One year ago, Deportivo Alaves were bottom of La Liga. Twelve months later, they sit top of the pile.
After just two defeats from their opening nine games this season, a small Basque club with a modest home capacity of just 19,840 at the Mendizorrotza are dining at Spanish football’s highest table at least until the end of play tomorrow and it has been 14 years since this incredible feat last occurred.
Sevilla, Barcelona and Atletico could all replace Alaves at the top on Saturday as they are all in action. Barcelona face Sevilla in the late Kick off, whilst Atleti travel to the Cerámica to face a struggling Villareal side.
Their Friday night clash with Celta Vigo was essentially a smash and grab for Alaves, with the home side enjoying 62% possession, completing 205 passes more and registering 10 more attempts at goal to Alaves’ nine.
But it was Tomás Pina’s 58th minute goal that secured all three points at Balaídos for the travelling side for the first time in their entire 97-year history which catapulted Babazorros into first.
Abelardo’s side came into this game off the back of a famous 1-0 victory over Real Madrid for the first time in 87 years with a stoppage time winner just prior to the international break.
Abelardo took over at Alaves in December 2017, where he was at the time joining a side who were absolutely hopeless. A big job was needed and one which he has more than delivered on.
Under the 48-year-old in La Liga, Alaves have played 34 and won 18, generating an impressive 53%-win ratio over a period of around nine months.
Adding to this, in terms of points won since Abelardo took charge Barça have the highest with 73 points, before Atlético with 67, Madrid with 63 and remarkably the team with the fourth highest points with 58 is Alaves.
One thing the Spaniard has done well is convincing players to take to his style of play.
Such a big task simply because it’s a million times easier to convince players to play attacking proactive football, especially with the success of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola where everyone these days wants to have the ball and play essentially a Barça style of play but convincing a team to both enjoy and successfully execute playing defensive football is significantly more difficult, just look at the struggles and backlash Jose Mourinho is receiving at present.
And for that Abelardo must be commended.
Despite recent successes he has remained focused on Alaves’ targets speaking to local media he said;
“I never get euphoric, we know what is our primary objective and the team is mentally prepared for that.’’
Next up in La Liga for Alaves, they host Villareal who are just one point from the relegation zone at the Mendizorrotza next Sunday as they look to stay in and around top spot.