Can Gimnàstic somersault into La Liga?
The Catalan side is looking to win a second promotion in a row, after coming up from the Segunda B last season, and are on course to do it.
It was a miracle when Eibar did it. A one-off, they said. Yet now Gimnàstic de Tarragona have a chance of a double-promotion from the Segunda B to La Liga in two seasons.
They are doing it on a similar-sized budget to Eibar. The club did not spend a single euro last summer on player transfers, instead only able to afford a handful of journeymen free agents. In January the club finally did take out its wallet to sign Georgian midfielder Giorgi Aburjania for €150,000, which was hardly breaking the bank either.
However, the Gimnàstic’s unexpected success is largely down the same group of players that earned the club promotion from the Segunda B last season. Of the eleven players to have played the most minutes for the club this season, seven were also at the Nou Estadi last season. Furthermore, eight of the starting XI from their promotion-clinching play-off win against Huesca last May are still at Nàstic, including all of the back four. That consistency is more than a peculiarity; it is surely one of the reasons behind the team’s success.
There is also consistency in Gimnàstic’s game plan, with the team lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in all but one match this season. Their young manager Vicente Moreno is doing an excellent job and has this squad confident in the system they’re using. When the 41-year-old took over at Tarragona in November 2013, they were in 11th place in their 20-team group of the 80-team third tier. Under his leadership they have lost just 19 times in 106 matches on their way to their current lofty position. Moreno’s winning percentage is a mightily impressive 50%.
The Tarragona club started the season with a draw and two wins and were in the automatic promotion places after just three weeks. They have since hovered around the promotion play-off spots all season, never falling any further down the table than 9th place. Their current twelve match unbeaten run has seen them cement their grip on 3rd place and, with just two points separating them from Leganés, automatic promotion is still a possibility.
Their unbeaten run was put to the test last Sunday when they hosted Córdoba, a direct rival for a promotion play-off spot, and went behind on four separate occasions. Each time, though, the Catalans were able to come back and ended up securing an important 4-4 draw. That has kept them very much in the promotion conversation, for a second year running.
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