La Liga 2021/22 preview: Real Betis

Real Betis finished in an impressive sixth place last season, which means they will play in the Europa League for the first time since 2019.

Summer Transfer Business

The summer saw right-back Emerson Royal leave for Barcelona. Defender Aïssa Mandi and goalkeeper Dani Martín also left the club.

Betis have strengthened though, with left-back Juan Miranda joining on a permanent deal from Barcelona after impressing in a loan spell last season.

Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Silva also arrived, signing a five-year deal after leaving Granada. Silva will be vying to be Betis’s number one with Joel Robles and Claudio Bravo.

With Emerson Royal leaving, Betis had to strengthen at right-back and did so by signing Youssouf Sabaly on a free transfer. The Senegal international decided not to sign a new contract at Bordeaux, instead, Sabaly put pen to paper on a five-year contract with Los Verdiblancos.

The additions Betis have made will strengthen their squad depth, which is crucial with the prospect of balancing domestic and European football this season.

The Manager

Not many managers come more experienced than Manuel Pellegrini. The 67-year-old’s managerial roles have included stints at Villarreal, Real Madrid, and Málaga. Pellegrini’s major success came in England when he guided Manchester City to a Premier League title and two league cups.

Pellegrini had a successful first season in charge. He took over a team that had just experienced a disappointing 2019/20 season, finishing in 15th place, only five points clear of safety. Pellegrini managed to rejuvenate the Andalusian side, who ended the last campaign with 20 more points than the previous season and a sixth-place finish which ensured they would play in the Europa League.

The only issue now is that Pellegrini may become the victim of his success with last season’s progress raising expectations. Nevertheless, there is also an opportunity to build upon last season’s success and at the very least match the achievements of last season.

Key Player

Betis have numerous players that will be important to their forthcoming season, including last season’s top scorer Borja Iglesias who scored 11 times in the league last season and midfielder Sergio Canales who netted eight times himself and provided six assists last season.

However, the man who will be pivotal next season to Los Verdiblancos will be playmaker Nabil Fekir. The 28-year-old had a fine season last campaign, scoring six goals in the league and providing six assists. Pellegrini saw Fekir as central to his plans, with the Frenchman playing 2,622 minutes in the league last season.

Despite the promising start to Fekir’s Betis career, there is still room for improvement. At his best Fekir can mesmerise the opposition with his phenomenal dribbling skills that can leave defences bamboozled. This is demonstrated by the fact that no other Betis player attempted more dribbles than Fekir last season.

It is not just the ability to carry the ball effectively that Fekir possesses, he is also an accomplished passer, who can create chances for his teammates. Sergio Canales was the only Betis player to average more key passes per game last season than Fekir.

Betis’ maestro could be one of the most exciting and important players in the league this season. His stats are impressive; no other Betis player averaged more shots per game, and he was involved in more goal-creating actions than any of his teammates.

Fekir will dazzle, mesmerise, and excite the fans and if Betis are successful this season, expect Fekir to be a crucial part of that success.

One for the future

This one is simple. It must be Diego Lainez.

It remains to be seen how much Lainez will feature in the opening stages of the season, after having a busy summer playing for Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League and the Olympics, but when he does feature for Betis, he will be one player to watch.

The 21-year-old can play on either wing and also in a more central attacking position behind the striker. Lainez is another player that is happiest when dribbling the ball and enjoys trying to drift past the opposition using his incredible close ball control and technical ability. Despite only featuring for a total of 862 league minutes last season, the exciting prospect had 27 successful dribbles, only four Betis players had more.

As any young player would, Lainez has areas of his game he can improve upon, most notably his finishing. Nevertheless, he has shown great promise and demonstrated he can create with four assists in league and cup last season.

Lainez is a top prospect for Betis, and the Mexican can be one of the outstanding young players of La Liga.

Final Position

Pellegrini has assembled a squad full of talent, with a blend of experience and youth. The main challenge for Betis this season will be managing the workload between domestic competition and the Europa League.

After looking at the squad Pellegrini has at his disposal it would be surprising to not see Betis in a Europa League position once again come the end of the season. Though if Betis’ important players can fire, then that final position could be even better than last season.

Ben Sully

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