Sunday, January 24, 2021

La Liga Matchday #20: Atletico Madrid 3 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

NEWS

Valencia have recovered Cristino Piccini from Atalanta this week by cutting his loan short. The player was largely unused in his time in Italy and agreed to a pay-cut to facilitate his arrival. Gracia welcomed his arrival saying that he will be reinforcing a position where they don't have a lot of strength. He added that he needs to evaluate Piccini's fitness level and decide how he can contribute the most to the team. Most likely this transfer will free up Wass and move him to a midfield or wide-midfield role.

The draw for the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey was made and Valencia drew Sevilla. It was decided that the game will be played at Sevilla's ground, adding to the difficulty of the challenge for Valencia.

PREVIEW


Atletico come into this game having beat Eibar away from home 1-2 in their last fixture. Atletico gave away a penalty 10 minutes in and strangely enough the keeper Dimitrovic took it and converted it. Five minutes from half-time a defensive error by the home team gave the ball away to Suarez in the penalty area who scored from a tight angle to even the game. The game would remain deadlocked until the final minute of full-time where a penalty was awarded to Atletico and Suarez would put it away to secure all 3 points.

Valencia's previous game was a rather dull 1-1 draw at home against Osasuna. Jonathan Calleri put the away side in the lead a few minutes from half-time from a counter-attack in which Osasuna would get more than one go at goal as their blocked shots would fall back to their own players until they scored. Valencia would get the equalizer after a link-up play between Musah and Maxi at the edge of the penalty area to penetrate the defense, however, the ball was put into the back of the net by Osasuna's own defender. 

Atletico are currently top of the league with 44 points from 17 games, while Valencia are 14th with 20 points from 19 games.


SQUAD

There were reports earlier this week that Racic was struggling with knee problems and Soler with ankle discomfort  in training. This put question marks on whether or not they would start. Koba Lein and Esquerdo's names was brought up in the pre-match press conference as a possible starter in their stead. However, it looks like both felt good enough to start with the academy players available on the bench if necessary.

Wass misses the game through supension caused by accumulation of yellow cards. Mangala seems to be out by technical decision and Cillissen is still dealing with his injury.

FIRST HALF

6' - Jaume produces a diving save in response to the Gimenez header following the corner but he puts it back into play. Thankfully Soler is the closest to it and can clear
8' - Valencia respond with a good chance of their own on the counter-attack. Cheryshev does well to beat his marker and pick out Vallejo with a through ball. Vallejo takes a shot from a tight angle and it is saved by Oblak. Cheryshev sets up another chance fooling his marker again and gets into the box and puts in a cross for Maxi Gomez but he cannot capitalize.
11' - Goal for Valencia! 0-1! Gaya squares the ball to Racic, just outside the penalty area and unmarked with no one stepping up to pressure him. Racic surprises everyone with a shot first time from range that curls away from Oblak and settles in the back of the net.
22' - Goal for Atletico Madrid. 1-1. Lemar's corner is sent to the far post. Joao Felix gets ahead of Correia and hits it at goal. Jaume gets a touch to it but cannot keep it out. VAR checks for a foul but none found.
30' - Yellow card shown to Vrsaljko for an elbow to a head on Vallejo
34' - A deflection of Soler sets the ball onto Llorente's path and gives him a shot from distance which takes another deflection on the way out
40' - Diakhaby is on-target with a header from a Soler corner kick
45' - Two minutes added by the referee for stoppages

HALF-TIME

Half-time stats. 5-3 shots, 2-3 shots on target, 51-49% possession, 79-80% pass accuracy

Valencia have done well to keep up with Atletico this first half. They took the game to them, pressured them and threatened them on the counter. 

Valencia took the lead in a unconventional way with a long-range shot from Racic catching Oblak off-guard as it curled away from him and into the net.

Atletico would equalize 10 minutes later with a poor defensive display from Correia as he allowed Joao Felix to get a head of him to meet the corner and beat Jaume. 

Racic has struggled with clear discomfort this game yet has barely put a foot wrong in this first half. He seems confident and decisive in his actions.

There were plenty of questionable moments from several players. Maxi Gomez took too long on the ball the Cheryshev supplied him early in the half, and allowed the defense time and space to regroup. The right side of the team looked very shaky with Correia losing the ball several times and being directly responsible for the goal. Musah has provided little off-the-ball. Paulista had a poor pass to Soler from the back that got away and set up a dangerous shot for Llorente. Gaya received the ball in plenty of time and space, yet produced one of the worst crosses so far, flying over everyone and to the opposite side. The performance overall was decent but Valencia needs to be even better against this Atletico team and Gracia has some work to do at half-time.

SECOND HALF

45' - Half-time substitution for Atletico. Renan Lodi replaces the booked Vrsaljko
46' - Diakhaby appears to have picked up an injury and signals to to the bench to replace him.
47' - First change for Valencia. The injured Diakhaby is replaced by Guillamon
54' - Goal for Atletico. 2-1. A diagonal ball from the back finds Joao Felix in plenty of space on the left flank. He drives the ball forward and threads a ball for Suarez in the penalty box. Suarez goes for the shot by himself and beats Jaume from a rather narrow angle.
58' - Second substitution for Valencia. Cheryshev off, Guedes on.
62' - Substitution for Atletico. Joao Felix is replaced by Angel Correa
72' - Goal for Atletico. 3-1. Carrasco picks out Llorente on the right flank with a through ball. He gets forward and into the box before pulling the ball back for Correa who pokes it past Jaume.
74' - Substitution for Atletico. Llorente off, Kondogbia on.
76' - Yellow card shown to Savic for a late challenge on Guedes
79' - Final changes for Valencia. Musah, Racic and Vallejo are replaced by Jason, Koba Lein and Gameiro
85' - Final change for Atletico. Thomas Lemar off, Lucas Torreira on
87' - Torreira wins the ball from Gaya near the goal-line, finds Correa who makes a similar attempt to his goal but this time it's saved
90' - Three minutes added by the referee for stoppages
90+3' - Correia seems to have picked up an injury as he chased the ball to prevent the Atletico player from going clean through on goal.

FULL-TIME

Full-time stats. 14-8 shots, 5-4 shots on target, 49-51% possession, 81-82% pass accuracy

A very poor second half. After working so hard in the first half, the team was undone in the second. An early injury to Diakhaby was the first disturbance to the team. Soon after, the space left by Correia was exploited by Joao Felix who set up Suarez for the goal. 

Valencia did not have much say in what went on after, with Atletico getting forward time and time again while they absorbed the pressure. The introduction of Guedes for Cheryshev was not effective and Atletico sensed the drop in performance from the team and took advantage. The third goal was only a matter of time, this time from the opposite flank with Llorente setting up a good chance for Correa. 

A fourth goal was very likely still and with 10 minutes left to go, Gracia threw on three substitutions, none of which did enough to move the pendulum of the game one bit. Atletico got their best chance a few minutes from full-time with a similar chance to their third goal but couldn't finish this time.

Two more names added to the injury list, Diakhaby and Correia, will hardly please Gracia as he deals with the challenges ahead with a limited squad.

Based on today's second half performance and the mentality shown by the players, it is tough to see any of the names rumored for transfers, to be make that significant of an impact. 

Valencia's next game is away from home against Sevilla on Wednesday the 27th for the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Official: Cristiano Piccini returns from loan

 Valencia have made it official through their website and social media that they have reached an agreement with Atalanta to cut-short the loan of Piccini and have him return to Valencia. Piccini was set to stay for 1-year with the Italian club with a possible 3 million euro purchase option but they have barely used him in their games. With the player desperate to return and Valencia looking for low-cost reinforcements, the transfer was complete.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The where are they now of the Lim era part 3: attackers

The last part of the series on everyone who played in a competitive game for the first team and then left. Part one: here and part two: here.

 Iban Salvador. Had a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo, playing the last 10 minutes of the Copa 2nd leg against Barcelona in 2016. By chance that was also the last game of 3 others on these lists: Diallo, Zahibo and Villalba. As we’d lost 7-0 in the first leg, how many of us watched that? Released that summer, he’s been with a few clubs since. Valladolid, who loaned him to Murcia and Leonesa, before he transferred on a free to Celta reserves. After a season there, he joined his current club, second level Fuenlabrada, in 2019. He has at least broken into the Equatorial Guinea national team and scored the only goal in a crucial African Nations cup tie against Libya last November. 

Vinicius Araujo. Always looked like a mid-season panic buy, with Valencia playing 3.5 million to Cruziero for him in January 2014. After 6 unsuccessful appearances, a series of loans followed as Valencia tried to recover some cash. After the loans at Liege, former club Cruziero and Brazilian club Sport didn’t work out, he made a surprise brief return to Valencia. Played in the dead rubber second leg of the Copa at Celta (after we’d lost the 1st leg 1-4) and even scored his only Valencia goal. That was his swan song. Loaned to Huesca a week later and joined Zaragoza on a free later that year. An unsuccessful season there meant he returned to Brazil for a similarly unsuccessful stint with Vasco, who loaned him to Avai. He finally saw some success last season at Montedio Yamagata of the Japanese second division. He’s certainly travelled around.  

Munir. Joined on loan in summer 2016 to cover Alcacer’s departure. Did finish as joint top scorer with Rodrigo, but 7 goals in 25 games wasn’t enough for Valencia to even consider the 12 million option. After returning to Barcelona he hardly played and joined Alaves on loan where the prat celebrated scoring against us in the Copa as though he’d won the world cup. Moved permanently to Sevilla where he’s established himself well.

Alcacer. A player who was developing well into the talisman of the Valencia side so it was a sickener how he left and how badly handled it was. A chaotic exit with Lay Han Choon being undermined by her boss, who first told her he wasn’t leaving and then negotiated a sale to Barcelona after that. Most well know his history so I won’t dwell on it. Controversial exit. Struggles at Barcelona where he was behind Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Did well at Dortmund, now also doing well at Villarreal. A sad tale of the mismanagement and chaos at Valencia summed up in one player.

Negredo. Valencia’s record signing at the time for 30 million. How would The Bomb do? He lived up to his name, but not in a good way, as a financial bomb. He’s subsequently said that joining Valencia was a mistake and he’ll not find any Valencia fans arguing with him. A loan season at Middlesbrough proved unspectacular and he moved to Besiktas in Turkey but eventually lost his starting place. Their financial problems meant he lasted only a season. Two prolific years at Al-Nasr in Dubai followed before he returned to Cadiz for this season.

Nani. After a couple of middling seasons, we tried and failed to recover cash with a loan to Lazio. He was then released to return to Sporting Lisbon. After a single season there joined Orlando in the MLS in 2019 and is still there.

Zaza. Who can forget this guy?


Eyebrows raised when he was first linked with us. Despite his flaws, left a positive impression at the Mestalla and had a real purple patch, equalling the most-games-in-a-row scoring record. That turned out to be a blip as his goals dried up, with just 3 goals in his last 24 games. To the consternation of many fans, he was moved on to join Torino for 14 million. In hindsight, it looks like a wise decision as his scoring rate hasn’t improved: just 15 goals from 70 games in his three seasons there. 

Vietto. After being linked with Valencia for a long time (we had a buy option on him as part of the signing of DePaul, but didn’t use it) finally joined on loan in January 2018. Started spectacularly with a hat-trick in his second game, a Copa win over Las Palmas which included a goal from the halfway line. Just 2 goals in the next 17 games followed, we declined the 16 million option and he was loaned to Fulham, managing just a single goal in 22 games. Then joined Sporting Lisbon, who he’d rejected to join us. They sold him for 7 million to Saudi club Al-Hilal last year.

Batshuayi. After 3 decent seasons at Marseilles, Chelsea and Dortmund, looked a great loan pick up. What could go wrong? Everything. He seemed sluggish, overweight and off the pace. He seemed to unbalance the team and after his loan was cut short, results flowed for Valencia. Looked like he’d got his revenge by scoring a late winner for Chelsea at Ajax in our Champions league group but it wasn’t to be. Loaned to Palace where his 6 goals in 26 games are hardly setting the world on fire.

Rodrigo. A slow burner. Looked like a useless and expensive bust in his early seasons where he was misused on the wings. Began to show some form in the Ayestaran-Prandelli era where he moved to central striker in a 4-3-3 but then got injured. It was only with the arrival of Zaza and switch to 4-4-2 that he began to produce. His linkup play between midfield and attack are sorely missed. Just 3 goals in 15 games for a Leeds side that have been struggling recently.

Santi Mina. After a slow start, won the fans over with a super sub role producing goals, though I doubt anyone misses the LeBron James celebration which he overused? Has hardly excelled at Celta since returning there. Marked his 50th appearance since rejoining Celta this week with a goal but that’s only his 2nd of the season and 8th overall. Does have 3 from 3 in the Copa against lower division sides, but he’s well below the potential he started to show at Valencia.

Rafa Mir. Along with Danilo Barbosa, the poster child for critics who complained that Mendes had too much influence at Valencia. His highly controversial selection for a crunch Champions league game at Zenit arguably sealed the end for Nuno, who resigned the game after. Mir's relationship with the fans soured and after an abortive attempt to join Real Madrid, rejoined Nuno at Wolves in the second level but only got 4 games. Has since had loan spells at Las Palmas, Nottingham Forest and Huesca, with only his last season with them in the Spanish second flight really impressing.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Valencia 1-1 Osasuna match thread

Not sure where my co-host is, so here's a placeholder match thread. Valencia come into the game on the back of three wins in a row, though it's less impressive than it sounds as two were in the Copa against teams from the Segunda and Segunda B. Good news is that Paulista is back, while Soler and Gaya have overcome injury doubts. 


For our opponents, there are a couple of familiar faces: Nacho Vidal, who saw game time under Marcelino and Facundo Roncaglia, who was on loan with us for half a season.


They come into this game with an awful record of 0-5-7. On paper, that makes Valencia big favourites, but so often this season and in previous years, we've upped our game against the big sides and then squandered what should have been easy points against weaker opponents. Nothing less than 3 points and a convincing win would be acceptable tonight.

EVENTS

2 - Oh my Lord, is that Thierry? What a surprise haircut.
4 - Nice tackle from Paulista, though it was offside. Nice to see him back.
5 - Commentator says Nacho Vidal is 25, I thought he was only 20-21.
6 - Diakhaby showing more confidence coming forward, but then midfield mess up. He fouls the guy with a dangerous break on. Yellow? No, play on.
8 - Two crosses from Cheryshev, but Osasuna, who look like theyr're playing 5 or 6 at the back, get it away.
10 - First corner from them and Racic beaten too easily but luckily off target.
11 - Unlucky. Great cross field pass from Diakhaby to Soler who's fouled. Their keeper punches away and Racic can't get it through a forest of bodies. 
14 - we mess about, as we often do wasting a corner playing it short, leading to a dangerous counter for them broken by a great tackle from Gaya.
15 - Oh dear. Maxi and Cheryshev both fumble a one on one chance. Ok, it's later whistled offside but come on guys. Instead of celebrating, the Osasuna coach gets himself sent off. Duh!
20 - a scrappy few minutes. They get a cross in but Jaume collects easily.
21 - Just hit it! Wass with a great chance to shoot overcomplicates things and tries to find Maxi. Chance wasted. Gracia hops up and down like an angry kangaroo.
24 - Ooo, I don't like that, Torres of Osasuna is found on the right in way too much space. Luckily he's not very good and it ends in row Z, but need to tighten up.
25 - Another nice chance, good break on the left but Gaya's cross is deflected behind. The corner finds Diakhaby well but his header is straight at the keeper.
28 - Decent ball across the box from Cheryshev but no one gets there.
32 - Noticeable that all our attacks are coming from the left. Gaya blunders a good chance by sending it out. Wass and Thierry need to be more involved.
33 - Wow, Diakaby's passing is really improving. An excellent upfield ball finds Kangin, but he handles.
35 - This doesn't look good. Racic hurts his knee in a 50-50 tackle. Koba warms up.
37 - my heart stops when we mess around passing about our area with them nearby. Racic is back.
39 - Ufff. A good cross, again from the left, but Wass, pressured by a defender, can't get a good enough touch.
41 - Awful. We switch off as they take a quick free kick, the defence doesn't cover the overlap and after a pinball in the box, Nacho Vidal's shot is blocked by the keeper but Calleri fires home, Valencia down 0-1.
43 - that sums it up, Valencia try and hit back and have lots of time on the left but squander the cross hitting it too long.
44 - we seem to have decided that we need 2 or 3 guys standing over a free kick instead of having them on the end of it. Free kick goes nowhere anyway.

HALF TIME. Poor. We've been the better side but without creating many clear chances, while they mug us at the other end. Not sure that the mooted return of Piccini will help much, but the right side of Wass-Thierry has done little this game.

46 Not to be alarmist but losing these type of games are the ones that you look back on when you go down. Cheryshev starts us off with another overhit cross.
48 - good shot from outside from Kangin but Maxi can't do anything from an angle and the corner is wasted
51 - sixth Valencia corner to their one. Nothing doing again and Osasuna have half a chance at a counter from it.
53 - Scary. Both Diakhaby and Thierry mess up and misread a pass, but they sky a shot.
54 - we start to look shaky at the back. Martinez from them fluffs a shot.
57 - the pattern for most of the last 10 minutes has been: we come forward, scratch our heads when confronted by a wall of Osasuna shirts, give away possession and face a dangerous counter. Luckily, Osasuna are not very good either, but they lead.
59 - Gameiro on for Kang-In and Musah for Racic, who may have a slight injury.
60 - Geez. Nearly 0-2. More poor marking leaves Torres with a great chance but terrific save from Jaume. That one's on Paulista, who looks off the pace.
64 - Osasuna's tactic is generally to stand off, give Valencia lots of possession and ask "what you gonna do?" The Valencia reply: "nothing!" Final ball really lacking.
65 - Uuuuyyy. Good shot from Maxi forces a save.
66 - Commentator says that Maxi and Roncaglia know each other very well from their time at Valencia. Fact check: they never played together at Valencia but did at Celta.
67 - Guedes on for Cheryshev.
69 - YESSSS! Nice link up with Musah and Maxi and Yunus' attempted cross is deflected in. 1-1. Game on.
72 - Unlucky! First Nacho Vidal nearly heads a second own goal under pressure, then from the corner Guedes' attempt is just wide.
74 - Triple sub for them, Vallejo looks the only guy on our bench that could improve this for us.
76 - Guedes twice caught in possession in our own half, but fortunately we get the cross away. 
78 - Please! Nice link up with Gaya and Guedes but Gaya's shot/cross goes just wide.
80 - as usual, we prat around with a short corner and waste it. Kick. Ball. Into. Box.
83 - Manu time? No one is passing to Gameiro and Maxi is drawing more offside flags than chances. Do it Gracia.
84 - Heart in mouth, first their shot is tipped by Jaume on to the post (looks offside on a replay) then their cross provides a dangerous header. 
89 - both teams look tired and error prone. Valencia wasteful in possession.
90 - Osasuna look more likely to nick it and head just wide.
91 - should we hope for the whistle? We fumble around outside their area, Guedes loses it and a dangerous counter is just thwarted by Jaume.
92 - Man! We have a great counter but it just gets tangled up in Yunus' feet. Great chance wasted. Corner which Diakabhy heads over.

FULL TIME
Hugely disappointing result against a relegation contender. You can see on the players' faces how much this stings but the performance wasn't good enough. Lack of imagination and incisiveness and while some individual performances were fine, our defence started to look weak as the game went on. Gaya got caught advanced a number of times and Paulista didn't look with it. Copa draw tomorrow. The next 4 league games provide little cheer: Bilbao, rejuvenated by Marcelino and both Madrids with a home game against Elche. Lastly, to answer the burning question, Nacho Vidal will be 26 on Sunday. 




Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The "where are they now?" of the Lim era part 2: midfielders

Continuing our trip down memory lane of players who had competitive minutes with the first team since Lim took over but have left us. Obviously some of these guys played in more than one position. 

Left wingers

Bakkali a flair player who won over the Mestalla faithful, but his defensive contributions were lacking and as a result he only started 5 of the 40 games he played for us. After a loan at Depor, returned to his native Belgium at Anderlecht in 2018 and played half the games in his first season. Injury sidelined him for most of 2019-20 and since returning, he’s been out of favor, only playing 2 games this season.

Sito. Made his debut in the last game of the 2015-16 season, replacing the injured Piatti in the 38th minute. (That would be Piatti’s last ever Valencia game, more on him in a minute.) Sito played a single minute the following season and that was it for him. Loaned to Lorca and then released on a free to join his current club, Asteras Tripolis of the Greek top division where he’s begun to establish himself.

Piatti. We hotly debated his merits for ages on this blog. Valencia sold him for the usual scandalously low price to Espanyol. Debuted with a goal and 2 assists and had a sensational debut season ending with 10 goals and 11 assists. Saw reduced returns after that, though, and injuries recurred. Another injury February 2019 kept him out for most of that year. In January 2020 he was released and now plays for Toronto in the MLS.

Nacho Gil. Made his debut in February 2017 and then began to see some game time and starts under Marcelino. Doubts crept in and he was part of the controversial experimental line-up which flopped badly away to Las Palmas in January 2018. That would be his last game. Joined Elche on loan the following week before being released in the summer to join second level Ponferradina. After 2 seasons there he joined Cartagena who had been newly promoted to the second level. Has been a regular as they fight relegation. 

Central midfielders

Bruno Zuculini. Joined us on loan from Man City in Nuno’s first season but only played half a game. Loan was cancelled mid-season and a series of loans in Spain, England and Greece followed. Permanently joined Hellas Verona of Greece in 2017 but only lasted a year before returning to his native Argentina with River Plate.

Felipe Augusto. Represented by, you guessed it, Mendes. Nuno brought him with him from Rio Ave. After a few sub appearances, started his only game, a disastrous 3-0 defeat at Depor and was subbed off at half time. (That game also ended the Valencia career of Yoel.) After a couple of sub appearances in December he never played another minute the rest of the season. Returned to Portugal and was loaned out to Braga before a permanent move to Benfica. They in turn loaned him to Turkish top flight side Alanyaspor. He was then sold back to Rio Ave where he was a regular until dropping out of the team last month.

Carles Gil. One of the first to depart under Nuno, joining Aston Villa in January 2015. He had a decent enough spell there but returned to Spain in summer 2016 for two years at Depor. Then moved permanently to the MLS to play for New England Revolution, where he’s a regular.

Fran Villalba. Attracted a lot of buzz after emerging in 2015 but never made it. His last game was the dead rubber Copa 2nd leg vs Barca (incidentally also the last game for 3 others on these lists.) After spending all of 2018-19 on loan at Numancia, he joined Birmingham City permanently, though with Valencia reserving half his rights. After an ok season there he’s been back in Spain since summer 2019 on loan at Almeria , who have a buy option.

Enzo Perez. One of many expensive busts for 25 million. He started well, but there were always questions over his fitness and after 2 years, Valencia cut their losses and transferred him on the cheap to River Plate where he’s a regular.

Danilo Barbosa. Controversial Mendes addition for the 2015-16 season where he was a regular, playing 32 games. Valencia rightly declined the 15 million buy option. Returned to Braga who loaned him out to Benfica and Liege. Surprisingly, Braga did get a decent fee of 10 million for him from Nice in 2018. He was a regular for them in the first season but gradually fell down the pecking order, being used as emergency cover at central defence and has only played 4 games this season with talk of a transfer.

Wilifried Zahibo.

Broke through in the Neville era and got 7 games, starting 6 of them, even managing a goal in the Copa against Granada. But the Copa 2nd leg against Barcelona with Valencia well eliminated already would be his final game. Left after one season and played at the second level with Gimnastic. After 2 seasons there he moved to the MLS with New England Revolution for 2 seasons. Spent last season with Houston Dynamo, but only played 4 games. His contract there expired last month and was not renewed, so he is now a free agent.

Tropi. Mestalla player who made his La Liga debut, and his only top flight appearance in the 89th minute at Elche in March 2015. Got a couple of late sub appearances under Neville in Copa and Europa league the following season. Has had a journeyman existence since then. Year-long loans at Alcorcon and Lorca. Signed by Recreativo Huelva but released after the 2018-19 season. Atletico Madrid reserves signed him for 2019-20 before he joined third level UCAM Murcia last autumn, where he is a regular.  

Andre Gomes. The transfer to Barcelona, though it brought in 37 million ultimately, really stung, especially since the 2 guys that follow on this list were not up to the task of replacing him. Had a torrid time at Barcelona before a loan at Everton became permanent. Was a regular at Everton in his first season, even after overcoming a horror injury but has struggled for game time this season being used more as a sub.

Alvaro Medran. Bought in summer 2016 as a very cheap replacement for Andre Gomes. Though he showed some early promise, lacked the consistency to be a regular, making 19 appearances and scoring 3 times. Started in Marcelino’s first game in charge in 17/18 but that would be his final appearance. Went to Alaves on loan where a managerial change proved disastrous for him, leading to him infamously breaking down in tears in a post-match interview. After another loan at Rayo, he joined Chicago Fire on a free, where he’s a regular.

Mario Suarez. As I said in the previous post, if Simeone says you’re past it, you are. Joined on loan from Watford in summer 2016 with a buy option to replace the departed Fuego. Was a regular for the first half of the season without convincing. With Voro taking over and Soler’s emergence he was deemed unnecessary and didn’t even play a single minute after February 2017. Joined Guizhou in China that year before returning to Spain with Rayo in 2019. Was a regular the first season but now struggles for game time, used as a sub mostly.

Javi Fuego. After 3 ok years with us, joined Espanyol. 2 seasons later spent a single season at Villarreal where he featured rarely as he spent most of the season injured. Released by them, he dropped down a level to join Gijon where he’s ever present. Considering he turned 37 earlier this month, that’s not bad going for a midfielder.

Maksimovic. Was a good pick-up on a free from Astana but got frustrated at lack of game time behind the next 3 guys on this list and left to join Getafe where he’s done very well. It’s a shame because with the current state of our midfield, he’d be a useful player to have.

Parejo. His departure for no money and the manner of it: tossed out as if he was no one when he was actually a loyal, long time club servant, still annoys. Has been a regular at Villarreal this season.

Coquelin. Not going so well for him up the coast. Has really struggled for game time, with brief sub appearances the norm since October and for the last 5 games he’s played 4 minutes and hasn’t even been in the match squad the other 4.

Kondogbia. I hope he gets more money at Atletico because he’s certainly losing game time. Hasn’t played more than 27 minutes in a league game since joining them and didn’t even play the last 3 games.

Right wingers

Fede Cartabia, played both wings. Joined us at age 13 and made a decent breakthrough for 2013-14, playing 40 games. But fell out of favor and a couple of seasons of loans followed. Made a surprise return to Valencia in summer 2016 but only lasted the first half of the season. Released on a free and returned to Depor, where he got reasonable game time, but was loaned out to Braga and then last season to Al-Ahli of Dubai in the UAE. Still there but out of favour. Another promising youth player who never quite made it.

Feghouli. After 6 reasonable seasons with us, he fell out with the club at the end and left for a season at West Ham. Moved to Galatasaray in 2017 and is still there, recently passing 120 games for them.

Orellana. Joined in January 2017 and started well, with a winner against Real Madrid but was then frozen out and left to join Eibar. After two and a half reasonable seasons there, moved to Valladolid for this season.

Ferran. Doing well at Man City. Too painful to write any more.

DePaul. Another one that got away. After a brief spell back at his boyhood club Racing he moved to Udinese where he’s highly rated and played 165 games to date.

Andreas Pereira. His loan spell with us ended sourly as it became obvious we weren’t going to buy him and he responded by sulking. Returned to Man United and saw decent game time last season but is now on loan at Lazio.

Rober. Made sporadic sub appearances in Nuno’s first season before heading out on loan for a couple of seasons at Granada and Leganes. Made a brief return and scored his only senior goal in his final appearance in a Copa win over Zaragoza. Joined Getafe in January 2018 but was barely used and moved to Osasuna on loan a year later. Their promotion for 2019-20 triggered a buy clause but he didn’t play much after that. They loaned him out to second tier Leganes for this season.

Monday, January 18, 2021

The "where are they now?" of the Lim era part 1: goalkeepers and defenders

 Just for something different. I was looking over my spreadsheets of player appearances recently and wondering what had happened to some of those guys post-Valencia and decided to do a couple of nostalgia driven posts on it. This is the full lowdown on every former player who kicked a ball in a competitive game with the first team since Lim took over in 2014. Salva Ruiz and Michel, who were registered but never played, are not counted, nor are the guys currently out on loan (Jimenez, Piccini and Guerrero.) 

GOALKEEPERS

Diego Alves: it almost became a ritual: dubious penalty whistled, Alves played mind games with the taker and, to the roar of Mestalla, saved it half the time. Injured the last game of 2014-15 season and never recovered his previous form. He’s now back home in Brazil playing for Flamengo and still saving half the penalties.

Matt Ryan: signed to cover Diego’s injury, got injured himself early on at Valencia and that effectively killed off his Valencia career as he found himself fighting for the number 1 spot with Jaume and then with Alves when he returned. After just 10 league appearances, joined Brighton where he did well until this season when he fell out of favor and is now transfer listed.

Yoel: signed as backup and never recovered from a disastrous performance at Deportivo followed by letting in 4 in the Copa. Even the injuries to Alves and Matt Ryan failed to give him game time as Jaume was preferred. Loaned out to Rayo and Eibar, being bought by the latter, who also put him out on loan to Valladolid. Now just a back-up at Eibar.

Neto: early questions were asked when he seemed static as goals went in past him, but established himself as a reliable keeper. It all ended weirdly with him getting the huff with Marcelino when Jaume was maintained for the Copa. His time at Barcelona hasn’t convinced and he’s recently been asking to leave to get more game time. Safe to say the Cillessen-Neto swap, which seemed a good idea at the time, hasn’t worked out for anyone.

LEFT BACKS
Lucas Orban: signed from Bordeaux, his Valencia career got off to a dream start when he came on as a late sub and scored an equaliser against Sevilla in Nuno’s first game in charge. His only goal for the club. Though he got a few games in the middle of that season, he struggled to establish himself and left on loan to Levante before moving permanently to Genoa. After struggling for game time there, returned to his native Argentina where he now plays for River Plate.

Siquiera: if Simeone thinks you’re past it, he’s usually right. Signed in Jan 2016 to cover at left back even though Lato was showing promise. Got game time at the end of 15-16 but didn’t convince and ended injured. When he returned he struggled for games with Lato and even Montoya preferred when Gaya was unavailable. Valencia did not take up the buy option and Atletico Madrid released him. After a year without a club, retired in 2018.

Jaume Costa: after his loan year with us, back at Villarreal where he’s still a back-up who rarely plays.

DEFENDERS
Ibrahim Diallo: signed for Mestalla as a promising youth from Eupen in Summer 2015. Played 4 games in the Copa, two of them the full 90 minutes, one the dead rubber second leg against Barca after we had been crushed 7-0. Lacking game time, returned to Eupen and played most of 2016-17, but suffered a horrific knee injury at the start of 2017-18. After 2 and a half years of various treatments proved unsuccessful and he hadn’t played a minute, he retired last summer at the age of 23. Now works as a video analyst for Eupen.

Vezo: Had a lengthy spell of six seasons at the club and I was sorry to see him go for while he was never amazing, he was always a useful backup. He got fed up of that role and joined Levante where he’s been getting the game time he lacked. 

Otamendi
: best defender we have had in the last decade, he of course abandoned us after 1 season to join Man City and was doing fine there until cracks started to appear and fell out of favor. Despite being linked with a Valencia return many times, he’s now back in Portugal at Benfica.

Mustafi: formed a decent partnership with Otamendi before joining Arsenal in a deal which eventually saw Paulista, Coquelin and 14 million come the other way. After a good start at Arsenal, it fell apart and he’s now the butt of jokes among their fans who will be happy to move him on.

Abdennour: signed as Otamendi’s replacement on the strength of a good season at Monaco he quickly alienated the Mestalla faithful with error heavy performances. With Garay and Mangala arriving it was game over and Valencia attempted to recover some money with a loan to Marseilles. After he failed there, he was released and spent a year in Turkey at Kayserispor where he also didn’t convince. They released him on a free to Qatari club Umm Salal where he at least gets some game time though his career is effectively over at top level.

Santos: awful signing that we blew 10 million of the Otamendi money on. After even making Abdennour look like a great signing he was loaned out to Brazilian clubs and then Valencia apparently got some money from Al Ahli for him. After not impressing there, they let him return to Portugal, to Rio Ave, on a free.

Jeison Murillo: always a mystery why it didn’t happen for him at the Mestalla as he looked a solid 3rd choice defender. Loaned out to Barcelona, where he played just a single game and then to Sampdoria. Joined the latter permanently, struggled for game time and now plays regularly on loan at Celta.

Roncaglia: after the strange decision not to give Murillo game time, Roncaglia was brought in on loan to cover. Looked error prone and got sent off at Girona so it was no surprise that his time with us ended after half a season.

Garay: probably the best defender of the Lim era after Otamendi. Started to become too injury prone but was ultimately a victim of the internal club politics. Though he’s recovered from last year’s injury, he remains without a club.

RIGHT BACKS
Barragan: despite never being great, had a long 5 seasons with us. Sold to Middlesbrough in summer 2016. After not impressing there, returned to Spain with Betis who released him to join Elche last summer.

Montoya: Barragan’s replacement. Proved no better and not an answer to the club’s long lack of a decent right back. After teaming up with Matt Ryan in Brighton he returned to Spain last year with Betis.

Nacho Vidal: broke through under Marcelino and was even touted as one of the best Spanish young players but a few iffy performances led to him being dropped and he left for Osasuna where he’s been a regular.

Cancelo: big money transfer to Italy followed by another big money transfer to Man City. His career is going well.

Florenzi: should have gone better for him than it did, but injury and the general chaos at the club meant that his loan becoming permanent was never an option. Doing well with PSG now.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Copa del Rey Round of 32: AD Alcorcón 0 - 2 Valencia CF Match Thread

 PREVIEW

Alcoron played their previous game 11 days ago against Real Zaragoza in the 2nd round of the Copa del Rey. After going down a goal with the first 5 minutes, they managed to respond and score on the other side of the half, 2 minutes before half-time. The deadlock would remain until the 89th minute when Alcoron grabbed the winner to finish the game 2-1.

Valencia's previous game was one week ago in La Liga, away against Real Valladolid; a game that they won 0-1. While Valencia had plenty of chances to win the game, it would take a Carlos Soler long range shot to break the tied game. Valencia almost grabbed a second but Manu Vallejo's goal had been overturned due to an offside in the buildup. He would get another really good chance moment later but he couldn't finish it. After a nervy ending to the half in which Valladolid struck the woodwork in injury time, Valencia managed to survive and got their first win in 2 months in the competition.

FORM (all competitions)

Alcoron: WLWWD

Valencia: WWDLL

SQUAD

Gracia, in the pre-match press conference also provided some updates on injuries. Gaya will miss this game as a precaution measure, after suffering some discomfort. in training. Cillissen is making good progress in his recovery. Gameiro should be rejoining training shortly. Gabriel Paulista is in his final stages of recovery as well. In the best case, Gracia expects everyone but Cillissen to be available for the next La Liga game.


FIRST HALF

2' - Early yellow card shown to Hugo Guillamon for a rash challenge.
12' - Goal for Valencia! 0-1! Valencia with a quick counter-attack following the Alcorcon corner kick. Vallejo carries the ball forward with speed and finds Koba Lein in space, setting up a 1v1 against the keeper who comes out to deal with him. Koba takes the shot early, the keeper gets a touch to it but cannot keep it out of the net.
34' - Yellow card shown to Reko for a rough challenge.
42' - Yellow card shown to Jaunma Bravo for taking down Guedes from behind
45 '- One minute of time added by the referee for stoppages

SECOND HALF

46' - Yellow card shown to Thierry Correia for a rough challenge
47'  - Substitution for Alcorcon. Carlos Bellvis off, Jose Suarez on
54' - Yellow card shown to Sosa for a dangerous challenge on Correia
61' - Triple substitution for Alcorcon. Reko, Alvaro Juan, and Sosa off, Boateng, Ale Lamas and Oscar Arribas on
66' - Double change for Valencia. Diakhaby and Alex Blanco replace Guillamon and Guedes
72' - Great piece of individual skill from Racic. He dispossessed the defender on the flank, beat another and then cut inside into the box before curling a shot to the far post. He shot hit the post and moved away from danger. Really close to a second goal
74' - Another opportunity missed at a second goal. Musah did well to get the ball forward on the right flank under pressure from his marker. He put in a cross to the center where Vallejo was waiting but the defender takes down Vallejo and the ball falls to Alex Blanco instead who has shot saved by the keeper.
76' - Goal for Valencia! 0-2! Manu Vallejo with a great free kick that curls around the wall, and squeezes just inside the post. Keeper was sent the wrong way. Good work from Racic to win the free kick in a dangerous position.
78' - Double substitution for Valencia. Vallejo and Musah are replaced by Kang In Lee and Jason
85' - Final change for Valencia. Gullem Molina replaces Thierry Correia. Final change for Alcorcon, Castro off, Victor Garcia on
90' - Two minutes added by the referee for stoppages.
90+2' - Llamas attempts to catch Rivero, who was off his line, off-guard with a long-range shot from midfield. Rivero gets back in time and tips it over the crossbar.

FULL-TIME

Full-time stats. 10-14 shots, 5-4 shots on target, 48-52% possession, 78-79% pass accuracy.

Valencia qualify to the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey with a solid display against Alcorcon. They scored 2 great goals, one from open play and the other from a set piece and managed to keep a clean sheet. This was all done away from home, where Valencia hasn't had the best time this season, and while resting many first team players.

Valencia's next game is on Thursday the 21st at Mestalla against Osasuna.