Season in review: Celta Vigo take a side step as Rafael Benitez dives in


Story of the season

The story of every season, right? Lots of optimism and positivity about the new era at Celtic, a terrible run through the middle section of the season, and the new manager ensures they are right back where they started in August.

Rafael Benitez's side went on a run of unlucky decisions, and played well enough without reward, but by mid-October, everyone had their share of the blame but Benitez himself. Only his obscenely large pay kept him in a job until March, and he was starting to look desperate.

His conservative tactics combined with a leaky defense were not conducive to winning football games, and in the end, he simply had no answers. It's a season that could be their last shot at success in La Liga, and at the start of the campaign, it was talked about as a huge success for Celta, and a sign of Benitez's declining stock.

Once Claudio Giraldez was installed, bringing with him several youngsters, Celta played with more freedom and gave the opposition a real run for their money. A happier football team, some of the talent they brought in –

Aside, props to Tasos Douvikas for somehow never starting, playing less than half the minutes of Strand Larsen, and finishing with the same amount of goals. Strand Larsen was very good, although he was not reliable in front of the goal, but the feat of the Greek is impressive, even if half of them came in the Copa del Rey – his average goal is one every 103 minutes. Those goals also came in just 12 starts.

Explanation of the degree

Celta bought in the Benitez project, but at the end of March he had dismissed both the Sporting Councilor Luis Campos and the former coach of Liverpool, Real Madrid and Valencia, who was camped by the Portuguese. His methods have always been a culture shock for a side that for some time tried to win games with the ball first, but never really caught on.

Their season will go down as a failure, and the only reason it's not a D is because they're holding on, with room to spare at the end. At the very least, they've finally made the switch, rather than risk a slow descent into oblivion. The last two years of work are up in smoke, however, and Celta is back on the sidelines.

Outstanding moment: 2-1 in Seville. The first match after Benitez's exit, Celta played quite well, but they were 1-0 behind in the last 20 minutes. His late return through Carles Perez and Strand Larsen was cathartic, and gave Celta hope, and a platform for Giraldez.

Key player: Iago Aspas – we were almost heretical and gave this to Strand Larsen, but it just makes him tick. Nine goals and ten assists is still a terrific output in a struggling side, and the only question is where they will put their statue.

Seasonal surprise: Oscar Mingueza – this was really a surprise. Perhaps Benitez's biggest benefactor, the ex-Barcelona man played three or four different positions and did well in all of them. Two goals and three assists don't do his dangerous crossing and smart play justice.

Glass half full

Below Giraldez, Celta took 16 points from nine games, and extrapolating that in one season, they would have finished sixth this year. Now clearly, this is hypothetical for a reason, but the players really seemed to take to him, and he had Celta causing serious problems for the opposition's defenses in the final stretch.

That's the way – use the academy, play fun football, and decorate with one or two signatures. The bones of a midtable-top team are here. As mentioned, we have been there many times before.

Glass half empty

Celtic he may also lose Strand Larsen this summer, who has already had to apologize for saying out loud that he's going to make a move. Aspas is 36 years old, and although it will be difficult to get him out of the team, Celta will have to find out how to function without him. Can Douvikas make it in La Liga? We will do well to find out.

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