Massive thanks to Aaron for his input on the Sevilla preview. You can follow him on Twitter @aaronthewk.
What are Sevilla’s expectations heading into the year?
We are playing a season on the usual three fronts and maintain our high expectations in each of them. Last year we won the Europa League after starting in the Champion League, played in the Copa del Rey final, and finished 7th in La Liga. Our expectations are to exceed last year in both domestic and continental play. We expect to get out of our CL group, go far in the Copa, and finish top 4 in LaLiga. There are many caveats and asides to that basic framework (more on that later), but that's our goal every year we qualify for CL.
How would you summarise your team’s tactics?
Under departed manager Unai Emery, Sevilla played an inside out game through the middle to feed backs/wingers with pace to link with a skilled front line. We often set up to hit more possession-oriented sides on the counter with this pace. With new manager Jorge Sampaoli, we expect to see (and indeed have seen!) a much higher line with intense pressing to force turnovers for our playmakers to convert. The glut of attacking options Monchi has brought in for Sampaoli to deploy suggests a preference for formations with a back line of 3 and a goalie who is actively involved in distribution on the field. Season tickets are at their highest levels in years, which shows how much the project has excited the locals.
Who are your most influential players?
We were just having a discussion on the blog about who our new captain should be with the top 4 choices leaving this summer. Our most reliable performers still at the club are Daniel Carriço, Vitolo, and Vicente Iborra. All three have been with us since 2013 and have played their share in three straight Europa titles. Carriço has been a vocal anchor for the back line and occasionally deep midfield. Vitolo is a creative winger who saw his first action in the national team last year. Iborra is the chosen captain and plays attacking mid, but it remains unclear how large his role on the field will be with all the new attacking options. The fans also expect second-year player Yevhen Konoplyanka to be more dynamic on the left side of attack under a system more friendly to his particular skill set and speed.
How has summer transfer business gone for Sevilla?
Hooo boy. How was our summer? As usual Sevilla is rebuilding nearly the entire squad after selling our three most important players (Banega, Krychowiak, and Gameiro) and seeing Unai Emery, our manager of three successive Europa League trophies, depart. As Sevilla fans we have become used to entering a season with uncertainty, but this one is easily the most difficult to predict after such a massive overhaul. We trust Monchi and expect Sampaoli will faithfully reproduce his style at our club with so many tailored signings. As we've come to expect business has been good, but it's hard not to feel that Sevilla was ready to step on the gas and gun for a spot in the CL semis if we could have maintained our core of players. Alas, this is not a rich club like Barca, Madrid, and (to a lesser extent) Atleti. We must sell to stay afloat and sacrifice potential huge years in order to sustain pretty big decades. There are no €20 million signings here, nor have there ever been. We tied our record signing of Negredo this year with Italian Franco Vázquez at €15M, a number which left many of us absolutely staggered. Two other new faces in the neighbourhood of €10M each left us shaking our heads at Sampaoli's sway, but after early summer rumours saw Monchi on the way out it made sense that his retention meant a longer leash to build what Sampaoli envisioned.
Make one bold prediction for Sevilla for the coming season:
Is it bold to say we will sell one of our new signings for triple their cost next year? I will boldly predict Sevilla wins its Champions League group. We have a very unpredictable team and will probably surprise whomever we are paired with in the group. Plus we get to start in Pot 2 this year.