Mallorca’s 2-0 win over Valencia at the weekend continued their fantastic start to the season and propelled Joaquin Caparros’ side into second place alongside Sevilla and Malaga.
Indeed the Islanders’ run is even more impressive when you consider they won four of their last five to end last season, narrowly missing out on a Europa League place due to defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu on the final day of the season, meaning they have won seven, drawn two and lost only one of their last 10 league games. However, if you look deeper than the results, it remains hard to see how Caparros’ charges can possibly keep this run going.
Valencia could count themselves extremely unlucky to come away from the Balearics with nothing having completely dominated bar an early strike in each half. Mallorca’s two goals came from just three shots on target throughout the 90 minutes, whilst Los Che piled on 27 efforts on goal, seven of which hit the target, one which hit the bar and enjoyed a healthy 69% of possession.
And Sunday wasn’t even a one-off in terms of the flow of the game or the statistics it produced. Remarkably, despite taking 10 points from a possible 15, Mallorca rank as one of the worst sides in the league in possession, the number of shots they take, the number of shots conceded, the amount of time spent inside their own half and even the number of tackles they make.
Their situation appears eerily similar to that of Sunderland highlighted by Jonathan Wilson's piece after the arrival of Martin O’Neil last season. When the Northern Irishman arrived on Wearside the Black Cats had taken 11 points from 13 games (average of 1.18), while in O’Neil’s first 16 they took 29 (average of 1.81). However, the stats showed there hadn’t in fact been a great upsurge in performance and they have now failed to win in their last 12 Premier League games.
The fact that they have seemed happy to cede possession is interesting given how many sides in La Liga this season have succeeded despite not having the majority of the ball, with Real Betis, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla also in the bottom half of the possession table.
However, just like Sunderland, eventually they will stop taking almost every chance that presents itself and at the same time cannot keep relying on the heroics of Dudu Aouate and his back four to repel such a great number of efforts on their goal.
Moreover, despite the fact that their ability to counter-attack quickly will be even further enhanced by the introduction of loan-signing Giovani dos Santos when he is fit, any team that spends so much time in its own territory without, it appears, an ability to win the ball back either through tackles or interceptions will eventually wear down from chasing the ball as the season goes on.
Javi Marquez’s absence for the next few months will also be significant as he has been a positive influence since joining from Espanyol in the summer, but the real acid test for Caparros’s men is due to come over the next month or so. After a trip to face Getafe next Monday they host Barcelona and Real Madrid and travel to Sevilla and Deportivo La Coruña in their next four games.
Mallorca will be hoping they can escape that run with their place in the top six unharmed and prove the early season stats to be an anomaly rather than a trend. If they succeed Caparros’ famed organisation may just see Europe’s finest returning to Palma for continental competition rather than just the sunshine next season.