2017/18 really has been a mixed season for Sevilla.
After years of Europa League dominance, Sevilla continued to impress on the continent and reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League by managing, somehow, to out-stubborn Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
In the league, however, they struggled to keep up a push for top-four and by Christmas, they had sacked manager Eduardo Berizzo, and appointed the also-recently-sacked Vincenzo Montella. Sevilla lacked consistency so naturally, they hired Montella who had also struggled to find consistency with his AC Milan side. What could go wrong?
As it turns out, quite a lot.
In his debut, Montella’s side lost arguably, their most important game of the season, a 5-3 home to fierce rivals Real Betis in an even fiercer derby. In a cut-throat world where managers are judged immediately after they’re appointed, it was the worst possible introduction.
From then on, under Montella’s tenure (which from now on will be referred to as ‘the Banter Era’), Sevilla became one of the most unpredictable teams in Europe. Their next 11 games returned five wins, five losses and a draw.
Spare a thought for the fans in that time, genuinely not knowing if your team is going to come away with an easy win, or get hammered 5-0. At least most teams who chop-and-change managers have the courtesy to be consistently terrible, instead, Sevilla swung from one extreme to the other on a weekly basis.
Some weeks showed signs of stability, with the team winning four of their last five from February into March, including an away win to struggling Malaga and then at home to Athletic Bilbao. The star players were performing, Luis Muriel was among the goals, Franco Vazquez and Ever Banega were both superb in those matches as they pulled the strings from midfield. Steven N’Zonzi was back from near-exile before Christmas to once again be the engine of the team.
It was in these weeks that Spain and the rest of the world were reminded that this Sevilla side has the quality to challenge for top-four. Clement Lenglet was a stalwart in the heart of defence and proved why he is a superb young talent. Even on the bench, the talismanic Nolito could come on and make an impact.
So, after two wins on the bounce, a crucial game against high-flying Valencia, who were favourites to occupy that last Champions League position. A team they Sevilla unbeaten against in their last 13 home meetings, and generally in good form, Montella’s men are good odds for a result here, surely?
Followed by a 2-1 loss to Leganes.
At this point, the Banter Era was in full flow and there was no stopping it. The fans were resigned to having no idea what to expect in the league, but at least the team were consistently performing in Europe. In the Round of 32, Sevilla put in a second-leg performance against Man United which wasn’t particularly amazing but was helped by a shocking display from Mourinho’s side.
Wissam Ben Yedder came off the bench to play the best 20 minutes of football in his life, scoring two minutes after being introduced to put the away side 1-0 up at Old Trafford and then doubled his tally in the 78th minute. Romelu Lukaku pulled one back but it was too late, as Montella marched into the quarter-finals.
Even after being eliminated by Bayern Munich 2-1 on aggregate, Sevilla put a good account of themselves in, keeping an impressive clean sheet at the Allianz Arena.
European dreams over, it was business as usual in La Liga.
A 4-0 loss to Celta Vigo and 5-0 hammering by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final were part of a nine-game run without a win, which inevitably lead to Montella’s sacking this week.
What had changed was the nature of the defeats, despite always being inconsistent Sevilla were at least competitive and at times, unlucky not to come away with results. However, recently they have been fallen far short of the mark and are currently the only side in the top eight with a negative goal difference (-11).
The board have appointed Joaquin Caparros, the man who lead the team to promotion in his first stint as boss in 2000-2005. With the club destined for seventh-place this season, there is some comfort in the fact they will have European football next season, but most fans will be looking for stability as we bid a sad farewell to the Banter Era.