The loss of Antoine Griezmann is no doubt weighing heavy on the hearts of Real Sociedad supporters, but manager Jagoba Arrasate, safe in the knowledge his star man was leaving, has wasted little time in replacing the Frenchman.
In fact, he may just have pulled off the biggest coup of the La Liga transfer window by signing Icelandic striker Alfred Finnbogason, from Eredivise side Heerenveen.
Real Sociedad finished fourth in 2012/13, qualifying for the Champions League in the process, and although they couldn't maintain their lofty finish last campaign, falling to seventh, Arrasate has the squad to get La Real back into Europe's premier competition next season.
Real Sociedad are an attractive outfit to watch, by and large due to their pacy attack. The goals and general play of Griezmann will be sorely missed, but in Finnbogason, who scored twenty-nine times in thirty-two appearances for Heerenveen in last year's Eredivise, they have an able replacement.
Strikers from the Eredivise have been hit-and-miss, ranging from Ruud van Nistelrooy to Afonso Alves, however Finnbogason has an impressive all round game, as his ten league assists attest to.
Finnbogason will hope to effectively dovetail with Carlos Vela, who has clocked up double figures every season, since joining Sociedad from Arsenal in 2011. The 25-year-old Mexican managed a career high seventeen goals last season, combined with twelve assists, often playing from the right of an attacking trio.
Haris Seferovic showed immense promise early in his career, however he has failed to live up to his billing at Sociedad. His role may diminish with the arrival of Finnbogason, however if Arrasate can find a way to integrate the 22-year-old Switzerland international alongside both the ex-Heerenveen man and Carlos Vela, the potential for a devastatingly potent attacking unit is definitely there.
Easy on the eye in midfield
Real Sociedad boats some fantastic ball-players in midfield, especially with the arrival of Esteban Granero. The former Real Madrid midfielder has had a rotten time since leaving Madrid. Clearly unsuited to the Premier League, the 27-year-old Spaniard moved back on loan to Sociedad last season, only to suffer a severe knee-injury that limited him to six appearances. At his best he is a joy to watch, with fantastic technique, first-touch and range of passing.
Granero is joined by another former Los Blancos midfielder, the mercurially talented Sergio Canales. Canales moved to Real Madrid with a burgeoning reputation, but only lasted one season at the Bernabeu. Still only twenty-three, Canales has his best years ahead of him, as long as he can avoid the ligament injuries that have tainted his career.
Completing the trio of talented midfielders is another Spaniard, 21-year-old Rubén Pardo. Born in Logroño, Pardo is Basque through-and-through, and has collected five caps for the Spanish Under-21 side since progressing from the Sociedad academy to the first-team, in 2011. He plays the pivot role in midfield, linking the defence and attack cleverly, whilst keeping the tempo ticking. Pardo registered eight assists last season, due in part to his role as Sociedad's set-piece taker.
No excuses next season
Despite losing one of their best players, Real Sociedad have no reason not to be pushing into the Champions League places next season. Arrasate has retained Iñigo Martinez, a corner-stone of Sociedad's back four, whilst making shrewd additions to the squad, namely Finnbogason, Granero and highly-rated Argentinian goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli, who will replace Barcelona-bound Claudio Bravo.
Without the added pressure of Champions League football, Sociedad can focus their sole attention on La Liga. Europa League qualification hinges on beating Scottish side Aberdeen, but if and when they qualify, Arrasate can use the competition as a means of rotating his squad, in order to keep everyone fresh.
Beating last season's seventh place finish will by no means be an easy feat, but Real Sociedad have the squad and mentality to finish in the top-four, and that is where Arrasate should be aiming.
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