Real Sociedad Season Preview: Can La Real push for Europe? 
Mikel Oyarzabal looks likely to stay in San Sebastian for another season (Getty Images/Power Sport Images)

Real Sociedad Season Preview: Can La Real push for Europe? 

Time for Imanol Alguacil to step up as La Real aim to improve

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Campbell Finlayson

Last season was a disappointing one from a Real Sociedad point of view with the usual aim of qualification for the Europa League not realised. A slow start saw the Basques languishing in the bottom half of the table, albeit not in any relegation trouble. That form did pick up in the second half of the season with La Real slowly climbing to ninth, where they would finish, one place behind neighbours Athletic Club.

Transfer Business Overview

It has been a busy summer for the club with five new arrivals and six players leaving the Anoeta.

Cristhian Portu has joined from Girona following their relegation while Alex Remiro is in from Athletic and there was also a loan move for young Real Madrid midfielder, Martin Odegaard. Away from La Liga, young striker Alexander Isak has come in from Borussia Dortmund and Modibo Sagnan has moved from Lens.

Five players have also moved up from the B side, with Aihen Muñoz and Robin Le Normand among them.

The highest-profile name on his way out of San Sebastian is Juanmi who is off to Real Betis while Hector Moreno and Eneko Capilla are away to Qatar and Greece respectively. Jon Bautista, Martin Merquelanz and Jon Guridi have all departed on loan.

Manager: Imanol Alguacil

In Alguacil, Real Sociedad has a man who knows the club almost better than anyone having spent nearly ten years there as a player and eight as a coach from the youth side up to the first team.

Having been in temporary charge for the end of the 17/18 season, he returned again for the end of the last following Asier Garitano’s departure and has now been handed charge himself for the new season. Clearly, he knows the players well and trusts many of the younger ones as shown by the promotion of many to the first team squad but whether or not he has what it takes to get the best out of a changing squad, remains to be seen.

Player to Watch: Mikel Oyarzabal

The fact that at just 22-years old, Mikel Oyarzabal has been named as the vice-captain at the Anoeta shows just how much he is regarded at the club. His performances over the last few seasons have been excellent, with 38 goals in 151 games, as well as 23 assists,  lighting up the stadium on many occasions.

He has been linked with Real Madrid but is certain to stay in San Sebastian for now, but if he can produce another good season, it won’t be long before bigger clubs come calling.

One for the Future: Aihen Muñoz

Muñoz made 11 league appearances for La Real last season and will be hoping to kick on and get even more this year. Originally behind Kevin Rodrigues, the full-back made his mark and is tipped to be an important part of the Sociedad defence over the next few years.

If he can do that in the starting eleven this season or whether it will be next year is yet to be determined, but with Alguacil at the helm, it’s likely this may be his season.

Predicted Finish

Finishing in the Europa League places is always Real Sociedad’s aim and will be again this year, even more so after failing to qualify for the last two. They will have to improve on last year’s sluggish campaign to do that, but with the youthful exuberance in the squad, that could go either of two ways.

It all depends on how Alguacil settles in charge of the squad for his first full season and that will be key in determining how their year goes.

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