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Four things we learned from 2016-17 La Liga season

IANS logoIANS 23-05-2017

1) Firepower is everything.

Although Real Madrid are deserving champions, it is also fair to say that both Zinedine Zidane's men and second place FC Barcelona put in several mediocre performances over the season. However, what separates the big two sides in Spain from everyone else is the capacity of their forwards to score goals out of virtually nothing.

Many times Madrid appeared to be under pressure, only for a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema or Alvaro Morata to turn the tide in an instant, likewise Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, time after time pulled Barcelona out of the mire in an under-par display.

Compare that with Sevilla, who for much of the season played football as good, if not better than the top-two, but whose top striker Wassim Ben Yedder ended up with just 11 goals.

In football finishing power is everything.

2) A deep squad is a huge help

At last Real Madrid have learned after seasons of frustration is the need to have a deep squad to allow the coach to rest key players at vital moments of the season.

Ronaldo's excellent end-of-season form came because Zidane was able to rest him at various points from March onwards and with players such as Morata, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez and Mateo Kovacic, he was at time able to rotate virtually his entire squad with no dip in performances.

Barcelona bought to improve their squad last summer, but their reserve players, Lucas Digne, Denis Suarez, Paco Alcacer and especially Andre Gomez didn't offer the same level of performances and eventually it was in games where they played and under achieved (ie Malaga and Deportivo la Coruna away from home) where Barcelona lost the title.

3) A good summer is vital

The building blocks of a season are placed during the summer and the sides that prepared well in the summer reaped the rewards, whereas those who didn't paid the price.

As we have seen, Real Madrid regained Alvaro Morata and Marcos Asensio and the two were vital in giving Zidane attacking options, whereas Barcelona made several signings of whom only Samuel Umtiti could be considered a success.

At the bottom of the table, Granada's chaotic transfer policy (if they actually had a policy) saw a host of loan players arrive late in the summer to form a squad that didn't even speak the same language and finished bottom of the table.

Sporting Gijon also adopted a scattergun approach, signing players who took away from the spirit of a previously home-grown squad and they too went down. Osasuna quite simply didn't have the cash to splash and paid the price as well, especially after sacking the popular Quique Martin with the campaign not three months old.

4) Some of the best (and worst)

Team of the season: Real Madrid; you can't argue with the title

Player of the season: Messi; maybe not his best season, but he was still the best of the season (again).

Worst team of the season: Granada: chaos from start to finish to end with just 20 points

Disappointment of the season: Andre Gomes: he joined Barcelona with a clause saying the Catalans would pay an incentive if he was named 'Balon d'Or' -- he won't be.

Revelations the season: Eibar and Alaves. Eibar, with a 6,000 capacity ground were quite simply excellent and finished in the top half, while newly promoted Alaves improved as the season continued and have the reward of a Cup final next weekend

Best coach: Jose Luis Mendilibar: worked another miracle at Eibar, who again punched well above their weight.

Worst coach: Tony Adams: It's hard to argue with a 100 per cent record, especially when it is 100 per cent defeats...

Award for patience: Espanyol's owners the Raster Group said they had a four-year plan when they took over and so far their two seasons in charge have seen steady improvements. It's nice to see an owner who doesn't expect overnight miracles.

Young player of the season: Theo Hernandez. The left-back's campaign on loan from Atletico Madrid with Alaves was outstanding; pace confidence and goals...unfortunately for Atletico it has caused Real Madrid to pay his buyout clause.

One to watch next season: Marcos Llorente; his loan spell at Alaves from Real Madrid showed he is the holding midfielder Real Madrid have been looking for... and he will cost them nothing.

Lion of the year. Yeray Alvarez: Made his first team debut with Athletic Club Bilbao and was their best player until Christmas when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He underwent an operation before returning to action just two months later and picking up where he left off. Now a fixture in the Spain under-21 squad.

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