Do Gutsy Girona have a genuine shot at winning La Liga this season?

11.12.2023 20:11:04 Ashlee Kiddell
Miguel Sanchez & Xavi prior to the LaLiga match between FC Barcelona and Girona FC.
  • Girona sit at the summit of La Liga through 16 matches 
  • They defeated champions and rivals Barcelona 4-2 away from home in their last match 
  • Head coach Michel Sanchez earned promotion to the Spanish top-flight with Girona less than two years ago

 

It has been quite the campaign thus far for Sanchez’s Girona. They were only promoted to La Liga after the 2021/22 season via the play-offs, yet, they sit top of La Liga and have dropped points in just three games this season. It has been quite the turnaround for them in such a short space of time.  

A tenth-place finish in La Liga last term was impressive enough as they very much enjoyed their first season in the top tier since 2019. However, they have reached unprecedented heights this season. Their richly-deserved victory at the weekend against Catalan rivals Barca epitomises just how far they have come. 

One of the main reasons why White and Reds have been so successful this season is their quality in front of goal. They have scored the most goals in the division (38), averaging over two goals per game. Their attacking success poses the question: could they be genuine title contenders this season? 

 

The start of the Michel Sanchez reign

To understand the magnitude of what Girona has done so far this term, we need to take a look at their history. They have spent most of their recent history in the second tier in Spain and they are currently spending just their fourth ever season in La Liga. It was even less than 20 years ago when they were playing in the Spanish fourth tier. 

With a capacity of less than 15,000, Estadio Montilivi - the club’s home ground - is one of the smallest stadiums in the league. Even with such a low capacity in comparison to the La Liga giants Girona are now competing with, the number of fans in attendance is incredibly high for the club. 

Their highest ever top-flight finish is tenth, which was achieved last term. Despite the club being promoted to La Liga for the first time in 2017, they lasted just two seasons in the top-flight.  

The 2021/22 season is when everything changed. Girona were promoted again from Segunda Division in 2021/22 under Michel. Despite only finishing in sixth-place, they managed to secure their future in La Liga through the play-offs. 

Under Sanchez, Girona have become a side with a plethora of attacking prowess and panache. That was evident in their recent victory over Barca. Xavi Hernandez’s side couldn’t cope with their attacks, conceding two inside the first half. The 4-2 triumph was their first ever league win over their Catalan rivals and proves they can compete with anybody in Europe. 

 

How have Girona taken La Liga by storm? 

So, just how have Girona had such resounding success thus far? As previously mentioned, Gironistes have been superb going forward. Having scored 38 goals in just 16 league games, they are the highest scorers in the division. 

Summer signing Artem Dovbyk is the leading goal scorer in La Liga for Girona and has eight goals in 15 appearances. The Ukraine international also has four assists to his name. The €7,000,000 investment certainly appears to have been worth the outlay. 

However, it’s not just Dovbyk that has contributed to their strong attacking play. Veteran Christian Stuani is enjoying a resurgence and has six league goals this season. The 37-year-old is on top form of late, too, and has scored five goals over the last three competitive games. He is on track to beat his tally of nine in La Liga last season. 

Brazilian prospect Savio, who is just 19-year-old and is on loan from Troyes, has nine goal contributions (four goals, five assists). He is another important player in the side. Goals have been spread, with a lot of contributions all round. The likes of Yangel Herrera, Aleix Garcia, Viktor Tsygankov, Ivan Martin have all contributed to the high goal tally. 

Clearly, the team has embedded a footballing philosophy and culture based on playing beautiful football, with aspects similar to that of past Barcelona sides. 

 

Do they have a genuine shot at the title?

Quite often, we see an unexpected candidate lead the way for large parts of the season. However, eventually, that team drops off. But, can Girona do a “Leicester”? It would be an astonishing achievement, just like the Foxes achieved in 2016 when they won the Premier League title.  

Michel’s men are currently on a ten-match unbeaten run across all competitions. They have also won their last seven away matches in a row in the league - the longest streak by any team in La Liga since 2020/21 (Barca won nine consecutive road games). 

With triumphs over the likes of Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, Girona have proven they can compete at the top. A 3-0 defeat at home to Real Madrid is their only La Liga loss thus far and they have responded magnificently since then. 

If the goals dry up, the test for the team will be if they can adapt and become more stable in defence. Michel stated prior to the clash with Barca that if they won, then the team would enter a new dimension. Perhaps they are not ready to win the title yet, but it was proof that his side can compete with the best. 

Either way, Girona appears set for long-term success. They were purchased by City Football Group in 2017 and the company has a history of creating a strong identity and culture that is able to achieve great things. Throughout the club, Girona have personnel who share a similar belief in philosophy.  

Don’t be surprised to see Girona as one of the new heavyweights in Spanish football in the years to come. 

 

 

 

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