Thursday, October 22, 2020

La Liga Matchday #7: Elche CF 2 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

NEWS

Last week Kondogbia made statements on Instagram condemning Anil Murthy and criticizing his impact at the club. Specifically, he credits him with ruining a winning project and deceiving both coach Javi Gracia and himself. Atletico had given up Thomas Partey to Arsenal very late this transfer window and have been permitted an extension is signing a player due to the special circumstance. They had their eyes on Kondogbia and were hoping to secure a loan deal. It looked like the player himself was interested in the the deal but it was rejected, probably due to the nature of the deal. The club wanted liquidity and believed that they could get a good sum of cash in the form of a sale. 

Before his comments, Kondogbia was beginning to arrive late and miss some parts of training, and now after making the comments he also missed some time in training. The club had originally cited "personal issues" as reason for some of the absences but he also has an injury in his heel. No doubt there were also repercussions to him from the club for making those statements, possibly a fine. While some have said that the comments were unprofessional to make, they do provide confirmation that the players are not happy with Murthy and by extension Peter Lim. They see them as having a negative role in the club.

Speaking of Murthy, he recently gave a speech at an event where Valencia renewed its commitment to serve as a food bank to help with the COVID pandemic. In that speech, he reiterated that he has belief in the squad, and that the changes in the summer were necessary. His takeaway from the Villareal game was that the team was almost ready to compete at the top level. Not many would share his point of view.

The other news this week was the firing of Alex Navarro, the Valencia communications director, who has spent 16 years working in that department. The replacement was readily available. Peter Lim had sent someone from Singapore a while back, by the name of Joey Lim (not related). There were many speculations as to what his role would be. Some rumors said he was there for property management of the old and new stadiums while other speculated that he was there to take over for Murthy. He has now taken over Alex Navarro's role. One more pawn piece for Lim in the club.

PREVIEW

Elche played Alaves away from home in the previous matchday and walked away with a secure 0-2 win. The first resulted from a counter-attack late in the first half that the keeper got a hand on but couldn't keep out. The second was late in the second half from a set-piece, that was headed in.

Valencia played their derby game against Villareal and suffered a 2-1 loss away from home. Alcacer put the home team in front with an early penalty. Guedes leveled the score before half-time with a great piece of individual skill to score from distance. Parejo would grab the winner in the second half with a shot that deflected off Diakhaby and into the goal. 

Elche and Valencia are tied at 7 points a piece in 12th position in the league. However, Elche has only played 4 games while Valencia played 6.

FORM

Elche: WDWL
Valencia: LLWDL

SQUAD

In defense, Mangala has been recovered and joins the squad list for this game. In midfield, Kondogiba's absence continues and Esquerdo is returns from injury. In offense, Maxi Gomez suffered an injury and misses this game.

The big challenge will be finding a source of goals with Maxi Gomez injured. Vallejo has shown that he can be lethal in front of goal but is a different type of player to Maxi. Some reports were saying that Gracia was experimenting with Lato and Gaya on the left and playing Vallejo as a striker.


FIRST HALF

20' - Goal for Elche. 1-0. Josan Fernandes takes on Gaya on the right flank, beats him, cuts inside and into penalty area, making a curling shot that beats Jaume at the far post.
37' - Goal for Elche. 2-0. Josan Fernandes draws the attention of Wass and Diakhaby at the edge of the box, before laying it off for Fidel Chaves who takes the shot first time and beats Jaume from distance.
44' - Yellow card shown to Paulista for retaliation on a challenge from Pere Milla. The referee had whistled for the foul but Paulista still lost his cool and decided to take matters into his own hands.

HALF-TIME

Not a good half by any means from Valencia. The team goes in 2-0 down at half-time with little to no signs shown that they can overcome this deficit.

The first 20 minutes of the game where rather uneventful. The ball travelled back and forth as possession of the ball changed hands over and over again with no real danger. 

Elche would get the first chance of the game as the wing-back Josan made a run forward forcing Gaya to run back and defend while Gaya was drawn away by the winger. Josan managed to beat Gaya and cut into the box and beat Jaume. 

Aside from the goal the game had been roughly even before this. Once the goal came though, Valencia looked really vulnerable for a second. The times that Valencia did get forward they did not look likely to score. The offensive plays are too passive and slow and by the time the players put 2 passes together, the entire Elche team has settled into their defensive positions. The quick breaks we saw from this team in the first few games were nowhere to be seen. This forced the team to go wide to break down the defense. With there being no target man available to pick out with a cross, the play would get stuck there and Elche would get back possession. From the strikers that are available on the field, they all prefer the ball at their feet rather than their head. Even then, there weren't any runs into the box when the ball was in a wide position.

Elche eventually grabbed their second goal through their second wing-back. The first drew away the attention of the defense and then set-up a good shot for the second to beat Jaume from outside the box. 

Major changes are needed in half-time or the result could get much worse.

Half-time stats. 3-1 shots, 2-0 shots on target, 58-42% possession, 85-82% pass accuracy.

SECOND HALF

45' - First change for Elche. Lucumi is replaced by Morente. No changes from Valencia yet but players are warming up.
51' - Musah with a wonderful cross into the box to pick out Gaya, who had gotten there head of his marker. He hits it straight at the keeper though. That should've been a certain goal.
59' - First change for Valencia. Diakhaby is replaced by Guillamon. Diakhaby was suffering massive discomfort as he was hit with a knee to his right thigh.
62' - Second change for Elche. Rigoni is replaced by Kone
67' - Correia does well to dispossess the opposition in advanced position. He passes to Gameiro who finds Gaya wide. Gaya squares the ball for Soler at the edge of the area, who shoots straight at the keeper.
68' - Double change for Valencia. Kang In and Vallejo on, Gaya and Guedes off.
70' - Paulista tries a shot from a long way out and forces the keeper to make a diving save.
73' - Correia plays a one-two with Gameiro at the edge of the Elche penalty area, gets into the box and tries a shot at the near post but it's wide.
74' - Goal Valencia! 2-1! Kang In with a brilliant through ball to find the run of Lato, putting him clean through on goal. He side steps the advancing keeper and calmly finishes into the empty net. Kang In with instant impact off the bench.
75' - Vallejo gets into the penalty area and gets a shot, it beats the keeper but is cleared off the goal-line by the Elche defender. Valencia getting closer.
77' - Yellow card shown to Raul Guti for a tackle on Soler. Great position for a free kick.
85' - Final set of changes for Valencia. Racic and Jason replace Wass and Musah
86' - Yellow card shown to Fidel Chaves for tugging on the shirt of Jason
90' - Four minutes added by the referee for stoppages
90+1' - Second change for Elche. Raul Guti off, Mfulu on
90+3' - Yellow card shown to Barragan for dissent against the referee
90+4' - Final change for Elche. Josan is replaced by Calvo
90+5' - Yellow card shown to Lato for a heavy challenge.

FULL-TIME

It was a decent try from Valencia in the second half but they walk out with no points from this game.

Valencia started the second half with a chance from Gaya that was hit straight at the keeper. Correia's efforts would get Valencia another chance as he dispossessed the opposition in their own half, but the resulting shot from Soler was hit straight at the keeper yet again.

It took Gracia around 23 minutes into the second half to make his first tactical changes, bringing on Kang In and Vallejo. The former had instant impact and set up Lato's goal with a well timed through ball.

Vallejo would get his own chance at goal but his shot was cleared off the line by the defender after he beat the keeper. 

There was a tense few last minutes and eventually Elche saw out the remaining time without conceding.

Despite the general poor performance, this game was lost in the first half. If Valencia played the same way in the first as they did in the second, the scoreline would totally be different. This is an established pattern under the Gracia system where the team almost always struggles in the first half and needs to be woken up in half-time to produce a decent performance.

It was unfortunate to see Diakhaby get injured but Guillamon showed that he can seamlessly fill that role. Mangala is also available if Gracia so chooses.

The team also needs Kondogbia's presence in midfield. Just because using Wass in a central midfield role worked for one game, doesn't mean it will keep working. Hopefully, the situation with Kondogbia can be sorted out soon so he can return to the field.

Correia had a great performance throughout the half and seemed to be doing the work of two players in defense and offense. Kang In also had showed desire and hunger after spending so much time on the bench and looks like he's ready to play again.

Full-time stats. 3-14 shots, 2-4 shots on target, 46-54% possession, 82-86% pass accuracy.

Next game is on the 1st of November at Mestalla against Getafe.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

La Liga Matchday #6: Villareal CF 2 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

 Let's go over some news as the team prepare for matchday 6.

Cillissen, Gaya, Guillamon, Wass, Cheryshev, and Maxi Gomez all travelled to play for their respective national teams. From those who went on International break, Maxi Gomez had the best time, scoring the winner in a 2-1 game against Chile. Cillissen also had a great game against Italy with the Netherlands, putting in some crucial saves to keep the game even.

Meanwhile at Valencia, there were rumors about a possible sale for the club. Andrea Radrizzani, the owner of Leeds United, was said to have put in a bid for Valencia, having shown interest from when the deal for Rodrigo went through. This week, Anil Murthy dismissed those rumors.

There were also news circulating of an interest from Atletico Madrid for Kondogbia. The player's clause is said to have dropped from 80 million euros to 30 million euros when the transfer window closed. Atletico were one of the teams approaching the player and were said to be in discussion with him even after the break. Just yesterday, Kondogbia took to twitter to show his dissatisfaction with Anil Murthy blaming him for ruining a winning project, betraying Javi Gracia and fooling him. It looks like there will be some repercussions for his statements.

PREVIEW

Villareal played out a 0-0 home draw against Atletico Madrid in their last game. There were two shots on target in the game and all of them came from Villareal, despite Atletico having more than double their total shots.

Valencia had a rough time in their game against Real Betis. Despite playing at home, they suffered a 0-2 loss to Real Betis. The away team dominated the game completely and Valencia hardly showed any response or effort to match them. 

Villareal currently sit 8th with 8 points while Valencia are 11th with 7 points.

FORM

Villareal: DWLWD

Valencia: LWDLW

SQUAD

Valencia recovered several players from injury over the break. Paulista, Soler and Cheryshev are all available for selection. Mangala is still recovering. Kondogiba has problems with his heel but is also in the midst of conflict with the club.

Two changes that fans have been asking for appear to be implemented with Carlos Soler playing in central midfield and Guedes joining Maxi Gomez in attack.


FIRST HALF

4' - Penalty awarded to Villareal after Paulista tackled Pedraza in the penalty area. Chukwueze had put in a ball into the box and Pedraza's touch took him past Correia and created a dangerous opportunity.
6' - Goal for Villareal. Alcacer converts the penalty, sending Jaume the wrong way.
11' - Yellow card shown to Vicente Iborra for a tactical foul on Musah who was beginning to get away from his markers. Free kick in a good position for Valencia. Wass steps up to take it.
18' - This first half is looking like a practice session for Villareal so far with the Valencia players are placeholder defenders. Something needs to change or a second goal is coming.
28'- Guedes hits the ball straight at the keeper from a free kick.
33' - Diakhaby gets a header after a delivery from Soler's free kick.
36' - Goal for Valencia! 1-1! Guedes scores in his usual style. Soler took the corner short and found Guedes who took the ball made a horizontal run along the edge of the penalty area. Once he reaches the center he takes a shot into the top left corner of the goal. This is a glimpse of the version of Guedes that Valencia signed.

HALF-TIME

Despite the scoreline, Villareal dominated the game. They had the majority of possession and chances and had Valencia trapped in their own box. 

The home team took advantage within the first 5 minutes of the game with Paulista giving away a penalty which was converted by Alcacer. While Villareal looked threatening after that, they couldn't capitalize on their dominance.

Valencia started to get more into the game as Maxi Gomez and Guedes gave them breathing room when they would go forward and get fouled. Valencia's efforts on target came from Guedes's free kick which was hit directly at the keeper, and Diakhaby's header following a free kick which also easy for the keeper. Out of nowhere, Guedes shows that spark that he shows every now and then and strikes the ball beautifully from distance, leaving Asenjo with no chance at saving it. 

Half-time stats. 10-6 shots, 4-3 shots on target, 64-36 % possession, 90-83 % pass accuracy.

SECOND HALF

48' - Soler with a great run in midfield breaking through the opposition players and setting up a 3 v 3 on with the Villareal backline. He opts to pick up Alex Blanco on his right but the youngster's shot is blocked by the defender.
51' - Yellow card shown to Pedraza for dragging down Alex Blanco.
52' - First substitution for Valencia. Cheryshev replaces Alex Blanco. Musah returns to his spot on the right flank and Cheryshev takes over the left.
63' - Double change for Villareal. Trigueros and Chukwueze are replaced by Coquelin and Kubo
66'- Pedraza appeals for a penalty after clashing with Correia for the ball on the goal-line. The referee and VAR dismiss it.
68' - Goal for Villareal. 2-1. Parejo bypasses Wass's challenge and strikes the ball from the edge of the box. The ball hits Diakhaby's foot, goes over Jaume and into the goal off the the crossbar.
72' - Yellow card shown to Take Kubo for a high boot which strikes Gaya in the side of the head.
80' - Third substitution for Villareal. Alcacer off, Carlos Bacca on.
83' - Triple change for Valencia. Jason, Gameiro and Racic come on for Musah, Wass and Correia
84' - Yellow card shown to Paulista for a heavy challenge on Parejo
89' - Final change for Valencia. Manu Vallejo replaces Guedes
90' - Five minutes added by the referee for stoppages
90+2' - Second yellow card shown to Take Kubo for a heavy challenge on Soler. He is sent off with a red card.
90+5'- Final change for Villareal. Parejo is taken off due to injury and Jaume Costa comes on to replace him.

FULL-TIME

After a first half where Valencia managed only one good change to score  and against the run of play at that, it was doubtful whether Valencia would be able to do it again if they were to go down again. 

Valencia started off the second half strongly with a great attacking move lead by Carlos Soler. That was the peak of the half for the away team with no clear chances after that. 

Villareal would get a stroke of luck with a deflection off Diakhaby to go ahead in the game and give Parejo a goal versus his former side. Two former players of Valencia were responsible for their demise today.

Villareal would go down to 10 men in the final minutes of the game but it wasn't enough time for Valencia to capitalize on it, especially the way they were playing today.

Not many would have expected Valencia to walk away with a win, given last game's performance as well as the recent controversy at the club. In a way, the difference was clear between a team that is competing for European competitions and a team that is aiming for a mid-table spot.

Full-time stats. 16-11 shots, 6-3 shots on target, 63-37 % possession, 89-83 % pass accuracy.

Next game is away to Elche on Friday the 23th.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Javi Gracia Statement

First of all I want to thank the great support that I have received in recent days, especially from players and club employees. I also want to express my gratitude for the constant expressions of affection that all the fans are sending me, both on the streets and on social networks.

To avoid any type of rumor mill I want to make it clear from the outset that I have placed my position at the disposal of the Owner and the President. I have done it out of professional honesty towards what I understand Valencianism represents and the challenges that I think this club should mark each season for its great history.

When I signed for Valencia CF I was aware from the first moment that the squad was going to undergo a reconstruction, although it is true that I could not imagine that the creation of the squad would end with numerous exits and no entries, except for the return of those on loan.

I am the first to fully understand that the club has to be stable and economically viable, and that should be based on a series of exits. But there was also a compromise on some entries that did not occur. The fact that a team that finished ninth in the league last season and begins the following season with so many important casualties, and no incorporations, is an objective data to understand that the squad has weakened. And that, therefore, the ambitious challenges that were posed to me when I signed for the club are necessarily affected.

I want to make it absolutely clear that this is not a complaint towards my squad, of which I am very proud and extraordinarily grateful for the support they have shown me in recent days. It is a disparity of views about how Valencia CF should have acted in such an important transfer market to start an exciting new stage in which the squad could have been provided with more resources.

This and this alone is the only reason that has led me to make my position available to the club. Once I have fulfilled that duty, I will do what I really want, which is to continue training this wonderful team. I will continue to be very happy in this city, and I will continue to be very responsible for my fans, motivated and excited. I will do my best to get the most out of this squad and give the fans maximum joy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Transfer Market Closes: Disaster for Valencia

The transfer market has officially closed and it can only be summed up as an absolute failure for Valencia.

Upon Javi Gracia's signing for the club, he was made aware of the plans to cut down on expenses which meant finding other destinations for players with significant salaries, as well as those whose sales can fetch a good price. He was also promised that this was a necessary action but (cheaper) signings will be made to fill the gap and reinforce the squad. Javi Gracia evaluated the team and thought he needed around 5 signings, 3 certain - a central defender, a central defensive midfielder and a right-back, and 2 conditional - a goalkeeper (if Cillissen leaves) and a forward (if Gameiro leaves). 

Murthy had made public that there was a lack of liquidity at the club and that sales had to made to balance the budget, especially with COVID's impact on ticket sales and revenue. What was also made public was a "blacklist" of players that Valencia was willing to offload in the transfer market. With these two pieces of news, other clubs knew it was a bargain sale at Valencia.

Garay had already left as the club didn't renew his contract in the previous season. Ferran left to Manchester City for 25 million euros plus bonuses. Parejo went to Villareal free of charge while Coquelin followed to the same destination for 12 million euros. Rodrigo would return to the Premier League with Leeds for a 30 million euro fee. These were core players for the team in previous season. Additionally, Jaume Costa returned to Villareal, Piccini was loaned to Atalanta and Florenzi wasn't renewed. 

Arriving to Valencia were players returning from there loans like Racic, Jason Remeseiro, and Toni Lato. To cope with the shortage of players, Javi Gracia gave Guillamon, Yunus Musah, Alex Blanco and Esquerdo game time with the first team. 

After three weeks in charge and slightly before the first game of the season against Levante, Gracia made his thoughts clear in the press conference that he was losing confidence in the managements ability to deliver quality signings, if any. This drew some anger from Anil Murthy who reportedly stormed out of a meeting between the two of them. The communication between the two, at least with regards to transfers, stopped completely after that. Javi Gracia took the word of the management and refused to comment further in press conferences.

 A few rounds into the new season and the weaknesses as well as the lack of depth in the squad become evident. Even in games that the team would walk away with a positive result, the team looked vulnerable. 

Recently, even the Mestalla B team had transfers out of the club. Javi Jimenez was loaned at the beginning of the window to Albacete. This last week Alex Carbonell was let go on a free transfer to FC Luzern with percentage reserved on future sales. Alex Centelles, free transfer, to Almeria also with a percentage reserved on future sale. It looks likely that Esquerdo will also be on the way out, with Almeria the most likely destination.

A lot of fans figured that, similar to previous years, transfers would likely come at the very last few days of the window. They watched as the club failed to secure player after player with which they have been linked. 

Now that the transfer market has closed, Javi Gracia got nothing. He was lied to, left in the cold, abandoned, betrayed, deceived. It seemed like he as figured as much from his demeanor.

Now, Plazadeportiva reports that Gracia has requested a meeting with Murthy and is seriously considering resignation. Previous coach Prandelli had the patience to wait 3 months for the club to get its act together, Gracia is fed up already.

Friday, October 2, 2020

La Liga Matchday #5: Valencia CF 0 - 2 Real Betis SAD Match Thread

Let's go over some news as the team prepare for matchday 5.

In the pre-match press conference, Javi Gracia stated that there has been no communication from management about transfer activity but as long as the window is still open he will remain hopeful. It is strange why they feel like they have to be so secretive about these operations, if there are indeed any. It will be interesting to see what happens if the promise is not kept and Gracia doesn't get any player or gets sub-par players. This has happened before with Prandelli who was quick to leave after the promises made to him were broken.

Despite the secrecy from management, the papers continue to speculate over which players will arrive. Additionally, despite the suggestion from Gracia before the previous match that he doesn't think more players will leave, the rumors continue about which player is on their way out next. Gracia did leave it open-ended by stating that anything can happen.

Diakhaby was reported to have interest from clubs in the Premier League and Ligue 1. It seems like an asking price of around 20 million euros was given by Valencia. Meanwhile, the club is listening to offers for Mangala and Cheryshev. There are also several questions surrounding Cillissen and Gameiro's destinations. 

As for signings, it seems this week's most talked about targets for Valencia are Juventus's Rugani, Lyon's Joachim Anderson and Porto's Diogo Leite. Today, there wer ereports that Rugani seems to be on his way to Rennes on loan. Valencia missed out on another target in Borja Mayoral these past few days, as he is set to join Rome.

Alex Carbonell from the quarry has been transferred to second division side Lucerna with Valencia reserving a percentage of a future sale.

Jordi Escobar appears to be on his way to AC Milan.

Alex Centelles has been allowed to leave, with Almeria looking like the most likely destination. It looks like Valencia will also claim a stake in a future transfer free.

PREVIEW

Valencia come into this game having secured an unexpected 0-1 away win against Real Sociedad. After a poor display against Huesca in the previous match, many fans thought Real Sociedad would be too much to handle. However, Valencia would hold their own against the home team and kept them at bay. Changes in the second half from Gracia had an instant impact as Gaya set up Maxi's goal with a great cross. Sociedad would grab a goal in the 5th minute of stoppage time, only for VAR to overturn the goal due to handball; a rare benefit for Valencia.

Real Betis's last match didn't go their way as they succumbed to a 3-0 away loss to Getafe. The home team grabbed three goals, all in the first half. The first a scissor kick from Angel Rodriguez, the shot from the edge of the box by Cucurella and third a standard counter-attack finished by Angel Rodriguez for this brace. Betis had around 70% of the possession during that game and still couldn't grab a single goal. A red card in the 83rd minute took away any chance at consolation.

Valencia currently sit 2nd in the league with 7 points. Real Betis are 7th with 6 points.

FORM

Valencia: WDLW
Real Betis: LLWW

SQUAD

The big news for this game, is the return of Carlos Soler to the selection. He has been out for a while, recovering from COVID. He can offer something different to the Valencia midfield if he is played there. It still remains to be seen what position he will occupy under Gracia.

Injury list: Paulista, Mangala, Cheryshev


FIRST HALF

1' - Yellow card shown to Marc Bartra for a heavy challenge from behind on Maxi Gomez
8' - Guedes puts the ball in the back of the net after a Valencia counterattack but the goal is overturned due to offside. Gameiro had headed the ball over Real Betis's high defensive line to put Gomez through onto goal. He squared the ball for Guedes who had no trouble finishing from that position. 
10' - Real Betis give the ball away in their own half. Gameiro claims possession, sends a pass wide to Guedes who then finds Wass at the edge of the box. Wass gets a shot and hits the target which the keeper spills but no Valencia player is around to take advantage.
12' - Yellow card shown to Guedes for tugging on the shirt of Emerson
19' - Goal for Real Betis. Sergio Canales was set up at the edge of the box after some build-up play for Betis. He takes a touch to set up the shot and it deflects off of Jason and into the back of the net.
22' - Jaume denies Betis from a second goal with a save at point-blank range from Sanabria's header. He had managed to get just ahead of Guillamon to make contact with the cross.
38' - Jaume saves another shot, this time from Fekir, the ball is sent back into play but the defense clears.
40' - Guedes beats his defender on the flank and cuts into an inside position, beating another on the way. He threads the ball through the defense for Maxi Gomez who has a tight angle against him. The shot is hit directly at the keeper who saves easily.
45' - Yellow card shown to Guillamon for tugging on Sanabria's shirt. 

HALF-TIME

Another poor first half to add to the the collection this season. Real Betis were allowed to control the game while Valencia did not look like a team playing at home.

Valencia went down due to a fortunate deflection from Sergio Canales's shot. The build-up play to that goal was more telling though as the entire Valencia defense and midfield's attention was occupied by two Betis players. Despite being surrounded, they managed to get their passes off, eventually finding Canales with some space.

Valencia did not respond after that goal. Betis always looked more likely to score after that. with Jaume being called to make more saves to maintain the scoreline. Musah, Kang In and Alex Blanco were seen warming up soon after the goal which could an indication of half-time changes.

Guedes did set up a decent change when he beat two players and picked out Maxi Gomez, but the angle was too tight to produce a goal. 

Half-time stats. 2-7 shots, 2-3 shots on target, 45-55% possession, 81-84% possession.

SECOND HALF

51' - Tello gets a free run on the left flank chased by Diakhaby. Tello crosses and finds Fekir but he scuffs the shot completely. Valencia are fortunate to not concede there.
53' - Yellow card is shown to Canales for taking down Wass after he got away from him.
55' - Double substitution for Valencia. Jason and Guedes are replaced by Kang In and Alex Blanco.
61' - Fekir's free kick takes a deflection as it hits the wall and Jaume has to adjust and stretch to reach it to deny the shot. Great save. Replay shows that it was probably going wide regardless but better safe than sorry.
64' - Tello picks out Canales in the penalty area. Canales takes a powerful shot on goal which Jaume pushes over the crossbar. Increasing pressure on the Valencia goal and a response is still lacking.
74' - Goal for Betis. 0-2. Joaquin sprinted from midfield and through several Valencia players on the way. With all the attention drawn on him, he lays off the ball to Tello in total space. He takes the shot on goal and another deflection, this time from Diakhaby, takes the ball past Jaume.
80' - First change for Real Betis. William Carvalho replaces Joaquin.
81' - Valencia with another double change. Soler and Vallejo come on for Kondogbia and Gameiro.
86' - Second change for Betis. Borja Iglesias on, Pablo Sanabria off.
90' - Two minutes of time added by the referee for stoppages. 
90+2' - Final set of changes for Betis. Fekir is replaced by Guardado while Tello is replaced by Juanmi

FULL-TIME

The worst performance of the season so far. Valencia hardly looked like they were going to score while Betis had chance after change. If it wasn't for Jaume, the scoreline would certainly be much worse.

The second goal was embarrassing to conceded. Jooquin single-handedly carried the ball through from midfield to the penalty area and not a single Valencia player could stop him. A player at the final stages of his career showed more determination and hunger than what the Valencia players showed today. 

While both goals for Betis were scored as a result of deflections, the build-up to the goals exposed huge flaws in the Valencia system that allowed the goals to happen.

Jaume was perhaps the only positive to take away from the game as he attempted to keep Valencia in the game as long as possible. 

Full-time stats. 5-17 shots, 2-8 shots on target, 46-54% possession, 80-83% pass accuracy.

The transfer market closes in two days - October 5th. Gracia needs players and it is unknown what his response would be if he is left without any.

International break will begin after this. As such, next game for Valencia is on the 18th of October against rivals Villareal. This should give some time for Gracia to reorganize and prepare.

Monday, September 28, 2020

La Liga Matchday #4: Real Socieded SAD 0 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

 Let's briefly go over some news as the team travels to play Real Sociedad in matchday 4.

The renewal of Racic's contract is complete. The midfielder's contract is extended to 2024 with a release clause of 150 million euros.

There is 1 week remaining in the summer transfer window, as it closes on October 5th. According to a recent comment by Javi Gracia, he is unaware of any progress on signings. He says that the last time he had a meeting with Anil Murthy was 2 weeks ago. 

With regards to the signing of Capoue from Watford, he had said earlier that just because the player displayed intent of coming to Valencia and submitted a transfer request, does not mean that he will arrive. 

With one week remaining on the transfer window and no communication from management, Gracia is evidently frustrated and rightfully so. It's looking more and more likely that the signings will be made out of desperation in the last moments of the window, if it all. Not even the performance of the last 2 games was enough to communicate any sense of urgency.

PREVIEW

Real Sociedad had a great game over the weekend. They took the confidence they had from holding Real Madrid to a draw in the previous matchday to their away game against Elche and walked out with all three points and a 0-3 scoreline. All goals came in the second half, including one in stoppage time.

Valencia had a tough time against Huesca at Mestalla. The away team made themselves at home and caused all sorts of trouble. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. Despite behind on the backfoot, Wass helped Valencia take the lead from a set piece that travelled all the way to back of the net. Huesca peppered away at the goal for the second half, and finally scored, having been denied time after time by Jaume with some clutch saves. 

Real Sociedad currently sit 3rd with 5 points. Valencia are 5th with 4 points.

FORM

Real Sociedad: WDD

Valencia: DLW

SQUAD

The squad is boosted by the return of Cillissen from his injury. He starts on the bench though.

Alex Blanco, Kang In and Musah all make the starting lineup with Vallejo, Guedes and Jason benched.

Wass starts in midfield, leaving Correia with an opportunity at right-back.

Injury list: Paulista, Mangala, Soler, Cheryshev



FIRST HALF

12' - Real Sociedad with a chance at goal. David Silva spreads the ball wide to Barrenetxea who puts in a cross for Isak. The ball is behind the striker and he hits it with the back of his heel but it ends up over the crossbar.
17' - Yellow card shown to Kondogbia for a challenge from behind on Jaunzaj
22' - Kang In takes possession of the ball in the opposition half and gets a quick shot in, claiming the first shot on target in the match. Remiro saves the effort.
27' - Wass with a powerful shot from range that forces a diving save from the keeper. The ball is loose and falls to Correia who waits for it to arrive at his feet. The defender gets in the way and nullifies any danger.
34' - Yellow card shown to Zubimendi for taking down Kondogbia who had taken the loose ball off him and was on the break.
35' - Maxi Gomez strikes the free kick from a long way out. It is a tame effort and the keeper has no trouble saving it.
37' - Januzaj gets his team's first shot on goal with a low powerful drive. Jaume is up to it though.
38' - A chance for Valencia at the other end. Kondogbia with a fantastic diagonal ball to Gaya who pulls it back for Kang In. The youngster takes the shot but in the end the defender gets his body in the way of the shot.
40' - Short break as the referee gets in the way of Elsutondo's powerful shot. It hits him in the head and the medical team is called to tend to him.
45' - Two minutes added by the referee for stoppages
45+2' - Yellow card shown to Maxi Gomez for a late shoulder check on Merino

HALF-TIME

A relatively decent performance, especially for an away game. The team held their own against Real Sociedad, matching their pace. In fact, they had the majority of good chances in the half.

Most of Valencia's shots on target came from long-range shots. It seems like the players have been given the greenlight to shoot-on-sight this game. The players did well to hit the target when they did take a shot. 

The combination of Wass and Kondogbia in midfield brought a lot of control and prevented David Silva from getting the space he wants to pick out a dangerous pass. What the duo brought in stability though, they lacked in creativity. It was up to Kang In to provide that this game but he barely had time on the ball in the opening minutes of the game. As the game progressed, he did find more of the ball though.

The team needs to try a more direct route towards goal as these long-distance shots have not been effective so far. It's either been that or crosses from wide positions. There are players on the field and the bench who are capable of breaking down the defense so it might be worthwhile to attempt that instead. 

Half-time stats. 4-7 shots, 1-4 shots on target, 64-36% possession, 84-71% pass accuracy.

SECOND HALF

Change at half-time for Real Sociedad. Oyarzabal replaces Barrenetxea.

54' - Real Sociedad are getting a lot more time and space on the ball to do what they want. Kang In gets possessed in midfield, the ball makes its way to Oyarzabal who gets into the penalty area and forces a save out of Jaume with his shot.
59' - Yellow card shown to Daniel Wass for stomping on the foot of David Silva
61' - Yellow card shown to Gaya for taking down Januzaj after he got away from him
62' - Januzaj hits the free kick straight at Jaume punches it back into play.
66' - For changes for Real Sociedad. Portu for David Silva, Willian Jose for Isak and Guevara for Zubimendi and Roberto Alcaide for Januzaj. No changes remain for the home team.
65' - First change in personnel for Valencia. Gameiro replaces Kang In Lee. 
71' - Second change for Valencia. Toni Lato and Jason on, Alex Blanco and Yunus Musah off. Lato takes over the left-back position, while Gaya is pushed a bit further up into midfield. Looks like Musah picked up an injury.
73' - Gorosabel puts in a cross that deflects of a Valencia player and set up Oyarzabel for a shot. He takes it but it deflects again for a corner.
75' - Goal for Valencia! 0-1! Wass picks out Gaya with a diagonal ball to Gaya on the left flank. Gaya puts in a great curling cross for Maxi Gomez to hit into the roof of the net. Instant impact from Javi Gracia's change.
86' - Yellow card shown to Correia for taking down Portu.
90' - Four minutes added by the referee for stoppages.
90+2' - Final change for Valencia. Vallejo replaces Maxi Gomez.
90+4' - Goal for Real Sociedad. 1-1. The delivery from the cross is saved by Jaume and then some pin-ball action ended with Guillamon heading the ball into the roof of his net. 
90+5' - The goal is ruled out for handball! Sociedad's celebrations are cut short as Elustondo handled the ball. Valencia takes the win!

FULL-TIME

Well done. The team did well to not only see out the second half but to grab a winner and the first clean-sheet of the season to boot.

Despite having the bigger share of possession in both halves, Sociedad could not take any points this game. Valencia usually struggles away from home but tonight managed to take all 3 points from a tough team.

The goal can be connected to the changes made by Gracia. Bringing on Lato and pushing Gaya forward, allowed Maxi Gomez to get some much needed service. Wass distributed the ball to Gaya from the opposite flank with a diagonal ball, and Gaya puts in a cross across goal for Maxi Gomez to hit past the keeper. 

The rest of the game was a survival mission to hold out until full-time The defense continued its impressive display all the way to the final minute of additional time. There was a last minute scare as the ball was in the back of the Valencia net. However, there seemed to be a lot of action in the penalty area. Multiple players seemed to get taken down, including Jaume before Guillamon's attempted clearance found its way into the back of the net. The goal was overruled due to a handball that resulted from Jaume's initial save landing on Elustondo's arm. It would've been really painful for the team's effort to get undone in the last minute.

Full-time stats. 11-9 shots, 3-5 shots on target, 66-34% possession, 83-71% pass accuracy.

Gracia has made the most of a limited squad today. The defense today looked a lot better, despite the injuries. Maxi Gomez is showing that he can be a reliable source of goals for Valencia. Gracia has yet to draw out the full potential of the team though. If he can get the most of players like Kang In, Musah, Kang In and Guedes, the team gets elevated to another level.

Valencia temporarily take top spot in the league with 7 points but many teams have yet to play this matchday. 

Next game is on Saturday, October 3rd against Real Betis at Mestalla. Amunt.

Friday, September 25, 2020

La Liga Matchday #3: Valencia CF 1 - 1 SD Huesca Match Thread

 Let's go over some news in the lead-up to matchday 3.

The club has been working on a couple of contract renewals this past week. Esquerdo had his contract extended to 2024 with a 100 million euro release clause attached to it. Racic's contract is currently being negotiated with the goal of extension. 

In terms of transfer activity, Murthy should be travelling to meet with Mendes about signings. 

The club remains focused on securing Capoue from Watford, Gracia's former team. The press reported that Capoue has pushed for an exit from the club with a spokesperson from the club confirming this as the reason why he didn't make the squad list. The obstacle in this deal is the price. Valencia have offered 2 million euros while Watford want closer to 8 million euros. After some insistence from Gracia, Valencia may be willing to increase the amount to secure the deal.

The second most common name discussed in relation to Valencia has been Manchester United keeper Sergio Romero. With the club looking for an outlet for Cillissen, it seems Romero is the most likely replacement, if any. A figure around 6 million euros has been reported as the required fee.

From Portugal, there was a reemergence of news surrounding Leite's transfer to Valencia. Additionally, some outlets reported that Mendes is trying to facilitate a transfer of Jota from Benfica. The player has a minimum release clause of 30 million euros, so this one seems very unlikely.

PREVIEW

Valencia's last matchday saw them lose 2-1 away to Celta Vigo. It was undeniable that the home team outplayed Valencia in the game. A breakdown in defense and midfield set up Celta's first goal. Although Valencia would recover in the second half with a half-chance that was converted by Maxi Gomez, Valencia would soon fall behind again. A free kick was given away at the edge of the penalty area and Iago Aspas hit it perfectly to score. Despite change after change, the team couldn't turn around the scoreline. Celta had a few more efforts that hit the post while Valencia had some penalty claims which were turned down. Most of the discussion from press discussed the unfairness of VAR over the shortcomings of the team.

Huesca suffered their first loss of the season at home against Cadiz, a fellow newly promoted club. Despite having the majority (70%) of possession in the game, they succumbed to a 0-2 loss with goals coming around 10 minutes into the first half, and 10 minutes away from full-time. Negredo scored the first goal for Cadiz.

Valencia are 5th in the current standings with 3 points while Huesca are 12th with a single point.

FORM

Valencia: DW

Huesca: LD

SQUAD

The bad news coming out of the camp this week was that Paulista had picked up a muscle tear that will see him miss the next 2-3 weeks. This is a big blow for the team as he is the most reliable center-back. With Mangala having picking up an injury against Levante, this leaves Diakhaby and Guillamon to cover. The need for a center-back signings grows more with this news.

Despite recovering and training with team, Cheryshev has some minor discomfort so he won't be risked this game. 

Gracia did recover Racic and Gameiro from their injuries, and both are available for selection this game.

Injury list: Cillissen, Mangala, Paulista, Soler, Cheryshev

FIRST HALF

7' - Close call as Okazaki beats Guillamon for the ball and send a header towards goal. The effort is wide.

20' - Very sloppy play from Valencia so far. The team is having a head time stringing together 2-3 passes before losing the ball.

30'  - It's concerning that Valencia is struggling against Huesca for 30 minutes straight with no response. Most of the time is spent in their own half defending. 

37' - Goal for Valencia! 1-0! An expected goal against the run of play from a free kick in a unlikely position. Wass's delivery in the box sails past everyone and takes a bounce, Diakhaby jumps over it and it makes it all the way to the back of the net at the far side of goal. Strange goal to score but Valencia will take it. They needed some luck the way things were going so far. Huesca will be frustrated they went behind in such a way.

45' - Two minutes added by the referee for stoppages.

HALF-TIME

A misleading scoreline given the performance from Valencia. 

Huesca dominated the game in practically all aspects. They had more of the possession and most of the game was played in the Valencia half of the field. Huesca pressured high and hoped that Valencia would crack under all that pressure. They were frustrated in the end as they could not trouble the defense much outside of the first 7 minutes. In fact, they didn't hit the target once.

With Valencia barely managing to to put together a few passes, let alone get forward, it was a surprise for everyone when they took the lead. Wass took a free kick practically from the touch line, something like 35 meters out and manages to score. The intent was a cross of course, but it was smart to aim for the far post as it usually causes trouble for the keeper. 

Gracia has shown in previous games that he can identify problems and address them as the game goes so it will be interesting to see what his approach this game will be. Guedes seems to be playing with a lot of frustration again and appears to be a likely candidate for substitution.

Half-time stats. 1-5 shots, 1-0 shots on target, 46-54 %possession, 76-82% pass accuracy.

SECOND HALF

No changes from either team as they both head back out after the break.

46' - Diakhaby does well to deny Okazaki from getting into the box or crossing.

60' - Jaume with a great save to stop Saoune's shot, It was heading into the top corner but he managed to paw it away.

61' - Another save from Jaume. The cross looked like it would go over the bar but he gets his hand up correctly and tips it over.

62' - That's a third save in a row, this time from a header at point blank range. VAR checks and the ball did not cross the line.

62' - Borja Garcia replaces Juan Carlos for Huesca's first change of the game.

63' - Goal for Huesca. 1-1. This time Jaume could not save the effort as Siovas heads it past him. He needed help from the defense here under mounting pressure. Siovas was allowed a free header at goal. Jaume did get a touch on it but it hit the corner post and went in.

64' - Double substitution for Valencia. Musah and Gameiro come on for Vallejo and Jason.

65' - Yellow card shown to Galan for a heavy challenge.

72' - Okazaki volleys, despite pressure from Wass, the early cross from Pedro Lopez and hits the cross bar. Close call.

75' - Kondogbia tries a shot from range and forces a save from the keeper.

79' - Second set of changes for Huesca. Okazaki and Pedro Munoz are off, Ontiveros and Luisinho on.

84' - Good string of passes from Valencia results in a chance for Gaya but he misses the ball.

85' - Third change for Valencia. Kang In replaces Guedes.

86' - Guillamon with a major blunder as he gives possession away on the edge of his own penalty area. Thankfully, Mosquera rushes his shot and Jaume saves.

87' - Gameiro with a chance on the other end. There is too much power on it though and it sails over the crossbar.

88'- Final set of changes for Huesca. Rafa Mir and Ferreiro are replaced by Escriche and Joaquin Munoz.

90' - Five minutes of time added by the referee for stoppages.

90+4' - Final change for Valencia. Swap in midfield, Esquerdo for Racic

FULL-TIME

Again. Not good enough. The team has not only played out a draw with a newly promoted team but struggled to do just that. 

Having fortunately taken the lead in the first half, this was an opportunity for Valencia to put poor performance past them and build on it in the second. This wasn't the case. Valencia did do slightly better offensively but had big lapses in defense.

The goal from Huesca was coming. Multiple saves by Jaume simply stalled it. It in the end it was all undone with just one corner. There could've been more with chances from Okazaki's volley and Guillamon giving the ball away in a dangerous position. Kondogbia and Gameiro could only give Valencia half-chances.

Overall disappointing and will give Gracia something to think about. These 3 games were an opportunity to build momentum. An opportunity that was taken.

Full-time stats. 5-17 shots, 2-4 shots on goal, 48-52 %possession, 76-82 %possession.

Next game is on Tuesday the 29th away to Real Sociedad. A big step up in quality is needed for that game.