Saturday, April 22, 2017

Malaga 2-0 Valencia post-match thread / transfers

Sorry all, but I rage quit after the first goal. I'd switched on to see Valencia and saw none of that. Possession had been 75% in Malaga's favour and we were awful. Giving them too much possession and quickly losing possession when we had it. Voro's attempt at a bit of rotation backfired here and we see again what we already knew: the squad has no depth.

Sadly, this will be the problem in the late season: the team is safe, but has no possibility of European qualification and as an aspiration "let's fight for tenth place" isn't the biggest motivator.

Probably time to think now about who to sell and who to bring in in the summer window. It's all limited by financial fair play. Realistically, we have to get shot of the highest wage earners, Negredo and Enzo, who should raise a combined 20m.

Next should be the dead wood, the bit players in the squad. I'd think Ryan (4-5m) Bakkali 3m and Santos 3.5m. Total 11m.

Lastly it's up to us who to sell after that. Cancelo is the obvious option for around 25m. Gaya is a possibility for around 30m. Recently there were also stories of Tottenham's interest in activating Rafa Mir's release clause of 8m.

If we sold all of those (except Gaya) that's 60m, counting the cash coming for Yoel and Piatti. 11m of that is already earmarked for Zaza and Orellana, leaving about 30m for transfers, as the rest would be debt payments. A decent holding midfielder to replace Enzo and a centre back, as we can't afford Mangala's wage would seem to be the priorities. Anyone heard any other options?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Valencia 0-0 Sevilla

It's a sign of the decent progress made by Valencia this year that a failure to win at home against Sevilla, one of the best teams in La Liga this season, feels like a bit of a disappointment. Ultimately, both teams fought well and cancelled each other out, with limited clear chances and some awful refereeing, whistling for non-existent fouls, allowing some to go unpunished and getting at least 2 big calls wrong. When is the best league in the world going to employ good referees? I don't see as many dodgy calls being made in the English premier.

Voro made two changes. Orellana was recalled after being dropped for the previous game and replaced Mina, while Enzo recovered his usual place in the squad at the expense of Medran. Also significant was that Lato continue at left back instead of Siquiera. Sevilla had most of the early possession without doing much and Valencia had a couple of chances. In the first, Zaza went for an acrobatic effort from a Munir cross when the simpler option might have worked better. In the second after we'd intercepted well in midfield, Zaza's shot was blocked and Orellana hit a good strike which Rico did well to tip over. A few minutes later, VCF got lucky. Enzo got caught out trying to dribble out of defence leaving Jovetic one-on-one with Alves. He placed it past him well, but fortunately the ball rebounded off the post into Alves' arms.

One of the first controversies of the game came after. Montoya made a great run down the right and almost scored. Munir's header from the rebound was cleared off the line


Did it cross? For me just about no, but we rarely get close calls like that in our favour.

The game got a bit scrappy after that, with lots of free kicks as both sides struggled to break the other down. Zaza had a couple of half chances but shot over. In the 55th minute there was more controversy. Zaza was bundled down in the box. This was the type of incident that would be given as a penalty more often than not but the useless referee waved it away. Seemingly keen to annoy both sets of supporters, he then got another big call wrong. Alves produced a moment of madness, handling well outside his area from a dangerous attack. Most refs would have sent him off for a professional foul, but instead the ref decided to book a Sevilla player for protesting (!) The controversy wasn't over. From a corner, Zaza scored but the goal was ruled out for handball. He did admit in the post-match interview that it had hit his hand but that had been close to his body. Again a decision which we don't get in our favour.

Valencia pressed better in the second half, but the stalemate continued and even a few offensive substitutions late on failed to change things.

Overall, bit of a shame that we couldn't keep the winning run going, however, there are still positives from the game, keeping a clean sheet and overall, a decent performance against a tough team. Also of note, with Granada's defeat yesterday: Valencia are now mathematically safe from relegation, with Gijon 18 points behind with inferior head-to-head.

PLAYER RATINGS
Alves 5 - didn't impress me yesterday and was lucky not to get sent off
Lato 6.5 - a good game, did well in defence and put in a few dangerous crosses, my only worry is that his emergence will encourage the club to sell Gaya
Mangala 6 - got caught out of position on a couple of occasions but offered a good aerial presence
Garay 6.5 - good game in defence
Montoya 7.5 - another good game, solid in defence and a threat in attack, we did well to get this guy for free
Enzo 5 - wasn't impressed, he looked out of sorts and nearly gifted them a goal
Parejo 5.5 - not the force he could have been and dallied on the ball too often
Soler 6 - seemed to be operating more down the right, when the centre seems his better position
Munir 6 - misused on the wing, again, seems to do better through the centre
Zaza 7 - worked hard as ever but his shooting can be a bit wayward
Orellana 6 - did better than previous games and linked up well with the front men

SUBS
Cancelo 6.5 - good to see him being applauded after coming on
Nani 5 - good to see him back, but looked rusty, will need more games to reach match fitness
Mina N/A - not enough time







Sunday, April 9, 2017

Granada 1-3 Valencia

Earlier this year this looked like a potential crunch relegation battle for both sides. Fast forward to April and it still was for Granada, but since January, Valencia have rapidly improved and the relegation word has disappeared from Valencia's vocabulary. Indeed, in only a couple of games' time, VCF should be mathematically safe. I've complained here before that we so often raise our game against the big teams, but then screw up against smaller sides. Despite Granada coming into the game with 1 draw and 4 defeats, this still looked like the type of banana skin that we've slipped on so many times. So it's to the team's credit that they produced an easy win.

Valencia made 5 changes for this game. Up to now Voro has generally gone conservative with his line-ups, usually only making enforced changes in the cases of injuries and suspensions, so this was a departure from the norm. Garay and Enzo were injury doubts, so Abdennour and Medran replaced them. Mina replaced Munir, and like Medran, made his first start since early February. Orellana was dropped after a series of disappointing showings, with Cancelo being pushed up to replace him and Montoya returning from suspension at right back. Lastly, Lato's decent performance as sub in the last game was rewarded with him starting a league game for the first time (he had started against Celta in the dead rubber second leg in the Copa.)

The game started well for VCF. The team was controlling the game, looking comfortable on the ball and passing around nicely. The first chance came in the fourth minute with Soler crossing for Mina to head over. Granada were trying to press, but Valencia easily passed their way around it and stifled Granada in midfield, with the home side reduced to ineffective shots from distance. Probably our best chance came when Zaza shot just wide from 25 metres. However, he soon made amends. In the 18th minute, Montoya put in a great cross for Zaza to power home a header. Three minutes later, Valencia had effectively put the game to bed. The midfield found Mina on the left. The latter paused and put in a great cross for Zaza to turn in at the far post.

It should have been three. Abdennour took too long on the ball in the box then screwed up his pass, but after a few nervy moments, Valencia broke decisively with Cancelo powering up field. He then found Zaza with a perfect pass to his left, and the Italian tried to lift the ball over the keeper, but Ochoa got a hand to it. From the resulting corner, VCF won a free kick from which Mina headed home, but it was offside. Granada were getting owned and after that, their only decent chance came late in the half. Mangala failed to keep tabs on Kravets, who got a shot off that Alves saved.

Granada had a spell of pressing at the start of the second half which produced three corners in succession but nothing came of it. Valencia then produced a wonderful team goal, passing the ball around patiently for over two minutes, with every player touching the ball and, after 37(!) passes, Soler squared for Mina, who had made a good diagonal run, to finish it off. It was reminscent of his goal at the Nou Camp last year, but that had come after 15 passes.

Granada looked down and out but did get a consolation. Alves slipped when taking a goal kick and the home side got a goal which gave them hope. It was totally undeserved and the game petered out after that. Munir came on for Zaza and missed a couple of good chances and Lato could have done better with a breakaway where he seemed unsure whether to shoot or pass and lost the ball while trying to decide.

Ultimately, while the performance didn't quite reach the level it did against Celta, it didn't have to. It's unlikely that Valencia will be visiting Granada in 2018, but still, it's good to see the team keeping focus and ending a great week with another win. That's the first time this season we've won three in a row and the first time since September 2014 that the team has scored 3 goals in three consecutive games. The team goes into next week's game with Sevilla in good shape. There were stories earlier this week that Voro had said he didn't want to stay. Hopefully that's not true or he will change his mind. This squad has a good dynamic now, so why take the risk of yet another coach?

PLAYER RATINGS
Alves 6 - mistakes happen, he'd done his job up to then
Lato 6.5 - took his opportunity well and provided a solid presence at the back, but looked less assured going forward.
Mangala 7 - good game, cut out most of the opposition attempts
Abdennour 6.5 - aside from one horror moment, there was little sign of last season's Abdennour, as he proved himself to be a solid replacement.
Montoya 7 - had my doubts about him earlier in the season, but he's proved to be a decent (and free) right back
Medran 5.5 - didn't notice him much, but didn't notice many Granada attacks through the middle either, so I guess he did his job. However, with Soler having made the breakthrough and Maksimovic joining in the summer, needs to make better use of chances like this.
Parejo 6.5 - as in the last game, controlled the midfield well
Soler 7.5 - lively game as always, was spraying the ball out to the wings with ease
Mina 7 - one goal, one assist and one disallowed goal must put him back in the reckoning for a starting place
Zaza 8.5 - we complained that despite his workrate, he wasn't scoring. Can't complain here. Is proving all his doubters (me included) wrong with every game.
Cancelo 7.5 - another really good game in his best position. Will be missed if he does leave.

SUBS
Munir 5 - was active, but squandered a couple of good chances for the fourth
Orellana 4.5 - after a great start, continues to disappoint and will now have to fight for his place in the team
Siquiera N/A - did what he had to do after coming on, though he didn't have much to deal with

Friday, April 7, 2017

Valencia 3-2 Celta

There are some teams that Valencia always seem to struggle against, with Celta being prominent among them. Even in 2014/15 when Valencia equalled a points record, they could only draw twice, making Celta the only side other than Barca that Valencia failed to beat that season. Though Valencia managed a shock 5-1 win at Balaidos in November 2015, it didn't quite shake off the feeling of Celta as a "bogey team" for us, as later that season a 0-2 defeat for VCF proved the end of Neville's reign. They then went on to beat us 3 times this season, including a 1-4 rout at the Mestalla. Could VCF break the hoodoo and get revenge for the cup defeats? The answer was yes as Valencia produced a strong battling performance against a tricky opponent to earn a deserved three points.

As always, there was little change in the line-up, with all the changes forced ones. Siquiera replaced the injured Gaya, Mangala returned from suspension to replace Abdennour and Cancelo replaced the suspended Montoya.

Right from the start Valencia showed what they were made of, with huge commitment and pressing. In the first 7 minutes, the side got a ridiculous five corners, but unfortunately couldn't do anything with them. Parejo and Soler had half chances but they were wide, though VCF continued controlling the game, especially in midfield.

Totally against the run of play, Celta took the lead. They'd only managed one tame shot up to then, but Soler gave away a foul on the left side and the in-swinging cross was headed in. It's frustrating that Valencia, who have players like Mangala and Garay who are good in the air, seem to often concede from set pieces. Really, the fault seems to lie more with Alves. Good as he is, aerial balls seem to be his weakness and we saw that again, with him mistiming his jump. Celta improved a bit after that and Valencia were unable to sustain their early dominance, with both teams struggling to carve out clear chances.

In the last ten minutes of the half, Valencia got back on top and got the equaliser we deserved. Zaza showed real quality, controlling a good ball from Garay, and then playing a crafty backheel into the path of Cancelo, who squared for Parejo to score with a nice one touch finish. A great team goal and it wouldn't be the first Mestalla would see.

Valencia started the second half as they started the first, pressing and with commitment but couldn't  find the breakthrough. The front three don't quite have the understanding needed. Zaza was fighting for everything, but often other players wouldn't follow up and half opportunities were wasted. Cancelo carved out the best chance in the 60th minute, with the keeper pushing his shot on to the post.

Nonetheless, VCF finally edged ahead in the 65th minute with another nice team goal. Enzo collected a pass in midfield, set Lato away and he squared well for Munir to produce another nice one-touch finish. Could we maintain the lead? The team pushed forward, looking for a third, with the best chance falling to Munir, but he couldn't create the space needed to get a clear shot off.

Frustratingly, VCF then threw away the lead. Soler brought Aspas down in the box. It was a soft penalty, as Aspas was clearly looking for it, but as there'd been contact, not much we could do. For the second time this season, Aspas beat Alves from the spot. Since the start of the 2014/15 season, Valencia have conceded the most penalties in La Liga: 23 in total (Celta are second with 21 conceded.)

It looked like the Celta jinx had struck again, but the team's workrate got the winner it deserved. Enzo produced a storming run through midfield and found Soler. The youngster still had a lot to do, but produced a brilliant chip for the winning goal.

I said in the previous post that Valencia's performances are more like a top six side now and this confirmed that. The team looks hungry and works hard, Mestalla is becoming a fortress again, with 5 wins and a draw in the last 6 games there. It's a shame we didn't see more of this in 2016 and threw away our chance of a good finish then, but hopefully the team can end this season on a high.

PLAYER RATINGS
Alves 6.5 - struggles with aerial balls as noted, but generally effective performance
Siquiera 6 - put in a reasonable shift up and down the wing, though he's no Gaya
Mangala 7 - very solid game, cut out lots of dangerous attacks
Garay 6.5 - a strong presence in defence and involved in the first goal
Cancelo 7.5 - the worries about him being whistled were quickly dispelled, as he answered his critics perfectly with a great performance
Enzo 7.5 - great game, controlled the midfield and involved in two of the goals. There was a time when he could never play the full 90 minutes, so to see him charging through midfield in the 85th minute is a nice sight.
Parejo 6.5 - while some passing was wayward, he was part of a strong midfield trio which controlled the game
Soler 8 - moved to the right for this game. Game to remember, with great commitment, confidence and a deserved golazo to win the game. For now, tackling is his weakness, as his mistimed tackles cost us both goals, but he's young with plenty of time to improve that with experience.
Munir 7 - I still say we keep him, as he's one of the few of our players who scores and that's what wins games
Orellana 6.5 - far better off in a more central role
Zaza 7.5 - worked hard as usual, fought for everything and showed his quality in the first goal. Still not the answer to our goalscoring problems, but doing well for now and a deserved standing ovation.

SUBS
Lato 7 - got his chance and put in a great 25 minutes. Would be good to see what he could do in a full ninety.
Mina 6 - good work rate against his old club
Medran N/A - still hasn't fulfilled his early promise




Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Under Voro, Valencia has become a top six side

It's easy to be depressive and despondent if you're a Valencia fan. After a promising start, with a great 2014/15 season, things rapidly declined, with protests against the manager, the owners, a lot of disappointing results and a series of managers all adding to a sense of instability and despair at Valencia.

The year 2016 was particularly dire for Valencia. The club set itself up as a laughing stock by appointing the unexperienced (sic) Gary Neville and then, when that predictably failed, repeated the error by confirming Pako Ayestaran as manager, even though the latter had posted a below par 3-1-4 record in his 8 games in charge. The latter would be duly replaced by a figure of gravitas in Cesare Prandelli, but again, after a promising start, the latter proved to be all talk and no results and then rage quit after a dispute over transfers, though cynics would say that he jumped before he was pushed. With "hot prospect" managers and experienced managers all failing to turn things around, Valencia looked screwed. The team ended 2016 in seventeenth place, with only goal difference keeping them out of the relegation zone.

That's the past and it's high time Valencia fans got over that and focused on the here and now. The current 13th place looks poor, especially after a 12th-place finish last year, but it actually masks what has been Valencia's best period since the departure of Nuno. Points gained in 2017 have been:

32 Barcelona
31 Real Madrid
30 Atletico
25 Sevilla
21 Valencia, Bilbao, Espanyol. Eibar

Sure, Valencia have played a game more, but that doesn't really affect that, since it was against Real Madrid: a team who have won 10, drawn 1 and lost against Sevilla in other games this year. If the league had started after Prandelli resigned, Valencia would be a respectable joint fifth after 13 games (a third of the season) played, and with a realistic shot at Champions league football.

Look at it another way to gauge Valencia's performances under the current manager. Counting his 3 games in charge after Ayestaran, Voro's Valencia have played 17 games in the league, winning eight, drawing three and losing six. In other words, in nearly half a season, they've averaged 1.58 points per game. Maintaining that average across the season would be easily doable for a side which has beaten Real Madrid, Bilbao, Villarreal and Espanyol and would leave Valencia on around 60 points - good enough for 6th place in four of the last five seasons.

This is important to remember, because a lot of Valencia fans simply don't seem to appreciate how well we've been doing. They see only the negative headlines, hear or see protests outside the ground, look at the league position or go to the Mestalla to see empty seats: Valencia's attendance is down 5.5% this season and only Betis and Celta have a bigger drop. But they miss the trees for the wood. The question is not how Valencia can improve but rather, how can the team maintain its level, a level of performances worthy of Europa league football and just make the next step to Champions league placings?

I would suggest several ways....

1) Offer Voro the job.
He's proven he can get the results needed. The players play for him and the fans are 100% behind him. Give him first refusal on the job. This would also reverse a trend of the club seemingly not respecting people who have put the time, love and effort in (cf Feghouli or Piatti.)

2) Get a shirt sponsor
It's ludicrous that such an obvious revenue source is being missed and for unexplained reasons. If there is uncertainty over whether Valencia will be playing in Europe factor that into the deal with a reduced rate when the team is out of Europe. Better some cash than none.

3) Improve the squad
Fairly obvious. The team needs a stronger midfield especially.

4) Improve communication
Lim clearly takes a hands-off role but that's no excuse for not having his underlings set out a clear and honest strategy for the club and its transfer dealings. If the club has no money, say so. It will be better if fans are forewarned that players need to be sold rather than bs that we'll be keeping star X but then selling him and, in the process, killing fan's trust in the club hierarchy and undermining people of good faith like Lay Hoon.

5) Think long term
In morale terms, fans can't suffer a transfer window like the chaotic one of summer 2016. Identify targets in advance and have a contingency plan in case it's impossible to sell the desired players.

6) Leave decisions to football people
I respect Lay Hoon, but she isn't a football person and the appointment of a chief executive with a football background is a welcome development.

7) Exploit the Asia market more
Having an Asian owner offers a golden chance to expand in that market and raise the club's brand. It's how Real Madrid, Barca and English clubs built up their funds. Maybe I've missed something, but I have seen little sign of that happening so far.

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By the way, I plan to do tomorrow's match write-up, but the game will finish after midnight my time on a working day, so it's more likely it will be up some time later on Friday. Patience please.

As always your comments are welcome.






Monday, April 3, 2017

Valencia CF 3-0 Deportivo La Coruna

Valencia CF continued with its successful home form and beat Deportivo La Coruna 3-0, leaving any relegation fears away, with Voro making a strong case for himself to lead Valencia CF as a coach into the next season as well. There is still quite a bit of matches left, but there is no doubt that he has turned things around and the team plays much better with him, as well as getting results.

Personally I haven't watched any recent game of Valencia CF, the sort of relegation battle doesn't interest me and even when I set out to watch a game just to be able to get back into things and see the team how it performs on the pitch, I've just been too busy and haven't had the time to actually watch a match.

I'll try and be more active, its just that again relegation battle doesn't interest me, so I don't have any incentive to watch games, I like the stakes to be higher, but not in terms of fighting to avoid relegation, but something like reaching top 6, that makes things interesting.

Anyways the team is good, but we will lose Mangala in the summer, he's been actually our best defender and I actually am not certain if Zaza is going to stay, I'm not certain that Juventus have the same clause with us, that we must purchase him after certain amount of games. He might just be temporarily here, though in terms of his performances it hasn't been anything special. Decent performance overall, but again nothing special.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Barcelona 4-2 Valencia

Yesterday's game was a classic example of the enigma that is Valencia. On the surface of it, conceding four goals for the fourth time this season doesn't sound good, but this wasn't like the screw-ups vs LasPalmas, Eibar or Celta in the cup. The scoreline actually hides what was one of the Valencia's better performances this season. Ultimately, we just ended up overpowered by a strong team, in part due to injuries affecting half of our front line and mainly due to playing most of the game with ten men. Yet again, though, it raises the question, why is it that we always play at a decent level against Barça and R.Madrid but then produce such dire displays as the ones we've seen in recent months against Gijon, Osasuna or Eibar?

I mentioned the injuries. Nani and Rodrigo are still out and a big shame was the absence of Mina, who scored in both games against Barça last year. Voro made only one change and it was a slightly surprising one. Zaza was dropped and, in his place, Enzo returned from suspension, with a bit of shuffling around following. Soler moved forward to where he's more effective and Munir took up the central striker role.

The first period started with a pattern that would continue for most of the game. Barcelona had most of the possession and created more chances, but Valencia did well to frustrate them and created a few chances of their own, with the best being a pullback from Cancelo which rebounded to Soler, who forced a good save from Stegen.

In the 29th minute and somewhat against the run of play, Valencia were ahead. I've criticised Alves' distribution before, but he hit a perfect punt to put Munir clear through, however, the latter scuffed his shot. Just as we were yelling at him, Mangala popped up with a great header from the resulting corner.

The lead lasted a bit over 6 minutes and the equaliser was a frustrating one. After a lot of good defence up to that point, Valencia simply switched off. The right half of the defence had been the weaker side throughout, with Montoya being tortured by an in-form Neymar and Garay struggling to keep up with Suarez. But it was a stupid goal. A quick throw-in from Neymar in behind our defence. Alves got down well to cover the space and against 99% of forwards, probably would have saved it, but when it's one of the best forwards in world football, you can't gift chances like that.

The key moment in the game then occurred. Mangala had possibly been Valencia's best player up to that point but then threw it away. First a poor, mistimed challenge on Messi earned a yellow, then he hauled back Suarez in the box. Sure, the latter made a meal of it, but overall: clear foul, clear penalty, clear card and suddenly Valencia were down to ten men and 2-1 down.

To their credit, the team didn't give up. From the kick-off, it was Barça's turn to go to sleep. Soler threaded a great pass through to Gaya and the latter in turn squared well for Munir to equalise.

Sadly, in the second half, ten men in the Nou Camp against an in-form Barcelona proved too much, but VCF did keep fighting, creating further chances for Soler and Munir and the team was still in with a shout until Andre Gomes made it 4-2 in the 89th minute. (As an aside, Barcelona winning the Champions' league this year wouldn't be the worst thing from a VCF point of view as it would gift us 5 (or 10?) million as part of his transfer deal.)

Overall, after the sending off of Mangala, it was always going to be a serious struggle for Valencia to get points from this game. The team did make a valiant effort, but that comes back to my question at the start. Why does this team so often only turn up against top clubs? Games like this are so much more frustrating than the 1-1 draws with Gijon, as they show us glimpses of what this team can do, but overall, this level of effort comes too rarely. Why can't we play this way against the Gijons, Betises, Osasunas and Eibars?

PLAYER RATINGS
Alves 6.5 - made some great stops, though should have done better for their third goal
Montoya 3.5 - night to forget, was turned inside out by Neymar.
Garay 4 - struggled to keep tabs on Suarez and ineffective overall
Mangala 5 - was having a really good game until the sending off, but cost us the game
Gaya 7 - has been back in form of late and had a good game defensively, while contributing well in attack
Enzo 5.5 - the team is better with him in it, but he was limited to a mostly defensive role
Parejo 5 - while he was better than the last game and provided the assist from the corner, he struggled to make a big impact
Orellana 4.5 - what's happened with this guy? A great few games after signing but a series of below-par performances of late including this one, where his passing was often wayward
Soler 6.5 - confident performance overall and did well in attack, though less effective in cutting out the opposition midfield
Cancelo 5.5 - had a very good first half and caused their defence real problems, but much less effective after the break and could have done more to help out Montoya in defence
Munir 6.5 - overall had a good game, though missed a couple of good opportunities. I know I'm in the minority who thinks we should buy him, but I do think he has good potential.

SUBS
Abdennour 5 - more effective than Garay after coming on and produced a competent, if unspectacular, display
Zaza 4 - limited and saw little of the ball, with Valencia under the cosh
Bakkali N/A - unable to do much in his usual late cameo

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Valencia 1-1 Sporting Gijon

Today was a golden opportunity for Valencia to earn a morale boosting win over a team which looks likely to go down, putting to bed any talk of relegation at Valencia's end. The question was, which team would turn up: the one which produced a strong battling win over Real Madrid or the one that produced such a week and limp performance against the other Madrid last weekend? Sadly, it was more of the latter, with a really disappointing performance failing to inspire more than more Peterveteya chants.

There was only one change in the team. Montoya returned from recent injuries and replaced the suspended Enzo. This resulted in a bit of reshuffling. Cancelo moved forward to where we all know he's better. Munir switched to the left wing, Orellana reverted to the centre and Soler dropped back to partner Parejo in Voro's favored double pivot.

Valencia controlled much of the early period, but without threatening a lot. The lack of coordination we saw between various sectors of the team returned. Sure, Gaya was looking his old self bombing down the wing and putting in crosses and Mangala made a couple of timely interceptions but the team as a whole wasn't acting in concert. Up front there was a lack of imagination and creativity, though both Orellana and Zaza missed clear chances in the first half, with both getting booked as well. Zaza played his tenth game, which means that he's now a Valencia player for definite, but today, though he made an effort, it was far from the standard of an 18 million player. He kept getting caught offside too easily. With neither team inspiring, the first half drew to a close.

Valencia had golden opportunities to go in front in the second period. Firstly, from an opposition corner, Orellana raced away, but, one on one with the keeper, shot just wide. Then Valencia got a penalty. As in the Osasuna game, Parejo missed. He may be a good free kick taker, but I think it's high time we gave penalty taking responsibilities to someone else.

Then it was deja vu all over again. We've seen it with frustrating regularity since the end of 2015. Valencia struggle against a side they should be beating easily and then, despite Valencia having the edge, the other team score due to stupid defensive errors. So it was in the case. Inexperienced in a more defensive role, Soler messed up, but still it looked like the chance had passed, however, same as usual, there seemed to be no leadership or coordination at the back. Just look at the picture...



So poor, with so many players marking space unaware of who was around.

Valencia did at least try a bit more after that. Changes were made that should have come earlier, with Mina coming on for Montoya and, later, Bakkali on for Mangala. Valencia pushed hard and got their reward, from a decent cross from the right, Munir produced a looping header which beat the goalkeeper. There may have been a touch of luck about it, but bad as Valencia had been, they didn't deserve to lose against such a weak side.

A long period of injury time followed, with Gijon causing flutters by squandering a good chance to win it. All in all, 1-1 was probably a fair result and that's the problem. Sporting look doomed for the drop and are the type of side that the bigger sides would expect to beat by 3 or 4 at home. Valencia battling to scrape a home draw is far from acceptable. We can talk about luck all we want but for me it's hard to argue that Valencia should be higher than the 13th place we currently occupy. We deserve much, much better than this. Next up Barcelona away and it's hard to be confident after displays like this.

PLAYER RATINGS

Alves 6.5 - overall had a good game, making decent stops
Gaya 7 - good game, just a shame the attack lacked the strength or foresight to get on the end of his crosses
Garay 5.5 - average and unspectacular game, still expect more for 20 million
Mangala 6 - good first half but then went missing in the second part
Montoya 5 - while it's better to have him at right back, him and Cancelo might as well have been on different teams
Soler 4.5 - wasted and ineffective in a deeper role
Parejo 4 - lacklustre, dwelled too much in possession and failed to provide the telling passes. Needs to be replaced as main penalty taker too.
Munir 4.5 - gets kudos for scoring the goal, but disappointing performance overall, should be rested for Mina or Bakkali
Orellana 4.5 - provided good passes but loses marks for missing two good chances
Cancelo 4 - if Valencia's masterplan for the summer transfer market is selling him for 30 million to fund players in, they should think again. We'd be lucky to get half that. Clearly has talent but has had a disappointing season.
Zaza 5.5 - as always, made an effort, but it wasn't enough. Gets caught offside too easily and was very lucky not to get sent off when he pushed a Gijon player when already on a yellow. Soler was sent off for less last month. Not convinced that we'll get value for money for our 18 million.

SUBS
Mina 5 - good to see him back, but not enough time to make an impact
Bakkali 5 - needs to come on earlier in such situations when we're chasing the game