Inside Spanish Football statistician Javier J. Hernandez is back to discuss Espanyol’s incredible run of form that is being spearheaded by forgotten striker and former Manchester City man Felipe Caicedo.
Espanyol are celebrating a 2014/2015 season reminiscent of their glory days back in 2006. The “other” club from Barcelona almost reached European grandeur in the early years of the millennium but a heartbreaking penalty shootout against Sevilla left them without a trophy, despite never losing a game in the whole tournament.
However, they could be in for another European run next year, with some added revenge, as they have Sevilla on the brink of elimination to reach the Copa del Rey semifinal. A 3-1 victory at Cornella doesn’t guarantee anything for a team that would still be one elimination away to reaching a hypothetical final, which would give them a ticket to Europe (their rival in the final should be playing in Europe next season through their league position, guaranteeing Espanyol a spot in the next Europe League).
Espanyol is also enjoying a fairly successful campaign in La Liga. However, the competition for the European places this year in Spain is harder than ever, making their Copa del Rey run their only real chance for European football next season. A chance that is going to be linked to the goals of Felipe Caicedo, as well as Christian Stuani and Sergio García’s goals.
The acquisition of the Ecuadorian gives a third weapon in front of goal, to a team that only had one scorer with more than six goals last season. In fact, Sergio García was rather a one-man army last year, leading his team in goals and assists. Only Carlos Vela managed to do the same last season in Spain.
But things are changing at Cornella this season, even though Sergio still leads the team in goals and assists, Stuani has already scored six goals in La Liga play, while Caicedo also has six to his name. On average, all three players could finish with 10 or more goals, last year only Sevilla and Villarreal had three players with 10 or more La Liga goals (outside Barcelona and Real Madrid of course). All four teams, coincidentally, qualified for Europe.
Yet, it’s in the Copa where Sergio Garcia is receiving the most help. The former Barcelona youth product has only scored once but both Caicedo and Stuani have three goals each. The Ecuadorian with three goals at home and the Uruguayan with three on the road. A perfect combination so far. Stuani and Caicedo have shared similar success in the pass. In the 2010/11 season (the last season Caicedo played in Spain) they both played for Levante. Stuani scored eight goals, four on the road, while the former Man City striker scored 11 of his 13 goals at home.
Felipe Caicedo’s numbers are actually extremely fascinating to analyze. Back in 2011, his ability to score already caught my eye as a performance analyst. On that season, Caicedo managed a goal every 1.8 shots on target and every 3.92 total shots (both numbers better than Messi and Ronaldo). I was so fascinated by it that I wrote a piece when he left Spain mentioning how we were missing a chance to analyze one of the most interesting players in La Liga. And missing a chance to see if his season was an anomaly or not.
Now back in Spain, it turns out that Caicedo may be a machine of consistency. All of his eight goals have come at home, keeping that same trend. But even more interesting still is that the Espanyol striker is averaging a goal every 1.8 shots on target and every 3.40 total La Liga shots. Virtually repeating the same numbers as 2011. Caicedo’s efficient consistency has helped an Espanyol side, who last year scored a goal every 10.07 shots to score every 8.64 shots, and from 3.29 shots on target to 3.19 shots on target. Both marks are eighth best in La Liga. Stuani has also contributed to this, scoring a goal every 1.5 shots on target. Back in 2011, Stuani scored every 1.9 shots on target and it seems Espanyol won´t be lacking efficiency this year.
Having three weapons up front certainly helps coach Sergio González, who is also bringing the best of 23-year-old Lucas Vázquez as a creative midfielder. While also easing the dependency on a 31-year-old Sergio García, who has been carrying this team for the last few years.
Only time would tell if all of these will be enough to bring some European football back to Cornella.
This article originally appeared here.