Girona have been the surprise package of the La Liga season, with their blend of attacking football and tactical sophis­ti­ca­tion seeing them in the hunt for a place in the Champions League.

Girona may have recently suffered a downturn in form that's seen their title hopes fade as Real Madrid flex their muscles, there's still no denying that the Blanquivermells have been one of the revelations in European football this season.

Exciting, entertaining and tactically sophisticated, it's been a joy to watch Michel's superbly coached side play some truly swashbuckling football and enjoy the results to match, which has seen them clinch statement victories over Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and a host of others.

Mounting a serious title challenge up until February and occupying top spot in La Liga for many weeks with a squad that blends youth and experience nicely, their rise has been nothing short of remarkable, as their Spanish manager has emphatically improved his squad in all areas, both on an individual and collective level.

Always keen to impose themselves in possession, Girona's bold, front-footed style has ensured they've been a major force to be reckoned with and are a team that’s forever asking questions of their opponents.

Usually operating in a mix of a 3-4-3 / 3-1-5-1 / 3-1-3-3 or 3-1-6 when attacking, this framework has worked wonders to beat pressing structures and to ensure Michel is getting the best out of the players at his disposal.

Girona's Average Position versus Barcelona from Wyscout's Team Report
Girona's Average Position versus Valencia from Wyscout's Team Report

Usually building out from the back in an initial three that splits wide and is accompanied by keeper Paulo Gazzaniga, this gives Girona a strong foundation, with Daley Blind and Eric Garcia proving especially valuable courtesy of their passing brilliance, tactical understanding and experience.

Aiming to generate numerical and positional superiorities in mostly asymmetrical shapes while inviting pressure to manipulate defences to open space and passing lanes, the role of the midfielders then ensures they do so with aplomb.

A typical Girona pass map from Wyscout's Team Report

The exceptional midfield unit led by the outstanding Aleix Garcia, who has done a brilliant job of dictating their attacks and breathing life into their moves with his intelligent movement and pass mastery, has been vital in allowing them to navigate opposition marking plans to manufacture space for one another, generate pass angles and to get the ball into their dangerous attackers.

Doing a terrific job of stretching opposition defences horizontally and vertically, Savio from the left wing and striker Artem Dovbyk have been the stars of the show, even though the likes of Viktor Tsygankov, Ivan Martin, Cristhian Stuani, Portu and Pablo Torre have also been excellent in the final third too.

With the elite dribbling and creativity of Savio, which has given Girona a real offensive x-factor, the Brazilian has tormented defences this term on his way to bagging 10 goals and seven assists in all competitions.

Savio's dribble map from Wyscout's Player Report

Then, in the case of Dovbyk, and the way he offers the team an ideal target to go long to win second balls, hold the ball up to bring others in, surge in behind and offer a wicked box threat for crosses and cutbacks has seen him emerge as one of the elite forwards in Europe.

Causing backlines huge problems with his unique combination of physicality, athleticism and technical qualities, the man who's registered 15 goals and seven assists in all competitions has been nigh on impossible to stop when in full flight.

So good at generating the conditions to progress the ball and occupying advantageous areas, Michel's system, that features plenty of rotation and tactical tweaks, has taken La Liga by storm.

Girona through balls and dribbling maps from Wyscout's Team Report

Often forming a box or diamond in midfield, which is notably helped by the inverting Miguel Gutierrez, who has been a real press breaker, Girona have done a fantastic job of overloading adversaries to directly bypass them or use third man combinations due to their spacing and staggering.

Indeed, their strong central presence also means they can move the ball quickly, draw opponents to isolate the wide men like Savio to maximise their effectiveness, and execute snappy interchanges to compound issues for their adversaries.

Seeing as the quick switches to Savio, that often take place using the overload to isolate principle, create disconnects in backlines, Michel's side have been masters at targeting the channels this creates with runners to elevate their final third menace. This then has the knock on effect of attracting markers so Dovbyk and co. can increase their scope to gain separation, populate the area, and have more room to shoot.

Girona's shot map from Wyscout's Team Report

The central defenders regularly step out to add an extra number to attacks too, which places further stress on their foes on who to mark in what area.

Always asking questions of opponents that they often fail to find solutions for in deeper, true midfield and advanced zones, this fluid, well-oiled machine has powered them to great heights. And for that Michel deserves immense credit, as he's implemented his complicated game plan so splendidly, as opponents have been left searching as a result of their astute variations and unpredictability that's left them without reference points to consistently rely on to construct quality chances.

La Liga xG Team Rankings on Wyscout. Girona rank third for overall xG and top for xG per shot.

It also warrants mention what a huge weapon Girona are on the counter, where the likes of Savio, Dovbyk and Tsygankov relish charging into oceans of space against retreating, shorthanded defensive units.

La Liga goals scored breakdown in Wyscout Team Rankings

Meanwhile, in the defensive phase, Girona have certainly held their own with their energetic pressing and high line being particularly notable.

When pressing high they do a fine job of forcing opponents wide by using their cover shadows to block infield passing routes and the touchline as an extra defender. Their high line does a neat job of compressing the spaces available to the ball holder, thus meaning they're frequently forced into low percentage actions.

Although their aggressive positioning can leave them exposed to runs in behind, the positives outweigh the negatives, for it's been a handy chance conjurer and aided their ability to regain possession in good areas.

When not intensively harrying, Michel's men have shown their comfort defending in a mid or deep block too (usually preferring a back four), where they prioritise central compactness, keep spaces between their lines minimal and are happier leaving spaces wider before shifting and responding smartly to triggers like the aforementioned wide pass or a back pass.

Due to their connectivity when attacking, it's little wonder they've been excellent at counter-pressing immediately after they lose possession. With good access to opponents from their shape, they can spring to life and win back the ball to rapidly get at unset defences.

Swarming multiple opponents in no time at all, this has been a key string to their bow and allowed them to stop transitions before they can develop even if they can be exploited if their initial wave is broken.

By the numbers, the statistics below illustrate what a tremendous threat they’ve been going forward in particular, where Michel has maximised the effectiveness of the weapons at his disposal.

Some of the statistics behind Girona's season to date.

Undisputedly one of the premier teams in Europe this term and well on track to secure Champions League qualification for next term, Michel's Girona deserve all the praise that comes their way, for they've been nothing short of exceptional.

Although they've now dropped to third in La Liga following a tough spell that's seen them only win two of their last seven league matches, this polished, coherent and thrilling Girona have been a breath of fresh air.

Defying the odds and primed to continue their incredible story, finishing the season in the Champions League places would be a fitting reward for their phenomenal campaign that's seen make waves across the continent while serving up a magnificent brand of football.

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