When things were blackest, when the covid and the injuries added up to 10 absences in the casualty locker -to receive, for example, Granada on the first day of the year-, Elche has managed to overcome the January slope with the best minutes of play and results of the season, getting eight out of twelve possible points in the last four league games: two wins and two draws. There has only been one defeat in the last month, against Real Madrid and it was in extra time in the Copa del Rey round of 16.
It has been precisely in these hard times that Francisco has had to pull the old guard from Elche the most. Players like Gonzalo Verdú, Fidel, Edgar Badia, Diego González and Pere Milla -also Josan although with fewer minutes-, have had to take the helm of a ship that many sports analysts predicted would have sunk in January.
Elche had to face Real Madrid twice this month, as well as Granada and Villarreal at home, in addition to Espanyol in Barcelona and Almería in their Cup fiefdom. A very complicated ballot that worsened every day with the appearance, mainly, of new cases of coronavirus among the staff and the coaching staff. Very close to the descent -once within it for a few days-, Elche had to pull gallons. And there they were.
Fidel, with six seasons as franjiverde and one of the team captains. This course he has participated in 18 league games and has two goals and three assists, being present in some way in 22% of the goals that Elche has scored and playing almost 70% of his team’s minutes. In the first two games of the year, against Granada and Almería, he entered as a refresher in the last stages. He missed the games against Espanyol and Villarreal due to covid, but was once again decisive against Real Madrid in the Cup, playing 120 minutes, and in LaLiga, entering the 22nd due to the injured Tete Morente.
Gonzalo Verdú, the captain, with five seasons at the club, has participated in almost half of his team’s playing time, in 12 league games, and scored the goal that thrilled the franjiverde fans in the Cup against Madrid. He has been a starter in half of the league games, but with the arrival of Francisco he lost prominence against Enzo Roco or Pedro Bigas, central defenders with the player from Almería. In the 0-0 against Granada he entered in the 53rd minute for Pastore. He played at the end of the Espanyol match to contain the result. He started in the 1-0 against Villarreal and came on in 86 in the Cup against Madrid and in regular competition he started against the whites, putting on a great game.
Edgar Badia recovered at the end of the Escribá stage the title he lost against Kiko Casilla. The Catalan goalkeeper, who is celebrating his third campaign in Elche, has been the protagonist in recent days with spectacular saves. He has played all the games of the year except the Cup against Almería. Although it is true that Madrid’s second goal in the Cup was scored by Hazard taking advantage of his poor start, it is also true that he had previously saved the team with saves to frame, which he repeated at the Bernabéu.
Another historic player already at Elche is Pere Milla, surely the most outstanding of the team in 2022. As the goalkeeper, he arrived at the club in 2019. This year he has scored 5 goals in LaLiga and has given an assist. He has participated on 17 occasions and is present in 26% of his team’s goals. His double in the 1-2 against Espanyol in Barcelona established him against the new coach, who used it already in the 68th minute against Granada and first in the 1-2 in Almería in the Cup. He was also a starter against Villarreal and in the League against Madrid, scoring a great goal from a difficult cross shot after assistance from Boyé. His performance in the Cup against the whites was in the 78th minute and more defensive than offensive, but, as always, delivered to the maximum.
Cádiz-born Diego González has also earned the trust of Francisco, who was in the shadow of Enzo Roco and Pedro Bigas. The young man from Chiclana de la Frontera arrived in Elche in October 2020 and very soon made good friends in the locker room. In recent weeks he has been putting together his best performances, being a powerful and serious defender, confident and hard-working, forming a great pair with Verdú. He was a starter against Granada and Almería, he was absent in the Espanyol field, but he returned to the start against Villarreal and has no longer been a substitute.
Another member of the franjiverde old guard is, in his own right, youth squad player Josan Ferrández. The man from Crevillent arrived at the club 14 years ago and at the Bernabéu he was celebrating 150 games. Now, Josan may have the opportunity to add minutes in the certain absence of Morente, injured ankle ligaments.
Josan started against Almería in the Cup, giving Piatti a perfect assist to start the comeback. Against Espanyol he came on in the 70th to replace Tete Morente, a change that was repeated in the 75th against Villarreal. Against Madrid he started in the Cup and played the last five minutes in the League.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.