Season in review: Celta Vigo take lateral step as Rafael Benitez stocks dive

Season in review: Celta Vigo take lateral step as Rafael Benitez stocks dive
Season in review: Celta Vigo take lateral step as Rafael Benitez stocks dive

Position: 13th – 41 points

Grade: C-

Record: 10-11-17
Goals Scored: 46
Goals Conceded: 57


Top Scorer: Jorgen Strand Larsen, Anastasios Douvikas – 13

Top Assister: Iago Aspas – 10


Story of the season

The story of every season right? Plenty of optimism and positivity about the new era at Celta, a dreadful run for the middle section of the season, and the new manager ensures that they’re right back where they started in August.

Rafael Benitez’s side did go on a run of picking up unfortunate decisions, and playing reasonably well without reward, but by mid-October, everyone had had their share of the blame but Benitez himself. Only his obscenely large payout kept him in a job until March, and it was starting to look desperate.

His conservative tactics combined with a leaky defence were not conducive to winning football matches, and ultimately, he just didn’t have the answers. It’s a season that could well be his last shot at success in La Liga, and at the start of the campaign, it was talked about as a great get 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 their opposition a real run for their money. A happier football team, some of the talent they have delivered-

As an 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, if still unreliable in front of goal, but the Greek’s feat is impressive, even if half of them came in the Copa del Rey – his goal average is one every 103 minutes. Those goals also came in just 12 starts.


Grade Explanation

Celta bought into the Benitez project, but by the end of March had dispensed of both Sporting Advisor Luis Campos and the former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Valencia coach, who was championed by the Portuguese. His methods were always going to be a culture shock for a side that for some time has tried to win games with the ball first, but it never really took.

Their season has to go down as a failure, and the only reason it isn’t a D is because they kept themselves up, with room to spare in the end. At the very least, they finally made the change, rather than risk a slow descent into oblivion. The last two years of work are up in smoke though, and Celta have once again gone sideways.


Standout moment: 2-1 away to Sevilla. The first game after Benitez’s exit, Celta were playing reasonably well, but were 1-0 down going into the last 20 minutes. Their late comeback through Carles Perez and Strand Larsen was cathartic, and gave hope to Celta, and a platform for Giraldez.

Key player: Iago Aspas – we were almost heretic and gave this to Strand Larsen, but he just makes them tick. Nine goals and ten assists is still terrific production in a struggling side, and the only question is where will they place his statue.

Surprise of the season: Oscar Mingueza – this really was a surprise. Perhaps the biggest benefactor of Benitez, 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

Under Giraldez, Celta took 16 points from nine games, and extrapolating that across a season, they would’ve finished sixth this year. Now clearly, that’s hypothetical for a reason, but players really seemed to take to him, and he had Celta causing serious issues for opposition defences in the final stretch.

He is the way – use the academy, play entertaining football, and decorate it with one or two signings. The bones of a midtable-top half team are there. As mentioned, we’ve been here many times before though.

Glass half empty

Celta may well lose Strand Larsen this summer, who has already had to apologise for saying out loud that he would take a move. Aspas is 36, and while it’s hard to take him out the team, Celta have to work out how to function without him. Can Douvikas do it in La Liga? We may well be about to find out.