What to make of Malaga's decision to switch Michel for Jose Gonzalezby Colin Millar / 17 January 2018, 08:56Tweet
La Liga’s eighth managerial casualty of the season was a dismissal which had long been in the pipeline and one which had a strong scent of inevitability.
Malaga’s 1-0 loss at Getafe on Friday night was their fourth defeat on the bounce - a run in which they had not managed to score a goal. They failed to find the net against Real Betis – third worst defence in the league – whilst the period also covered losses at home to struggling Espanyol and at Alaves.
The Costa Del Sol club have only 11 points and 13 goals from their 19 outings this season, and sit bottom of the table courtesy of their head-to-head record with Las Palmas. The dismissal of Michel was a question of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’.
The club’s problems run much deeper, with their Arab owners – who initially invested heavily into and led the Andalucians to a remarkable Champions League quarter final appearance in 2013 – failing to help fund the necessary squad maintenance.
Star players Sandro Ramirez, Pablo Fornals and Ignacio Camacho all departed and were not adequately replaced, while the long-serving Carlos Kameni, Duda, Weligton and Charles also exited. No member from that 2012/13 European run remains and truth be told, none of the current crop would be major contenders to earn a place in that side.
Michel’s appointment in March last year had initially brought much-needed stability to the club. He had been the third coach of the season after ill-fated stints for Juande Ramos and Marcelo Romero, while his arrival brought an upturn in form with wins over Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla and Celta Vigo included as Los Boquerones finished in 11th.
The former Spain international was well-regarded in coaching circles having enjoyed stints at Getafe, Sevilla, Olympiakos and Marseille but ultimately he ran short of ideas, particularly in terms of attacking innovation, with a group of players limited in talent and creativity. The league’s lowest scorers have not been unlucky nor has their squad been totally decimated by injuries, but it has not been strong enough.
The weaknesses of Sporting Gijon, Osasuna and Granada last season ensured Malaga were never threatened seriously with relegation but this year has seen a rise in the base standard of La Liga with no side doomed to relegation or notably weaker than the others. Malaga have a competent squad of performers at this level but many have failed to settle and they have not clicked as a team, but a chance in direction was needed.
So the club have quickly moved to appoint former Real Madrid midfielder Jose Gonzalez, who kept Malaga’s eastern Andalucian rivals Granada in the top flight two seasons ago. He is most well-known in Spain for three stints in charge of Cadiz while he has also coached at other southern clubs including Cordoba, Real Murcia and Albacete.
His last job was in the Chinese Super League with Beijing Guoan – where he guided his side to five wins in his 13 matches in charge, but has fallen off the radar since. Gonzalez may well keep Malaga in the top flight but just like the club’s player recruitment policy, it is a decision which feels like a cost-cutting exercise; an affordable option in the middle of the campaign.
The league’s bottom three also consists of Las Palmas, who have changed their head coach twice this season along with Deportivo, who promoted their youth team coach after sacking Pepe Mel earlier this year. Instability and cutting costs are a common theme throughout these clubs, with a big fortnight lying ahead as they bid to strengthen their squads.