5 surprises from the first month of La Liga

As we reach the September international break, it’s time to look back on the exciting developments from the first four matchdays of the new campaign.

The first international break of the 2023/24 football season has arrived, with four La Liga matchdays completed and with so many fascinating storylines having emerged already. There are several teams and players who have taken the competition by surprise with their performances to date, and five of them are discussed in more detail here.

Isco is back and racking up the MVP awards

After he left Sevilla halfway through last season, many doubted Isco Alarcon and some thought he was finished at the top level. But, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The 31-year-old signed with the other club of Seville in the summer, joining Real Betis, and he has started the new season in sensational form. Isco has started every fixture so far for Los Verdiblancos, and has been voted the MVP of the match in each one, against Villarreal, Atletico Madrid, Athletic Club and Rayo Vallecano.

Coach Manuel Pellegrini, who previously worked with Isco at Malaga, has placed the playmaker at the centre of his 4-2-3-1 formation and Isco is delivering. In addition to the classy goal he scored against Athletic Club, Isco is producing 3.3 key passes per game and is also recovering the ball 3.8 times per game. This is helping those around him too, including striker Willian Jose, who has been another revelation by scoring three goals already this season.

Girona FC are as good and as fun as last season, if not better

Girona 2022/23 campaign was something special. The Catalan club had just won promotion through the playoffs and took La Liga by storm, challenging for European qualification until the final day of the season and playing a very attractive brand of football, which saw them score the fifth-most goals.

There were fears that they wouldn’t be able to replicate this in 2023/24 after a few members of last season’s squad moved on, but the club made astute signings in the transfer window, such as Daley Blind, Savio or Artem Dovbyk, and coach Michel has Los Blanquivermells playing even better than last term. They’ve taken 10 points from a possible 12 so far and are the fourth-highest scoring team in the competition right now. Without a doubt, Girona remain a joy to watch.

Bellingham is already one of the best players in the world

When Real Madrid won the race to sign Jude Bellingham this summer, Los Blancos knew they were acquiring a future Ballon d’Or candidate. But, surely even the most optimistic Real Madrid fans didn’t expect Bellingham to start his La Liga career quite so spectacularly.

The English midfielder has scored in each of his first four La Liga matches, joining Cesc Fabregas as the only non-forward to achieve this in the 21st century. These performances have earned Bellingham the competition’s August Player of the Month award. Even though he only just turned 20 years of age, it’s clear that Bellingham is already one of the very best players in the sport.

FC Barcelona have a special talent in Lamine Yamal

Another young player who has caught the eye to start the season is Lamine Yamal. The 16-year-old who has featured in all four of Barcelona’s games so far, starting the past three of them. After becoming the youngest ever player to play in a league game for Barca when he made his debut as a 15-year-old last season, Lamine Yamal is now regularly contributing at the highest level.

His efforts created two goals in the Blaugrana’s 4-3 win over Villarreal in Matchday 3, while he has been terrorising left-backs from his right wing position throughout his time on the pitch. So impressive has Lamine Yamal been that he has even been called up to the senior Spain squad for the September international break.

Takefusa Kubo takes his game to the next level

Real Sociedad are undefeated across the first four matchdays of the new season and Takefusa Kubo is a major reason for this. The Japan international turned 22 years of age during the summer and is taking his game to the next level. By scoring three goals already this season, he is now the highest-scoring Japanese footballer in La Liga history, with 18.

Beyond his goals, Kubo is getting his teammates involved too and displaying positional versatility, always moving to the part of the pitch where La Real need him. Analysing his start to the campaign, Kubo said: “It’s important for me that the coach demands more from me, that he thinks I can give more. The key is that I think I am more effective than before.” Up next for Kubo and La Real is a trip to the Bernabeu immediately after the September break.


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