Q&A with Real Sociedad expert Alexandra Jonson – Manchester United’s Europa League opponents

Yesterday, Stretty News spoke with La Liga expert and freelance journalist Alexandra Jonson, one of the big name writers when it comes to all things Real Sociedad as well as Real Oviedo.

Below, you can read the Q&A session, in which Jonson gives some insight about our Europa League opponents Real Sociedad. On top of that, we get an update on how former Manchester United forward Adnan Januzaj is getting on in San Sebastian.

After David Moyes got the sack at Manchester United he landed the job at Real Sociedad. He was sacked, again before his contract expired. What happened?

“It didn’t go very well at all to be honest. The team didn’t perform anywhere near expectations and they were just above the relegation zone on goal difference when he was sacked. However I think his biggest problem at Real Sociedad weren’t the results (even they were really bad) but the fact that he didn’t understand the club. And there are few clubs where that is as important as at Real Sociedad, which is a club that has a strong identity and that’s the base of everything there. Moyes didn’t make an effort to learn the language, he didn’t develop any relationships within the club. And at the end of his time at the club he gave the feeling of someone who had just arrived, who didn’t understand the club, the players, the city, the culture or even the league. And at a club where everything is about the importance of its identity, you will never make it if you don’t show an interest in learning and understanding what the club is all about.”

Adnan Januzaj is a familiar face with our readers. I’m reading good things about him playing for Real Sociedad, but has the Belgium international finally found his home in football?

“Januzaj is a great player and he is having a very good season, that’s for sure. However I think his main problem is that he is too inconsistent and we’ve seen that throughout the years he’s been at Real Sociedad, he can play brilliantly and be the best player on the pitch, but he can also be pretty much a ghost, not visible at all. You never really know which Januzaj you are getting. This season though we’ve seen more of the first version, which is a joy to watch and he especially stepped up I think at the end of last season when Real Sociedad were having some difficulties. He is a veteran in this young squad and that’s an important role for him to play and I think he’s been quite good at it. But though I am a fan of him and really enjoy seeing him play sometimes I think the way he plays and the technical skills he has tricks you a bit to believe he is having a bigger impact then he actually has. As if you then look at what actually comes out of it, in terms of creating goals etc, it’s often very little. Anyway I think he enjoys life in San Sebastian quite a lot, and to play for La Real and it seems he’s gotten quite close to Alexander Isak and been extremely helpful in easing him into the group (especially with Alex not knowing Spanish when he arrived).”

Real Sociedad have been in excellent form this season. What should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer expect?

“It’s a very hard working team, where everyone works as a unit. There really isn’t one star, not even David Silva or Mikel Oyarzabal, they are a group. I think that’s the main key to what they are doing. They pressure high, won’t let their opponents take time with the ball and they are very offensive. But stronger defensively than you might believe or expect. What also makes them difficult to play against is that they can change through different type of formations, and Imanol rotates a lot. They basically never have the same starting XI as the previous match. I think one key player often forgotten is Mikel Merino, when he plays well the rest often fall into place as well. Then you have the attacking fullbacks. The skills of the team, they are quick, smart and got an impressive technique. Imagine when you have that one young player that is having the season of his life, well that’s basically half or more of the Real Sociedad team this season. There are really only two weaknesses and worries I see with Real Sociedad, one is the lack of efficiency in front of goal, they do everything right except for putting the ball in the net. I honestly can’t really explain it because they have the players that can do it, but somehow they don’t. The form we saw from especially Alexander Isak and also from Willian José last season, that’s what they need. But for Isak it’s got to his mind, and he is now missing everything. That’s a key for them if they can get the goalscoring to work they can do big big things this season. The second thing is their youth, they have the youngest team in LaLiga, have average the youngest XI in LaLiga in years. So far it hasn’t been a problem, but it is a worry that the lack of experience will affect them sooner or later, the pressure and expectations getting too high and players not knowing how to handle it. We saw a little bit of it at the end of last season.”

Former Man City ace David Silva joined Real Sociedad in the summer. How influential has he been to date?

“David Silva has been a really big and important reinforcement for Real Sociedad, to fill the hole Martin Ødegaard left but also because of the experience he brings. As mentioned this is a very very young squad, where a 23 year old like Mikel Oyarzabal is seen as a veteran. David Silva brings an experience these players don’t have and if he is able to share that experience and knowledge with his teammates that could make a huge difference on just how far they can take this. However this team is far from as dependent on David Silva as I think a lot of people who don’t closely follow Real Sociedad believe. Silva obviously add things when he plays and is a great great addition to the side, but they are that good that they can play without him as well. One of the best performances from Real Sociedad this season was the away match to Napoli when they were without Silva and Oyarzabal. It was an exhibition (that again just lacked the goals) and it showed the strength and depth they have in their squad. It’s a very strong group and team with a lot of really good players, and though Silva brings a lot he isn’t the reason for their success but one of many building stones.”

How are Manchester United viewed in Spain right now after being knocked out of the Champions League?

“I would say there is always a huge respect towards Manchester United in Spain, and no matter what they do there always will be, it’s not something you can get away from. But their struggles in the Champions League has definitely made people very optimistic towards Real Sociedad’s chances, a team that as mentioned is very well oiled and playing some of the best football in Spain. I did a little survey on my Twitter after the draw to see who my followers saw as the favourites for the fixture, and I obviously have a lot more Real Sociedad fans following me but I also have the experience that in these type of fixtures Spanish teams (excluding Barça, Real Madrid and Atleti) and their fans often are a bit pessimistic and like looking at themselves as the underdog. So therefore it was rather interesting that 74% saw La Real as favourites, now that’s just about 300 people voting, in a very small twitter poll… but I still think it shows a bit how La Real fans are seeing their team as well as Manchester United at the moment.”

Do you fancy Real Sociedad to progress?

“I think they have a good chance to do it. They definitely have the quality and can play football at a high enough level to progress against Manchester United this season. The two things I think it will come down to, is as already mentioned the efficiency. Real Sociedad need to score on their chances, especially when up against a club like Manchester United, they need to get their strikers going. The second will be their attitude, if we see the Real Sociedad we saw against Napoli who have no respect whatsoever for their opponent and just go out and play the way they can. Or if we see the Real Sociedad that we saw in the first half against Barcelona at Camp Nou, who showed too much respect and looked a bit afraid. That’s again where the youth and lack of experience comes in, but hopefully they will learn from the Camp Nou match, where already in the second half they looked better. But yeah I definitely see this Real Sociedad capable of knocking Manchester United out, what it will come down to in my opinion is their efficiency and attitude.”

And finally, Alexandra, tell our readers when they can read more of your work?

“I’m a freelancer so I do a few things here and there sometimes in Swedish, sometimes in English and sometimes in Spanish, the best way really is to follow me on twitter @AlexandraJonson and I will post most of the things I do there. I also work for the app ForzaFootball, which is a brilliant live score app that I definitely recommend. Within their app there is a “Daily news” section, which I make. It’s a bit of giving you a daily football mix, I recommend great articles, funny videos, interviews, give some curiosa a little bit of everything. And there are four different versions in English, Spanish, Italian and Swedish.”

Read more: Back in the Europa League again

More Stories Adnan Januzaj David Moyes David Silva Real Sociedad