Real Sociedad secured a Champions League place thanks to a win on the final day of last season, combined with Valencia's loss against Sevilla. It was a tremendous achievement for the club who had not qualified for the tournament since 2003. It was also La Real's highest finished since returning to the top flight in 2010, made even more remarkable by the fact they'd finished 15th and 12th the last two seasons.
They are a fantastic example of what good coaching and giving young, talented players a chance to play consistently can produce for a team. Now comes the hard part though...repeating, or improving upon, their achievements.
Head coach Philippe Montanier returned to France, accepting the head job at Rennes, and in his place the club went for stability promoting assistant Jagoba Arrasate who began coaching with the club at the youth level. With the attacking talent available and the solid defense led by Inigo Martinez, the pieces are in place for Arrasate to have success.
Carlos Vela/Imanol Agirretxe/Antoine Griezmann
With the exception of the talent assembled at Barcelona and Real Madrid, you'd be hard pressed to find a more talented attacking trio than the three-headed monster that Real can unleash on the league. Real scored the third most goals in La Liga last season, led by Vela, Agirretxe and Griezmann who all scored in the double digits.
Vela was never really able to settle at Arsenal but since joining Real on loan -- he made a full transfer last summer -- he's finally reached the levels that have been expected of him since he left Chivas Guadalajara's youth program. His 14 goals last season were tied for ninth best in the league. Agirretxe was right behind him with 13 while Griezmann netted 10.
Griezmann also began to blossom last season, appearing to finally be past some of his off the field issues that have threatened to derail his career.
With most of the roster remaining in tact, Arrasate has only signed 21-year-old Haris Seferovic -- he arrives from Fiorentina -- to provide some depth.
The departure of Asier Illarramendi to Real Madrid will be a loss for Real, but there's still plenty of talent left behind. The most likely candidate to take over Illarramendia's spot in the defensive midfield is youngster Rubén Pardo, who played regularly last season off the bench. Joseba Llorente was also released.
Despite the coaching change Real should be just fine this season and be right in the mix for another Champions League spot. The only issue they might have is struggling to deal with the potentially busier schedule should they qualify for the group stages. If they can balance that and the likes of Vela, Agirretxe and Griezmann build on their success from last season, another top four finish should be in the the cards.