Castilla have rounded 2017 in style, and, almost uncharacteristically well. Since Santiago Solari’s line-up shuffle — namely launching Luismi Quezada up to a left-winger role, and benching Castilla’s two main strikers, Dani Gomez and Victor Campuzano, in favour of Cristo, Castilla have found an unexpected spark. They’re now undefeated in their last nine matches, and have outscored opponents 18-5 during that stretch. Tonight, they thoroughly dominated Valladolid B at home, and the Old Man of Castilla was dancing in his shoes.
It almost doesn’t make sense. Castilla were down by a goal to Celta B when those tactical changes were made eight games ago. Then they came back against Celta and won 4-1. These subtle changes in Solari’s scheme is what’s caused them to blitz through. It’s a flipped switch that no one saw coming. Consider just how bizarre this all is:
- Luismi Quezada is not a natural left-winger.
- Dani Gomez and Victor Campuzano are the team’s two best finishers.
- Cristo, the man who’s now Castilla’s de facto ‘9’, just can’t finish.
- Castilla, up until this point, were a walking corpse, free-falling into relegation zone, with a coach who looked completely unable to resurrect them, or get the best out of any of his players.
- Solari has a track record of re-inventing players only to pummel them into regression.
Yet, here we are. Quezada is a phenomenal presence on the left flank. He helps Regulion defensively, puts in pin-point crosses, makes carving runs, distributes, and launches counters. Cristo, while missing plenty of chances since playing as the team’s striker, contributes in other areas on the pitch, and is involved in the team’s offensive flow.
Multiple players have chipped in to help fortify this scheme and make it work. Jaume looks really good as the team’s anchor. Tonight, he read the game well, made it a point to play vertically at all times, held on to possession, and linked-up well with Seoane. Franchu has developed well as a two-way presence on the right. He’s dangerous with the ball, makes cutting runs, and you can rely on him to burst his lungs to track back and dispossess opponents.
It’s kind of fun to get lost in this Castilla hot streak. We rarely get to enjoy things to cheer about. Right now, everything actually looks competent. It looks fluid. Defensively, Javi Sanchez and Jose Leon look really good too. The only concern might be with Oscar. Tonight he scored a free-kick from a crazy-acute angle, and had some nice dribbling sequences -- but generally he’s yet to mature with the ball at his feet. He over-dribbles and misplaces passes constantly. He’s clearly talented, but hasn’t hit stride like Franchu has yet. And, that’s OK. He has time.
Free-kick king Oscar Rodriguez strikes again pic.twitter.com/xCua4TxAd3— Greed (@GreedMB) December 15, 2017
By the end of it, Castilla won 4-1 in what was a feel-good game. It could’ve been more, too — Regulion missed a great chance towards the end, and had Dani Gomez been on the end of some of the chances that came Cristo and Seaone’s way, Castilla may have scored six goals.
The win puts Castilla just outside the top-five with a game-in-hand — well above relegation danger, and with a realistic chance of attaining a playoff berth.