Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Valencia 5-0 Malaga

Did I just dream that?


Valencia had got off to a reasonable enough start in La Liga, but questions still remained, especially about the attack, the team's ability to win games and whether, after proving that they could cut it against the top teams, we would resort to business as usual by conceding goals and dropping silly points against the smaller teams. Even at half time in this game, those questions were still open, but in the second half they were blown away, as Malaga were, by Valencia's best performance in a half since the Europa game against Rapid Vienna.

As expected, Marcelino went for a few rotations to give a few players a rest. Nothing radical: Gabriel returned to replace Garay, Lato came in for Gaya, Guedes got his first start instead of Pereira and Zaza started again, this time partnering Mina up front.

Malaga got the slightly better start and indeed, for the first half in general, looked much better than their league position suggested. After the first 5 minutes though, Valencia grew into control and started to looked more confident, patient build up play, great technique passing and touches, generally good defense and dangerous looking counter attacks.

In the seventh minute, we had the ball in the net, but it was ruled offside, Parejo judged to have been offside when he planted the first header. It was marginal, but probably correct. In the 16th minute we did take the lead. Soler controlled a great long ball and put in a decent cross which Mina headed back across goal. 

Valencia switched off a little after scoring, something the team will have to work on. Rolon almost put Malaga level a minute later, but Neto produced a great save. Valencia squandered a good chance to make it two, with Zaza the main villain. The defender had just taken it away from him and then it got tangled in his legs, Zaza falling over and appealing for a penalty after a bit of a touch from the keeper. Malaga for their part weren't giving up, there were a few less than perfect clearances from the back, especially from Murillo. Neto had to produce another great save to deny Muro. At half time we led, but they were still in it and would remain so up until our second goal.

That goal came from another great cross from Soler, with Mina, probably luckily, just missing it, allowing Zaza to slide it in at the back post. While two questionable decisions had gone against us, it has to be said, this was in our favour as Mina was offside and interfering.

Malaga fell apart after that, though it helped that our midfield four were giving a superb performance. Parejo held the ball up from another attack and rather than wasting it, waited for the oncoming Montoya. Great cross from him and great diving header from Zaza. The Italian's hattrick came shortly after, Mina pressured the defender well, giving Zaza time to nip in and steal the ball before poking home. What a way to answer his critics. A few days ago there were questions about his ability and relationship with the manager, now he's the second top scorer in La Liga after Messi!

With the game in the bag and a tough game away to high flying Sociedad on Sunday, Marcelino sensibly decided to sub off key players, so Kondogbia, Parejo and Zaza came off for Pereira, Maksimovich and Rodrigo.

Valencia could have won this by 6 or 7 after this point. One of the best counters was led by Guedes, who played in Rodrigo, but Mina was too slow to react to his ball across the goal.

Having seen the other two forwards score, Rodrigo looked totally determined to do it himself and scored our fifth in the 85th minute, linking up well with Guedes, whose great back heel allowed him to slot home. A great win and performance which alleviates many of the doubts. If you'd written a wish list for this as a Valencia fan before the game, you couldn't have improved on it: strong performance, many goals, clean sheet, goals for all the front three. Unbeaten after 5 games, no goals conceded in the first 3 games at Mestalla. Mission accomplished.

PLAYER RATINGS
Neto 8 - Diego who? The decision to replace Alves with this guy has worked out so far. Solid goalkeeping and good distribution.
Lato 7 - the only problem with this guy is the selection issue he gives the coach. Good in defence and dangerous going forward.
Gabriel 6.5 - competent enough performance, early days for him at VCF but so far so good
Murillo 6 - good defending but needs to work on distribution from the back, as we can't have him giving the ball away in dangerous areas as he did tonight a couple of times
Montoya 6.5 - far better than previous game and a great cross for the goal
Guedes 8 - first start and deserves more if he plays like this, always an attacking threat
Kondogbia 7.5 - we absolutely have to exercise the buy option on him. Has added real bite to the midfield and provides the consistency that the erratic Enzo lacked and all without the discipline problems.
Parejo 7.5 - Marcelino has really brought the best out in him, got a deserved round of applause when going off
Soler 8.5 - after a disappointing game last time, was almost my man of the match for this one. Looked like he's been playing as a winger for years.
Mina 6.5 - upped his game after last one, scoring a much needed goal and providing the pressure needed for our fourth
Zaza 9 - ironically up until his first goal, I'd probably have only given him an average rating, but then he produces an 8-minute hat trick. If he can do that more regularly, top four may yet be possible.

SUBS
Pereira 6.5 - solid after coming on, pity he's only on loan
Rodrigo 7 - first time he hasn't started and after seeing his competitors score he put in the effort to do the same. As with them, we need more of this.
Maksimovich 6 - looked a handy player, bit unlucky for him that he'll probably be reduced to a bit role this season









Saturday, September 16, 2017

Levante 1-1 Valencia

Valencia faced their city rivals Levante in the first derby in 18 months. While Levante have struggled in recent years, they've always been competitive against us, winning the last 4 home games. They've also had a decent return to La Liga, beating Villarreal and drawing at the Bernabeu, so this was always going to be a tricky tie.

Marcelino made 2 changes from the last game. With Gabriel not at full fitness after an injury he was replaced by Murillo. That means Valencia have had a different back two in all four games this season. The main surprise was the inclusion of Mina, replacing Zaza as Rodrigo's strike partner. While Mina is in his third season, this is only the second time he's played with Rodrigo in a forward two. The previous time, away to Atletico Madrid in Nuno's last season, didn't end well, with Rodrigo getting injured for 2 months. I wouldn't read too much into Mina replacing Zaza, with Valencia playing midweek, it's probably just rotation.

The first half was a bit of a dull affair. Neither team looked inspiring going forward. Valencia had the better of the first 15 minutes and Levante the better second 15 minutes. They looked the more likely to score, so it was a little against the run of play when we took the lead. Rodrigo controlled a long ball from Parejo well. I've criticised his decision making, but this time he got it exactly right. Instead of trying a wild shot or dribble he played the ball out to Pereira and, from the latter's cross, found space to power a header home. Valencia should have been 2-0 up. In both cases Soler was the main culprit. Firstly, doing good work to cut inside but placing a weak shot right at the keeper and then, after a looping header from Mina had hit the woodwork, heading straight at the keeper.

Valencia had changed tactics a bit for this game, going more for long balls, probably hoping to exploit the high back line that Levante had employed in previous games. There were also more shots from distance, though they were ineffective. Levante equalised towards the end of the first half, with Valencia conceding a disappointing goal from a cross.

The second half was a bit dull, with few chances. Rodrigo missed the best of them when put through, but as the half dragged on, it looked like neither team could score and the game finished 1-1.

So, Valencia remain unbeaten after 4 games against reasonably difficult opponents. We look a difficult team to beat, but there's a lack of creativity and danger up front. The battle for top 6 will be intense this season and we need to start to winning games if we want to achieve that. To do that, we need to start scoring. Satisfactory, but improvement still needed, especially in attack.

PLAYER RATINGS
Neto 5.5 - as in previous games, not a lot to do as he was screened by an effective defence, but was a bit flat footed on the goal.
Gaya 6 - reasonable game and put in a few good crosses, but needs to learn to use his right foot
Murillo 6.5 - had a good game, good to have so many solid defenders for a change
Garay 6 - no complaints, played well
Montoya 4 - ineffective in defence and attack, lucky not to get booked
Pereira 6.5 - another good game, always a threat on the left
Kondogbia 6 - competent but not the force he was in previous games and nearly got caught in possession a couple of times
Parejo 6 - a few wayward passes, but created a few good opportunities as well
Soler 4 - disappointing game, missed a couple of good chances and his passing was not that great
Rodrigo 6.5 - needed that goal and put in a good performance
Mina 2.5 - anonymous and forgettable, needs to take advantage of starts like this

SUBS
Guedes 4.5 - not sure if it was his idea or Marcelino's for him to shoot every time he was in a dangerous position, but it didn't work
Zaza 4.5 - not much impact after coming on, but Mina's lack of form means he's safe













Saturday, September 9, 2017

Valencia 0-0 Atletico Madrid

Valencia faced one of their historic rivals and secured a credible draw in a tough stalemate.

Marcelino made 3 changes from the last game. Garay returned to replace Vezo. Gabriel replaced fellow new signing Murillo. Pereira came in, initially at left wing, replacing Lato, with Gaya dropping back. Both Gabriel and Pereira made their debut. To Valencia's relief, Atletico's star man Greizmann was suspended.

Valencia got off to a nervy start, Atletico were quickest off the blocks and had us pinned back for the first 10 minutes. We woke up, however and the first half resembled a chess game, with both teams carefully probing the other, trying to find a way through, but coming up against a solid defence. Atletico looked a bit better in attack and looked especially dangerous on the break. Atletico were a bit physical with the challenges and the referee was too lenient. Montoya was rightly booked but Partey had gotten away with a number of dodgy challenges.Valencia were solid in defence, dependable in midfield, but struggled to create any chances.

The second half followed a similar pattern, by the hour mark the teams were still even, with Valencia maybe even edging it but never testing Oblak. We were trying to patiently work the ball around, but possibly the odd shot from distance would have been warranted. Beating Oblak from range is a tall ask, but we could have got rebounds. After the hour mark we had a bit of a mini slump, with our intensity dropping and Atletico streaming forward more but our defence held out. On the other hand credit must go to our guys. Rodrigo and Zaza, having little to work with, put in a great shift preventing Atleti building from the back. Every time danger lurked, Kondogbia would pop up like a magician with a timely interception. The only slight criticism: Soler and Pereira switching wings seemed to confuse them and our team more than the opposition.

Substitutions for both sides failed to break the deadlock and the game finished 0-0. A fair result overall. We equipped ourselves well and showed considerable improvement in defence and midfield over last season and successive clean sheets in home games but the inability to create and take chances makes any top 4 finish unlikely for now. Despite that, there are many reasons to be positive, the team is, at last, developing in the right direction. We played with a good level of intensity today, a big change from last year when a lot of the guys looked like they couldn't be bothered. The squad looks stronger and today was the first time since 1 November 2015 that we've kept clean sheets in successive home games.

As always your comments are appreciated.

PLAYER RATINGS

Neto 7 - showed himself to be a very safe pair of hands throughout
Gaya 6.5 - starting to get back to the form we saw in his breakthrough season, with great crosses
Garay 7 - good game and solid defending, glad we kept him
Gabriel 6.5 - good debut, one nervy moment where there was apparent misunderstanding between him and the goalkeeper, but that will improve as they get more games together
Montoya 6 - far better game than last time, but doesn't seem to have developed the understanding with the winger in front of him that he had last season. Again, it's early days
Pereira 6.5 - equipped himself well and was one of our better players in the first half
Kondogbia 8 - early signs are that this guy could turn out to be our best signing since Otamendi. A great physical presence, but also spot on with his passing.
Parejo 7 - has had a great start to the season, Kondogbia's arrival has given him more freedom to act in a playmaking role with solid passing
Soler 5.5 - some good touches, but struggled to make an impact in this game
Zaza 5 - as noted above, had little to work with but put himself about as a physical presence
Rodrigo 5 - worked hard and got deserved applause when coming off, but I'll repeat what I said before, needs to be more clinical with his decision making.

SUBS
Guedes 5.5 - hard to rate him as he didn't really have enough time, got himself in good positions, but there was one frustrating one where he tried to switch to his right foot, when a cross with the left was needed
Mina 5.5 - as with the other forwards, was smothered by Atleti's rock solid defence
Murillo 6.5 - can consider himself unlucky not to have started after a good debut against Madrid, but was secure after coming on. Nice to see us finally have some quality options in defence.

Valencia CF vs Atletico Madrid

Valencia CF ended the summer transfer window on a high, bringing in Andreas Pereira and Goncalo Guedes in the last days on the transfer window, further strengthening an already strong squad, which we managed to see against Real Madrid, holding them to a draw at the Bernabeu.

Valencia CF is now packed in the defense, with Garay and Vezo both staying at the club, while we added Gabriel and Murillo in the center of defense, with Jimenez one of our youth players serving as a backup.

Kondogbia fits in nicely in the midfield alongside Parejo and we saw the partnership work wonders against Real Madrid, hopefully from here on out it can only improve. I'm not going to get carried away, but if everything goes well I can see this team placing top 6 and ending in some European competition.

Atletico Madrid our tonight's opponents are a strong team and their core have been playing together for several years now, but they failed to strengthen this summer, with none of their players getting any younger either. Their team is showing cracks in the play and I believe we can seriously pose a challenge tonight when we face them.

Once again I don't want to get carried away, so I think a draw would be a great positive for tonight, especially a say 0-0 draw, keeping a clean sheet, getting a point from Atletico Madrid and boosting our players confidence even more. A win would obviously be amazing, I'd be ecstatic by it, but I don't see it as realistic yet and would be more than pleased with a draw.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The transfer window closes; Guedes and Pereira join

The Summer transfer window has been a scary occasion for Valencia fans for at least a decade. The club's financial problems, which started in the mid-2000s and have still resulted in the club being one of the five football clubs in the world with the most debt, have meant that Valencia has constantly had to sell off its best players, usually weakening the squad as a result. Silva, Villa, Mata, Alba, Bernat, Soldado... the list goes on. Hopes that Lim's takeover would stop this were dashed when Otamendi was sold, with last year's transfer window being especially traumatic, with the club losing Andre Gomes, Mustafi and Alcacer and the replacements being Munir, Mario Suarez and Mangala. All of them, with the possible exception of the latter, flopped.

This year looked to be going the same way. By mid-August the club had only swapped goalkeepers, replacing Alves and Ryan with Neto, with Maksimovich, who had agreed to join the club 6 months earlier, the only additions. In early August, the central defensive situation looked really scary, with Garay tipped to go and no replacements lined up.

What a difference since then. Garay stays, despite late interest from Benfica. The club added Gabriel from Arsenal for 11m with Murillo joining an loan with a compulsory buy of 12m, though the club has until 2019 to find that money. With Garay, Murillo and Gabriel as main choices, and Vezo and Jimenez as back ups, the central defence looks well sorted.

In midfield, the club added Kondogbia, a loan with a buy option of 25m with the late arrivals of Guedes and Pereira completing the picture. Both join on loan without options to buy.



All in all, unlike last year, the club largely succeeded in clearing out unwanted players and strengthening in key positions. Negredo, Alves and Enzo, all high wage earners, were sold. While we can all complain that they left for peanuts and below market value (see also Piatti), their departure did allow the club a fresh start to rejuvenate the squad. Vincius Araujo's contract was simply terminated. He joins Zaragoza. He always seemed a panic buy and there was close on zero chance of him ever being a useful squad member. Other exits were Santos, Abdennour, Nani, Bakkali, Medran and Cancelo, who all left on loan. The first two were definitely surplus to requirements. Bakkali was a fan favourite, but one who, like DePaul, never seemed to gel with the team. Cancelo had his fans, but his sale was long expected to raise funds, so there was none of the shock factor that happened last year with Alcacer's sale. Medran is one of the exits who will be missed most, but the player himself was pushing for more playing time and so, like Ryan, was shown the door.

The only remaining player that the club hoped to sell or loan but couldn't is Orellana, who stays with the club. Another negative from the window is failing to land a forward. The club was linked with Vietto, who stays with Atletico, Lucas Perez, who returned to Depor and, at the last minute, Gremio striker Luan Viera, who the Brazilian club decided not to sell in the end.

Overall, in relative terms, this is one of Valencia's best transfer windows in years. The club cleared out most of the dead wood, kept key players and strengthened in key positions like central defence and central midfield. Best of all, the transfers look sustainable. Kondogbia will cost 25m if we buy him, but that's up to us and we can evaluate the player for a season without taking a risk. None of the others will break the bank. Compare that to the Summer of 2014, when Lim's reckless spending on Mendes clients handicapped us for the next few years. Lessons do seem to have been learnt. The failure to land an extra forward is disappointing and means that we have to make do with Zaza and Rodrigo, with Mina as back up and Guedes possibly covering there. I suppose we can revisit in the winter window if that doesn't work.

Are you happy with the transfer window? Let us know in the comments section.




Thursday, August 31, 2017

Nani and Abdennour leave on loan

In the last few days Valencia has managed to complete its objective of getting the last two unwanted high wage earners off the books.

Abdennour joins Olympique Marseilles on a one-year loan with the French club having the option to extend it to two years. Abdennour was close to joining Zenit but obviously decided that the food and weather would be better in the south of France. He joined the club in August 2015 as the big money replacement for Otamendi, with the club paying nearly 22m for him. But performances in his debut season were a big letdown. Fans praised his strength at first but questioned his positioning. After getting injured in the Autumn he made a number of mistakes which gifted the opposition goals: Getafe's second goal being typical and was followed by similar gaffes against teams like Betis and Celta, with an injury in the second part of the season not helping his cause.

Although there were some good performances in there, it was a bit like the Yoel situation: the early mistakes would be forever remembered. Reduced to back-up last season by Mangala and falling behind Garay, Murillo, Gabriel and even Vezo and Jimenez in the pecking order this season, his chances of getting any regular playing time slipped to near zero. In the past he seemed happy to sit and collect his wages, but with Tunisia in the mix for next year's world cup, he's off to France.

Nani was not on the list of players the club was seeking to get rid of, but with the club running up against Financial Fair Play limits, the club needed to rethink. Him and Mina were the obvious targets to free up space for a forward. With Nani's salary easily the highest and the club still harbouring hopes that Mina will reach his potential, it was Nani who went. He joins Lazio on a one-year loan, with Lazio having an option to buy. Gazetta Della Sport says this is 8m, while Spanish sources say 10m. His age means the club would have preferred to sell him but with time running out, as with other deals were forced to settle for less.

The remaining deals all look up in the air. Orellana continues to be linked with clubs in Turkey, Spain and Chile. Medran is reported to be close to a loan at Alaves. Reports suggest that Real Madrid are interested in Rafa Mir for 2.5m. Valencia remains confident of Guedes coming and will now try to sign a forward, most likely on an initial loan, to give the team more bite up front. The last question hangs over Pereira. A week ago Valencia were confident, but the issue seems to be that Man United are insisting in putting penalty clauses in the loan contract, so that if Pereira is fit and is not selected for a set percentage of games Valencia would have to pay Man United for his non-appearance! Obviously, Valencia are not keen on having their hands tied that way and are not going to agree to a deal which forces Marcelino to select a player who may not provide the quality needed. As a result, the club are looking at other options like Moussa Sissoko.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Latest Transfer News

The latest transfer news is:

Santi Mina   Possible loaned to Real Betis or Getafe as he is not wanted by Marcelino.


Medran    Loaned to Alaves together with NANDO and possibly MAKSIMOVIC

Vinicius    Possible loan to Real Zaragoza in Segunda.

Orellana   Interested  by Fenerbache or Getafe or a return to Celta Vigo.

Abdennour   To Zenit but also interest from West Ham, Nice and Besiktas to team up with Negredo.
This will probably be a last minute sale to the highest bidder.


Very good news is that Garay may not now be sold as Vezo has broken small bones in toe so out for 3 or 4 weeks. Apparently Marcelino now wants him to stay.

Goncalo Guedes nearer arriving from PSG after the sale of Mbappe.

Andreas Periera   very close to signing after given release by Man Utd.  Has to be a purchase or loan with option as his contract expires in June 2018

Monday, August 28, 2017

Real Madrid - Valencia post-match thoughts

So many commented on the previous thread, that I'll just give some thoughts here.

First on the players....

NETO: Not totally convinced. Made good saves but also looked unsure and flat footed for the goals. No chance on the first but needed to organise the wall better for the second. Jury still out.

MONTOYA: Anonymous and forgettable performance, one of our worst players and capable of much better than this as he was one of our better players last year.

VEZO: has made a decent start to the season and looks a capable back-up, would be sorry to see him go, especially since he could also cover right bank if needed.

MURILLO: decent start for someone who has just joined the team, can only get better when he settles and finds a constant defensive partner

LATO: great performance and assist, combined well with Gaya and having both of them covering that side really worked.

GAYA: good job, struggled at times to get down the wing but is growing in confidence and ability

PAREJO: great start to the season, really repaying the confidence in him and nearly scored one of his trademark free kicks

KONDOGBIA: what a debut, looks exactly the player we need. Strong and convincing, but also great distribution. Watch his pass for the first goal, such awareness. I thought he'd got a bit lucky, but then he produced a couple of others like that. Looking forward to seeing more of him.

SOLER: continues to grow and always looks a threat. The only worry will be what will happen if Guedes and/or Pereira arrive. Parejo+Kondogbia looks the preferred central pairing and left wing doesn't look like his best position, which is through the centre. Will need games to grow.

RODRIGO: good assist for the second, but responsible for the two goals against. Does put in good effort, but his decision making and finishing sucks and unless he improves on this his days will be numbered.

ZAZA: as with Rodrigo, ran and worked hard at closing down, but finishing needs to improve.

SUBS: Nacho Vidal looks a capable back-up to Montoya and Nacho Gil looks ready to back up but will struggle to get minutes. Mina's days look numbered.

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Overall thoughts: the team is starting to look the business and for the first time in 3 years, we look to have emerged from the transfer window stronger rather than weaker. The new additions improve the side and the young players are starting to repay the faith shown in them. What a difference a decent coach makes. Central midfield and central defence, from being a big worry for most of the summer, now almost look to have too many players. Right back could be stronger, but is not a priority and we can wait till the winter window to see how Montoya and Vidal do. Assuming at least one winger comes, the big weakness looks to be up front where we really need someone who can put the ball in the net.

As for exits, as of now Abdennour and Orellana look sure to go, with questions hanging over Mina, Garay and Vezo. Nani looks set to stay as his injury and high wage would put off potential buyers. The other question mark hangs over the midfield duo of Medran and Maksimovich who will really struggle to get playing time with Parejo-Kondogbia-Soler preferred for the 2 spots and Nacho Gil also emerging as a contender. A loan for the season shouldn't be ruled out.