Real Sociedad have enjoyed a superb La Liga campaign which has left their Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao in the shade. 

We all remember last season when Athletic Bilbao were rampaging through the top four teams and putting away the lower table teams with ease, but a few dreadful decisions have allowed the Europa League finalists to slip into a potential relegation scrap.

Last season, Javi Martinez and Fernando Llorente were the basis of the team. Attack and defence - a bedrock for success. But the departure of Martinez and the refusal to sign a new contract from Llorente have led to real slip-ups in terms of their league form. 

Where Athletic have been on the slide in Bilbao, just along the north coast in San Sebastian, the fans at the Anoeta have witnessed a rise to power from Real Sociedad, who were playing in the second-tier just a few years ago.

So, how has this happened?

Those Athletic fans of a more optimistic nature could say it is purely down to the departure of their two key talismen, but what have they done with the money received from sold players and are they really at fault for their downfall? 

The arrogance of coach Marcelo Bielsa in the Athletic dugout has been astronomical to say the least. Having been told Llorente would not be resigning, he then had two options: sell the Spanish forward and use the funds to bring in some new players, much like Arsene Wenger did with Robin van Persie earlier this season, or use Llorente to the full this season and hope that his excellence on the pitch would lead to a place in Europe. 

He opted for neither and instead decided to put Llorente on the bench for every match without the intention of playing him at all. Bielsa has started playing Llorente, but it could be a case of too little too late.

This is not the only reason for this momentous change in power, though. Nine out of the 11 Real Sociedad's regulars were born and brought up in the Basque country, so they do not need to splash the cash to fund a great team. The other two are Carlos Vela, who arrived from Arsenal has been in superb form, putting away 12 goals already this season in La Liga, and Antoine Griezmann, who at just 21 has a very bright future ahead with his pure talent and knack for finishing.

It used to be Athletic Bilbao who were the club to watch out for in La Liga. Now it is certainly Real Sociedad - and they are becoming very noisy neighbours.

 

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