Deportivo don’t deserve to be where they currently find themselves, Clarence Seedorf supposed, both before his arrival in A Coruna and during his official unveiling. This is a club that has fallen a fair distance in a relatively short space of time. Looking back a decade and a half ago, you don’t have to search far to find happy memories at Riazor, but this season has lurched from disappointment to disappointment.
Pepe Mel retained his job in Galicia at the tail end of last campaign, with his mid-season appointment enough to turn Depor’s fortunes around and save them from the drop. While Mel was a likeable firefighter for a tough job, the decision to hold onto him for 2017/18 looked a risk from the start. More recently used to coming in and solving short-term problems, the former Betis and West Bromwich Albion coach didn’t lay solid enough foundations for the tough months ahead.
Cristobal Parrralo was promoted from within to fill the void, and immediately sought to tighten up and batten down the hatches. Initially Depor looked more balanced, with their full-backs reined in and the ship showing signs of being steadied. But errors in defence continued, and Cristobal never managed to clog the floodgates and give Depor a solid base from which to build.
Depor, however, do boast an armoury that many other sides at the wrong end of the table are envious of. Lucas Perez was brought home from Arsenal towards the end of the summer transfer window, while the likes of Adrian Lopez, Fede Cartabia and Florin Andone are more than good enough to carve out a top-flight career for themselves in Spain. Behind them, Emre Colak, Fede Valverde, Celso Borges and Guilherme have proven themselves talented, but the team's problems lie in defence.
“They need a guide, an idea,” Seedorf explained at his unveiling this week. “What I have seen is potential. The results are often harder on them than they should be.”
While Depor may have found themselves on the wrong side of a narrow scoreline at times, Cristobal’s final game as boss was anything but tight. A 5-0 mauling at the hands of Real Sociedad, who have themselves been poor since the turn of the year, meant there were few positives to be salvaged. Seedorf’s new charges made errors in possession, were often criminally exposed at the back and offered nothing offensively against a leaky defence.
Win cash prizes for free with our competition!
Don't miss out - join our February Tipster Competition today
Seedorf’s past spell at Milan may serve him well, given that his first venture into management came on a big stage, at a historic club and in a dressing room full of players who could do nothing but respect his playing career and prior contributions to the Rossoneri. Deportivo’s board believe that they have enough quality to rectify their current situation, hence their reluctance to panic-buy in the transfer market, and therefore Seedorf’s hire is of the Zinedine Zidane ilk.
The Dutchman will not be asked to bring in a long-term style of play, nor look to be an ideological pioneer. Seedorf recognises that Depor have been lacking an identity and collective style, but bigger strides need to be made in terms of commanding respect, building morale and meshing a group together that should have enough to finish outside the drop zone.
Their forward line is far stronger than the likes of Levante, Las Palmas, Malaga and arguably Alaves, but it has been their general structure and woeful goalkeeping that needs work. Throughout the season, Pepe Mel and Cristobal made their way through four different goalkeepers, before bringing in a fifth in Maxym Koval who is yet to make his competitive debut.
Depor boast the worst defensive record in the division after conceding 51 goals across 22 matchdays, and yet there is still hope. They sit three points behind 17th-placed Levante, with the Valencia-based club struggling to battle their way out of their stagnant form. Just a few positives results can change the complexion of this La Liga table, and Seedorf admits that he is looking forward to catching the division’s latest “hot potato” of a job.
“Zidane had less experience than me, and look what he has done,” Seedorf reasoned at a first press conference that was full of smiles and charm.
Lead Depor on a charge for Europe he will not, but a sprinkling of self-belief, charisma and heaps of experience from a long, reputable playing career could be enough to get his players on side and his new club back its their feet and swinging again as the La Liga relegation battle threatens to drag them into the abyss.