Elche celebrates 100 years of existence in 2023. And one thing is certain, fans at Estadio Martínez Valero will never forget this historic year… Not for the right reasons, unfortunately. Immersed in the depths of La Liga (20th) with only six tiny points, the men of Pablo Machin honor the status of red lantern by having worn the dunce cap for 14 consecutive days. The club located in the province of Alicante simply did not obtain any victory at mid-season (6 draws / 13 defeats) and equaled the worst series without success in its history (1970/1971).
Álex Collado’s teammates are definitely not doing things by halves since they also hold the title of worst attack (12 goals scored) and defense in the championship (39 goals conceded). Even more humiliating, they have so far more red cards (7) than points in their wallet. Finally, the icing on the cake, they were eliminated by the modest Spanish third division club, Ceuta, in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey. In short, a cataclysmic record for Elche and it is hard to see how he could raise the bar in the second half of the season by seeking maintenance. The first non-relegation player (Real Valladolid) is already at 14 points.
Five coaches in six months
But then what is the source of all the difficulties encountered by the stable of Joaquín Buitrago? Management first wanted to tackle the root of the tree by dismissing its coaches on several occasions. Since August 2022, Milla Pere’s partners have already known five different coaches: Francisco Rodríguez, Alberto Gallego (interim), Jorge Almirón, Sergio Mantecón (interim) and finally Pablo Machín. And we can only note that this method does not bear fruit since none of them has succeeded in refloating the ship in full sinking.
Currently in certainly the least coveted position on the football planet, Pablo Machin does not lose hope despite everything. After the new disappointment last weekend on the lawn of Sevilla FC (3-0), the 47-year-old Spanish strategist wanted to be optimistic. “Nobody said the situation was not complicated, but it depends on us. Our goal is to compete in every game. We have to show that we can play at a high level for longer. Until the expulsion, we saw a brave team that made things difficult for Sevilla. (…) Football cannot always be so cruel to us”. The former Girona tactician had also claimed that “the team is not dead”a few weeks ago.
All players are free to pack up
What about the players in this tragedy-like story? The latter have a large share of responsibility in the ordeal that Elche is going through. The poor performance of key elements last season such as Enzo Roco, Pedro Bigas or Lucas Boyé is a first reason. The low contribution of new recruits (Lirola, Clerc, Quina, etc.) is also an essential vector of dysfunction within the workforce. A recruitment that was controversial even before the season started, which caused the first tensions between the owner and businessman, Christian Bragarnik, and the ex-coach, Francisco Rodríguez.
The leaders of the Iberian club therefore decided to activate at the beginning of January as soon as the winter transfer window opened. Argentinians Lautaro Blanco and Lisandro Magallán and Sevillian José Ángel Carmona have joined the crew, while Javier Pastore and, more recently, Roger Martí have left. Departures that echo what Machin said last week, who admitted that all players on the team can leave if they are not satisfied. The fans meanwhile show their dissatisfaction. About fifty fans participated this Sunday in a demonstration whose objective was to protest against the sporting and social management of the club led by Christian Bragarnik.
A huge black hole therefore, where it is difficult to glimpse the light. Even the history books are against Elche. Since the existence of the Spanish National First Division, no team has ever managed to stay in the top flight without a win for more than 17 games. Elche will have to fight against the legend to achieve the feat. So that this trip to the end of hell turns into a miraculous fairy tale.