2 Tenerife (W)
  • Tenerife 1-0 Real Madrid (W)

Four wins out of six, far more than I’d realised. I actually switched to a 4-1-4-1 for the last two wins over Barcelona and Real Madrid, but the 4-2-3-1 takes full credit for the double over Atletico. Stats worth noting for next season.

Incidentally I beat Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane to the Spanish Manager of the Year award. Who needs the likes of Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema…

Attacking Philosophy Reviewed

If you’ve been following the series you’ll know that I decided on a new attacking philosophy and began phasing it in partway through season one. It’s covered in greater detail in the post – Time to Entertain (4-2-3-1), if you’re interested. We’ve followed this philosophy for a year and a half now, this season being the first full cycle, so it’s a good time to look at how things are progressing.

Firstly, the primary reason for our shift in style was the fans. We wanted to increase the entertainment value and give them something to cheer. In that respect it was very pleasing that the media highlighted in numerous press conferences that the fans were really enjoying our attacking play and asked if we’d be continuing in that vein – we would, I confirmed.

We used the attacking 4-2-3-1 formation in 34 of our 38 league games, despite being underdogs in most of those. Our win ratio for the season was 60% and we were the 3rd highest goal scorers. We conceded a lot of goals too (43), a similar figure to most mid table teams, but I expected that. The downfall of our tactic is that we concede opportunities as well as create them, but we’ll always aim to outscore the opposition. A 3-2 is far more likely than a 1-0 in our world.

Season 2 goal and assist locations (last 35 league games)

Most of the goals we conceded (shown on the right in red) were manufactured out wide where the space is vacated by our wingers and inside forwards. Those 6 goals created from the opposition half are a result of our counter pressing game, gaps inevitably form when players are chasing the man in position and a quick ball over the top can catch us with our pants down.

On the flip side our trio of attacking midfielders are the makers of nearly all of our goals – 9 assists each for Enoch Andoh and Andrea Pereira, our wide men. These came mainly from out wide but a decent proportion were through the middle too. It’s pleasing to see that almost all of our goals are scored in the box as we look to work the ball into those areas. It highlights our need for strikers with high finishing, composure and off-the-ball attributes too, the reasons for Will Keane’s highly productive season in my view.

Early Business

Cheick Tioté

Cheick Tioté

It can’t always be done, last season was proof of that, but where possible I like to get my top targets signed and part of the pre-season squad as soon as possible:

  • Loan extensions have been arranged for Obbi Oulare, Andreas Pereira and Cristo González
  • A huge coup for the club sees Cheick Tioté slash his wages and switch from Tyneside to Tenerife on a free transfer
  • Last year’s number one, Anton Kanibolotskyi, makes a permanent move for the £1.8M buyout clause in his loan deal. He was the stalwart player in the team last year, playing 43 games with 15 clean sheets
  • Will Keane, our talisman, joins on a free transfer. An important signing for the club
  • After 2 years searching and plugging the gap with loan deals I’ve finally found my permanent left back. Lucas Olaza, a 22 year old Uruguayan joins for a cool £250K. A great deal initially but an extra 500K was needed to purchase all assets from the agent who partly owned the player. He’s played a season in Spain once before, earning 9 POM’s and creating 14 goals for the Celta B team

Backup in the central midfield and left back positions are the last two items on my shopping list, though we can get by if the right players aren’t available.

Player Performances

Our highest average rating comes from Dominic Oduro with 7.58. He finished the season with 6 POM awards and is our Fans Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season for the second year in a row. A free transfer at the start of my Tenerife career, he’s our bargain buy.

A special mention needs to go to Josep Señé too who, after a slow start to the season, ended the campaign with 10 goals and 4 assists as an advanced playmaker with attack duty. Though his ratings were always decent it took a while before he started to influence games in terms of goal-threat. During the second half of the season he came into his own, producing some magnificent displays and scored some important goals for the team.

Will Keane finished the season with 22 goals and is the 3rd top goal scorer in La Liga with 19. Only Ronaldo (21) and Messi (24) scored more goals and they needed more games and more shots. Keane tops the table for fewest average minutes per goal. I was pleased with Obbi Oulare’s contribution too, 6 goals from the subs bench is a decent return for our backup striker, who joined on loan in January to cover Nano’s temporary switch to Greece.

La Liga top scorers, season 2 (2016-17)

Looking Ahead

It’s a progressive and natural instinct to aim higher each season, building on what you’ve achieved and upping the ante season after season. However, with a Champions League schedule added to our calendar I think it’s reasonable to lower domestic expectations, since we’re still a small club and can’t attract the world class players yet. Next season I’ll be happy with a European spot (top 7), a decent effort in Europe and the Copa Del Rey, and all with our attacking and entertaining brand of football.