Míchel Sánchez is one of the most fashionable coaches in Spanish football and as coach of Girona he is showing that you can be brave and daring without managing a big team. Ten days before the end of the League, he attended MD to talk about the present and the future of himself and the people of Girona.
The team reaches the last ten days after three consecutive wins. How is the locker room?
We are in a good moment of play and confidence. The dressing room is united and most important of all, it is very clear what our idea is and what are the clear concepts to follow in this line. This is very important.
10 points from 2nd and 6 from 7th. On Sunday they play in Almería. Is it last train?
The classification says that today the direct ascent is very very complicated, but this Sunday’s game can mark a point and apart. We know how difficult it is to play against a team like Almería, but if we win there we will be 7 short of promotion and there will be 27 left at stake. Nothing is impossible (smiles).
He is showered with praise for how he plays and attacks his team. Have they reached the best version of him? What do you think they lack?
We have managed to get the players to understand our proposal and let’s go for it together. Now we all know that our idea is to reach the opposite goal through good handling of the ball and aggressiveness in the rival field. The centrals, midfielders and the forwards have understood it. We need to hit the table in an important game and Sunday is a day that I have marked for it.
The beginning was not easy. Did he ever think that his position was in danger? What happened to the team?
Many different circumstances came together. A team with many new faces, a coaching staff that proposed things very different from the previous ones and obviously the blow that the non-promotion meant. It took us 10-11 days to find regularity and start having results. We are paying the bill now, but we cannot go back in time. I always say that here in Girona I have felt fully supported by everyone: the fans, the club and the press. I must thank you because it is not easy for people to recognize that you are doing things well when the results do not come.
If you could go back… How would you act differently?
Surely one of the things that penalized us the most throughout the first days were the defensive transitions. We wanted to be protagonists with the ball, but the team had not yet understood that we must travel together. This proposal requires a specific way of playing and it was difficult for us to get the best version of many players. This is what I would pay more attention to if I could go back.
What is the most difficult moment you have lived here as a coach?
The day of the 1-3 defeat against Huesca in Montilivi. That week we changed the formation, we did completely different things and we deserved to win the game, but we didn’t get it that way. For a moment I thought that we could not turn around the dynamic we were in.
Names like Arnau Martínez or Baena are shining and having a lot of weight despite their young age. What advice can you give them?
All the young people on the staff have taken steps forward in their training and this makes me proud of our work. If we talk about the cases of Arnau and Baena, they are two footballers who have many qualities to be able to succeed and on top of that they have a well-furnished head. I don’t think about giving them advice if not demanding them every day to improve. We are convinced that they have not reached their highest level and it is a privilege to see how they compete.
In the squad you have very talented players: Samu, Borja, Baena… is it difficult to put them together in a category like the Second Division?
I’ve always thought that the good guys should be on the pitch because at any moment they can solve the game for you, but they should understand that collective effort is very important. On Saturday we won playing with three very attacking midfielders, but in defense they were the first to try to steal, without this involvement our plan cannot work.
He has made Samu Saiz shine and find regularity, something that no one had achieved. What is the secret?
Samu is a footballer who, if he is well, is a differential for this category. He has made it easy for me because from the first moment he has seen that I was not lying to him. We’ve had our clashes and our arguments, but he’s a football sufferer and my style works well. He has realized that he could perform at his best level. In this structure he is very comfortable and he is essential for us.
On Saturday he returned to the line of 4. Do you feel that you could return to your prototype scheme or is the 5-3-2 set in stone in Girona?
More than the system, right now I think the team is ready to compete and beat anyone with the structure we have in place. The important thing, as I said before, is the idea and the concepts and the players have internalized them. Over time we have seen that there are many players who perform better in the new system. Arnau or Jairo adapt better to the lane than to the side and Baena, for example, the one we had labeled on the outside, has proven to be much better on the inside. In addition, others like Ramon Terrats can act in various positions. The other day we played with four down and it’s an alternative that we can use at any time.
Right now the teams that will fight for the playoffs seem to be quite defined. Who does not want to meet?
There is still a lot left, there are 30 points to play for and there are several teams in the fight. I don’t think this is decided at all. I can’t tell you anything about the rivals because there are ten days left and I only think about hitting the table in Almería.
Promotions are a cursed thing in Girona. Will he have to do something different on a mental level to prepare his team? Have you thought about it?
We know what has happened in previous seasons, but the mental aspect is something that we have been working on all season and it does not worry me. Now I see the team prepared to go up in a playoff and many more positive things come to mind than negative. At the moment we are, we have shown that we can compete against anyone and I have no doubt that all the players, including the youngsters, are ready to face this situation with full guarantees.
In Girona they are delighted with their work, involvement and philosophy of life. What does Míchel need to renew with Girona?
In Girona I have found something that is very difficult to find. Here I breathe football and the people around me are as passionate about it as I am. The way I feel makes it clear that I want to continue here in First or Second Division. I want to stay and I think that my path and that of the club are destined to understand each other. I hope I can spend a lot of time here.
He understands Catalan and speaks it better every day. He has always said that he responded to his values. Has it been an effort? Have you received a lot of criticism?
Any criticism I may receive for this is completely unwarranted and although I have received it, I have had many more compliments. I have arrived in a new place, with a different culture and I think that with the values that I have received since I was little, it is something that I must do. I try to improve my Catalan every day and my wife, who wants to settle here next year, has already made it clear to me that she also wants to learn it.
Do you agree with MD to make a promise in case of going up to the First Division?
I promise to make a speech in Catalan with Montilivi full in celebration. (Between laughter and knocking on wood).