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José Alberto leads a training session during his time at Sporting Gijón.
José Alberto leads a training session during his time at Sporting Gijón. / Arnaldo García

What would José Alberto bring to Malaga?

  • The 39-year-old, currently in charge of Mirandés, is first choice to take over from Sergio Pellicer at the end of the season

José Alberto López, currently in charge of fellow Segunda División side Mirandés, has been identified as the leading candidate to take over from Sergio Pellicer as Malaga manager at the end of the season. The club believes that the prospective boss, who has a similar tactical and player management profile as Pellicer, would be the right man be able to improve Malaga's fortunes after a mediocre season.

It is understood that a verbal agreement with the club's director of football Manolo Gaspar was reached just days after Pellicer announced he would depart Malaga at the end of the season following 18 months in charge. Although no formal announcement has been made at this stage, he is expected to sign a two-year contract with the club.

José Alberto has been in charge of Mirandés since July last year and previously had a spell as manager of Sporting Gijón. After a very modest playing career, he went into coaching at a young age and gained much experience working with youth teams before being given the top job at Sporting in 2018.

One of the reasons for his interest in the Malaga job is his desire to work for a team with a more ambitious project than his current employers, who do not have the same resources available as the Blue and Whites. However, this would bring with it greater pressure and scrutiny on his decision-making, something with which he appeared to struggle in his second season with Sporting, where he departed in December 2019 after just over a year in charge.

In the past, he has spoken of his admiration for Athletic Bilbao manager Marcelino, who is known for his 4-4-2 formation based on defensive rigidity. However, José Alberto has also played with a 4-1-4-1 formation on occasions this season, employing a defensive midfield anchor in the same way as Pellicer has done. On top of this, he at times has played a secondary striker between the lines. On the other hand, it is very rare that he plays three at the back, preferring the more orthodox four to maintain solidity.

It is perhaps unsurprising that Manolo Gaspar has identified José Alberto as the man to take Malaga forward given the quality his Mirandés side demonstrated when they came to La Rosaleda in October where they were unlucky not to come away with more than a 1-1 draw. José Alberto's coaching philosophy rests on creating chances through passing movements and avoiding opposition pressure by paying attention to what is happening off the ball. In this way, the midfield anchor becomes very important - this position is currently occupied by Alberto Escassi at Malaga.

What would José Alberto bring to Malaga?

/ Arnaldo García

For José Alberto, commitment and desire among his players is non-negotiable and his Mirandés side have been one of the most high-intensity teams in the league this season. When his teams are in possession, they try to keep it for as long as possible through a fluid passing system. Although these tactics do not always succeed, they can be very effective in wearing down the opposition. In order to do this, Malaga will need several dynamic players.

A striking detail of José Alberto's Mirandés team, along with his side at Sporting, is the importance of his fullbacks. He likes to employ them in attacking positions, particularly as an additional threat at the far post. He also places great emphasis on his wingers, who are required to carry out work in the centre of the park and to arrive in the box as an extra attacking option.

This season, Pellicer's Malaga have found most joy through winning the ball off the opposition while pressing high. In contrast, José Alberto and Mirandés have shown an ability to defend in different ways, whether it be through a high line, a well-drilled block or sitting deep with all players in their own half. He is able to adapt his tactics according to the opposition and to his team's situation in the game. Even when his team is winning, he has been able to maintain his tactical rigidity.

Like Pellicer, he scrutinises his opposition meticulously before each game before deciding upon his tactics. These performances mean that Mirandés sit in a very credible ninth position in the table going into the final game of the season. Indeed, the team have never fallen below 13th place and have instead spent most of the campaign sitting in the top half and even threatening to push for a promotion playoff spot.

Another notable aspect of his Mirandés team is how willing his players have been to take shots from outside the box. Coupled with this, his defence has been set up to limit the opposition's chances of doing the same. That Malaga managed to score from long-range during their clash at La Rosaleda speaks volumes of the quality of Jozabed's strike that evening. Moreover, he employs a high defensive line for freekicks and, as for corners, his players will group together in a 'train' formation to attack them.

Particularly while with Sporting, José Alberto demonstrated a willingness to give young players a chance, handing debuts to nine homegrown players. At Mirandés, he has also demonstrated an ability to work with an inexperienced team. As Malaga's current financial predicament shows, the integration of young players into the squad can become a very useful tool over the season.