The Eibar Blueprint: How La Liga’s smallest club have made it big
Dave Burin | 16 February 2018
Their average crowd this season is 5,136. They’ve spent just £7m on transfers in the last year. And they were playing in Spain’s third tier as recently as 2012-13. Yet SD Eibar are currently seventh in La Liga, just a point outside the European spots.
Ahead of Los Armeros’ meeting with Barcelona on Saturday, the Coral News Team investigate how the Basque side have pulled off their seemingly miraculous feats…
They’ve brought in gems on a budget
For the likes of Barca and Real Madrid, £7m is loose change. But for Eibar, that’s been their transfer budget for the past 12 months – and they’ve spent it outstandingly.
Midfielder Joan Jordan arrived from Espanyol in the summer, and has been arguably Eibar’s top performer. The 23-year-old has scored five goals and set up two, running things in the centre of the park week in, week out.
Charles was another summer arrival, coming free after his contract ended at Malaga. He’s proved to be a man for the big moment, with the striker grabbing winning goals against the likes of Deportivo Alaves and – of course – Malaga.
During the summer, they received a cool £10m from Newcastle United for Florian Lejeune, a player who cost Eibar less than 20% of that fee a year earlier. That business model will be the envy of clubs the world over.
Tactical genius and a team ethos
The man who’s overseen Los Armeros’ continued rise since 2015 is boss Jose Luis Mendilibar. The journeyman boss has taken charge of 11 different clubs – including two stints with Eibar. But this has been the most successful period of his career.
After a difficult start to this campaign – with just two wins in the first 10 league games – the 56-year-old has shifted them to a 4-4-2 system. They’ve gone on to win eight of the last 13 games, including a 5-1 demolition of Sevilla at Ipurua.
Japan international Takashi Inui and Fabian Orellana have been terrific on the respective wings, with Pape Diop and captain Dani Garcia holding the fort deeper in midfield.
Add in the crucial goals of Charles and Kike, and it seems Mendilibar’s system has struck gold.
But there’s more to it than that. This Eibar side are without egos and star names, and their success has come as a team. Eleven different players have netted their 32 league goals this term.
They’re making Ipurua a fortress
Eibar’s tiny home ground has proved a tough place for opposition sides to come. There’s nothing quite like it in La Liga, and it’s a ground where one big-name team after another have been humbled.
Valencia have managed a single point on their last three visits here – losing 2-1 in December. The likes of Villarreal and Sevilla have also suffered humbling defeats at the 7,000 capacity ground – while Real Betis lost 5-0 here in November 2017.
As it stands, they have the sixth-best home record in La Liga this term. They’ve picked up just two points less at Ipurua than Real Madrid have managed at the Bernabeu.
Having taken 16 points from their last seven at home, that record only looks like improving. And Barca could be their next victims.
Having chalked up an impressive 22 goals in their last eight at Ipurua, the Coral News Team also like Eibar to Score 2+ Goals at 13/5.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing