Celta Vigo and manager Eduardo Berizzo enjoyed an impressive campaign together in 2015-16. A disciplined and organized approach saw Os Celestes finish the La Liga season in sixth place, earning them a spot in this season’s UEFA Europa League group stage.
A strong run in the Copa del Rey saw them reach the semifinals, as they proved to keep consistent form throughout various competitions.
However, this past summer brought a change that has been difficult to recover from. Spanish forward Nolito departed for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and the squad has struggled to adapt to life without him in 2016-17.
Nolito enjoyed a standout season, scoring 12 goals and adding seven assists during Celta’s run up the Spanish table.
He has begun life well at the Etihad Stadium, as Manchester City currently sit on top of the English Premier League with four wins in their first four league matches.
Celta Vigo, on the other hand, has not been as fortunate. Currently propping up the table in dead last, Celta has lost all three of their league matches and have been outscored 7-1 by their opponents along the way.
We look at how the squad has been affected by Nolito leaving for England.
Nolito’s scoring ability has been sorely missed by Celta Vigo in the opening stages of the season. His positioning and skill on the ball set up many dangerous chances for his teammates as well.
Forward Iago Aspas scored 18 goals across all competitions last term but has struggled as the lone striker in Celta’s formation recently. Without Nolito’s scoring, passing and ability to draw defenders away, Aspas has been unable to find the back of the net.
Former Celtic striker John Guidetti found an assist on a Fabian Orellana goal against Real Madrid, the club’s only goal thus far.
Fiorentina forward Giuseppe Rossi joined the team on loan, but it will take him time to integrate before any real contribution can be expected.
Manager Eduardo Berrizo was woefully unprepared for Nolito’s departure and seemed unwilling or unable to get a suitable replacement.
Much was expected of Aspas, and he will certainly be leaned on moving forward.
But the additions of Naranjo, Pione Sisto and Rossi on loan as the answer to the Nolito question was a risky move during the summer transfer period.
Berrizo took a gamble on the attacking players already on the squad and it is a gamble that is not currently paying off.
CONFIDENCE MOVING FORWARD
The loss of Nolito and the poor form that has followed is all happening at a bad time for Celta Vigo. Bottom of the La Liga table already, the club’s confidence has taken a major hit.
Ahead of an important season in the Europa League also, prospects look bleak at the moment.
A tough group draw featuring Ajax, Standard Liege, and Panathinaikos offers up little room for error and is one of the most difficult in this year’s competition.
Along with the stern tests from within La Liga, Berrizo and Celta need to turn things around in a hurry.
2016-17 is an important campaign for Celta Vigo. The transfer of Nolito was always going to provide them challenges, but they have not stepped up to any of them yet.
With the transfer window now closed, Berrizo needs to find a way to get the team playing more competitively before winter brings a dark time for the club and their supporters.