Sunday, August 25, 2019

La Liga Matchday #2: Celta Vigo 1 - 0 Valencia CF Match Thread

The first away game of the season ends in defeat. Another disappointing result after the late draw last week against Real Sociedad. What was even more disappointing than the result though was the style of play, the lack of effort and passion, and the overall attitude of the team.

LINEUP

The lineup this week featured new signing Maxi Gomez, playing against his former team, alongside Kevin Gameiro. With Rodrigo reduced to a bench role, lots of speculation has risen that this could very well signal that he is on his way out.

In midfield, Parejo made his season debut after missing out last week via suspension. Kondogbia retained his spot in midfield with Coquelin being suspended due to last week's red card. Guedes played on the left and with Carlos Soler picking up a long injury, Marcelino opted for Wass to start. This to me showed a lack of confidence in Ferran. That's his spot, and he is the second choice already, this move showed us that he is actually third choice in Marcelino's eyes.




Gaya returned at left-back following suspension last week. Paulista and Garay are Marcelino's clear first choice center backs as they start for the second week in a row. Piccini gets a start after coming on as a late sub last game. And finally, Cillissen was in goal.

MATCH

The first half set the tone for the whole game. Celta were playing quick pass possession football and we were chasing the ball often. We barely had a chance all game. The stats show 6 Celta shots on-target with us getting 2. For shots off-target the stat was reversed with 6 for us and 2 for them. So that's 8 chances each and only 25% of ours were on-target.

Celta's goal came only 15 minutes in due to a series of defensive errors. Piccini was caught too deep into his own penalty box and Denis Suarez was able to exploit the space on the right. Iago Aspas picked him out and he in turn found Gabriel Fernandez who back-heeled the ball past Garay and past Cillissen into the goal. Aspas himself would get a chance a few minutes later after another defensive error but this shot was blocked by Garay.

The best chances that I remember in the first-half was when Gameiro curled the ball in from the right-edge of the box past the two Celta defenders. The ball passed in front of Maxi Gomez who misjudged the trajectory of the ball and missed it.  We also had a chance from Wass after a pull-back from Guedes to Maxi Gomez who hoped over the ball to leave it Daniel Wass only for him to hit the cross-bar.

In the second half, it was more of the same. Some changes were made mid-way with Rodrigo coming on for Maxi Gomez and Diakhaby coming in for Paulista. The odd thing here is Paulista came off and lashed out at Marcelino who presumably thought he was suffering a knock and it would be safer to pull him off. Paulista was not happy about that.

We also had Ferran come on in place of Piccini, with Wass moving to right-back to make room. Ferran immediately added more energy and vigor into this team.

Our best chance in the second half was a Parejo attempt following a low-cross from Ferran. Parejo scuffed the shot and it ended up as a pass instead with nothing resulting from it.

On the other hand, Celta had shots from Gabriel Fernandez and Denis Suarez both saved by Cillissen. They also had a late penalty from Denis Suarez saved by Cillissen for his first penalty save of the season.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It's clear that the off-the-field problems are translating to on-the-field problems and affecting our game. It's 1 week from the end of the transfer market and we still have a lot of uncertainty. If Rodrigo leaves, who will come to replace him? Will we bring in 1, 2 or 3 more players? What about the exit operations, there are players that would need to be loaned or sold if we bring in this many players. Marcelino said he will only let Rodrigo go if he gets another top striker to replace him. He also said that we would have to tone back our goals for the season if he leaves. Finally, he said that if the replacement striker is forced upon him, he will take a strong stance. This presumably means he might leave in that case. And if that case does occur, where will Alemany and Longoria end up cause that undermines their decision as well.

In addition to this, we still are struggling with some of the problems from last season. Last game was struggling without Parejo and Gaya. This game was being too predictable and reserved. Some people will say this is only our second game of the season and we shouldn't panic yet. That's fair. However, there are many question marks over this season already: on and off the field. The stability that we once hoped for with Marcelino is at risk due to problems with management.

Some positives to end off. Great performance by Cillissen who had some good saves, including a penalty. As for the goal, he really couldn't see the ball with Garay standing there and even if he did get a hand to it, he could at best deflect it for another Celta player to finish. Also, Ferran brought a lot of energy in the few minutes that he got.

Next week's game is against RCD Mallorca at the Mestalla. Let's hope that a game against the home crowd will be enough to revitalize this team in a very winnable match. Of course, between now and then a lot could happen.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Pre-match thoughts - Celta - Valencia

Celta Vigo will be a big test for several reasons. One, to bury the disappointment against Real Sociedad last week. Two, to demonstrate that our transfer activity had been better than Celta. Three, a personal test for Marcelino.

Against Real Sociedad, we failed to capitalise on a good opportunity to win three points, regardless of what the statistics showed. The Celta match will reveal whether our team has learned from the Sociedad lesson (as well as the many times we threw away our lead last season). While Parejo and Gaya are back, I will be watching closely our starting player on the right. Wass could potentially play with Piccini behind him. Alternatively, I am betting that Ferran will start with Wass behind him.

I hope Maxi starts this match. Mina and Suarez will be eager to make us regret losing them. Suarez, in particular, was a bright spot against Real Madrid last week. A strong performance from Maxi will provide much assurance that we are heading in the right direction. I have no doubt that he is a good player but he needs a good performance to kick off his career with us. This is the best opportunity for him.

Lastly, but also most importantly, how would Marcelino prepare for this game. We have a good team. It is up to him to make use of what he has. In the last game, Guedes played poorly while Maxi did not play. If he cannot get the best out of his two most expensive players, it will be a big problem this season. In addition, despite the rumours of Rodrigo´s sale, he is still available. Despite qualifying for UCL twice, it is up to Marcelino to prove that he has the level to get the best out of his current squad. Any additions thereafter, be it Rafinha or anyone else, would be extra firepower for us to challenge on four fronts. Right now, our team looks good on paper, including our young players. It will look even better if we add 1 or 2 more strong attackers. However, it is not enough to remain good on paper. While he has achieved much over the past two seasons, I will only rate Marcelino as a top manager if he can get the best out of Guedes, Maxi, Ferran, Kang-in.

I am not sure how this season is going to turn out but I really hope the crisis reaches a proper conclusion asap. It could be a resurgent Marcelino with much improved performances from the current squad, or a rollercoaster ride over the rest of the season with the drama continuing. I hope it is the former.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

La Liga Matchday #1: Valencia CF 1 - 1 Real Sociedad Match Thread

Here we are, first game of the season! We start off at the Mestalla in front of our own fans in a very winnable game. Our opponents shouldn't be underestimated but for the ambitions we have this season and this being a home, a win is expected.


LINEUP:

With all the transfer rumors in the past week over Rodrigo's future, he still makes into the starting lineup alongside Gameiro. Marcelino boldly claimed that without Rodrigo we would have to tone down our expectations for the season.

In midfield, Guedes and Soler start wide on either side of Coquelin and Kondogbia. The surprise here being the absence of Dani Parejo. This is probably due to the very late ruling been passed that Parejo and Gaya are eligible for this game. They technically should have been suspended due to yellow card count carrying over from the previous season but that rule changed. As such, Marcelino probably worked submitted his squad with that uncertainty. Both Gaya and Parejo aren't on the squad list (not even on the bench).



In defense, Jaume Costa starts over Gaya and Wass over Piccini. In the center Paulista and Garay is the expected pairing. In goal, we see Cillissen start which is probably the indication that he will be the La Liga goalkeeper barring injuries and Jaume will get his minutes in the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

On the bench we have: Jaume, Diakhaby, Piccini, Ferran, Cheryshev, Vallejo and Maxi Gomez.

PREDICTION

I would like to be optimistic and say 2-0 if it was our regular lineup with Parejo and Gaya, especially if in front of our own fans. However, with some of these changes I would say 1-0.


MATCH

That was a strange game. The problems that Valencia had last season seem to have carried over, at least into this first game of the season.

The first half was a shared game. Real Sociedad had the upper hand in the first part, really hammering away through the right side (our left) where Jaume Costa was trying to adapt. There were many loose passes and they often found the space in behind him. Paulista, Coquelin and Kondogbia were hard at work to keep the game level. When Valencia picked up the pace most of their efforts were from distance and not very troubling. The best chance came at the dying minutes of the first half with a Real Sociedad attempt inside the box following a squared ball. However, the striker sent it wide.

The second half was more of the same from Valencia. Some combination play, some dribbling but no end product. This was until the 57 minute mark where Gameiro started an attack, passed to Soler who controlled the ball beautifully in the air and found Wass out wide. Wass return the ball with a great cross to Gameiro who poked it past the keeper. The VAR technology would review the goal for quite a while until they finally award the goal to Valencia.

Valencia would have many chances to extend the lead but the finishing again wasn't there. Piccini would come on for Jaume Costa after he received a knock, with Wass moving over to left-back. Rodrigo would be replaced by Cheryshev with Guedes moving over to a striker role. Finally, Ferran would come on for Carlos Soler. The game seemed to be over but the total added minutes from the VAR check, stoppages and cooling break amounted to 8 minutes. In those 8 minutes, Valencia would get a penalty and Gameiro would step up to take. However, he went for the top corner and the effort would be too high. Kondogbia would have another effort a few minutes later only to miss again. In the final part of the 8 minutes, Real Socieded would move on the counter attack and get taken down by Garay at the very edge of the box for a free kick.

The free kick was taken and strikes the wall before bouncing out of play for a corner. However, the ball had struck Coquelin and on the arm resulting in a penalty call and a second yellow for Coquelin. Oyarzabal steps up to take the penalty and calmly slots it past Cillissen. The game was brought to an end right after that.

We really missed Parejo and Gaya today. The problems of last season that repeated in this game weren't just that Valencia couldn't put the game away with the chances they had. It was also the struggle they had whenever Parejo and Gaya were missing. Especially when Parejo was missing. The control and calm in midfield was gone. Marcelino was urging players to keep the ball at the opposing end of the field in the final minute. However, they lost the ball and the play resulting from the counter attack would lose us 2 points.

Next game is away to Celta Vigo.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Thoughts for season 19/20

The summer break has been anything but a break. I am sure everyone cannot wait to see how we would kick off season 19/20, particularly with all the ongoings on and off the field.

Transfers
Defence wise, Cillessen is a solid buy and Jaume Costa and Mangala gives us good cover.
Midfield wise, we have an excess of players on the right: Soler, Jason, Wass, Ferran, Kang-in. Looks like Wass will stay in right back, Jason might get loaned/sold. Ferran and Kang-in will get limited play time.
Lastly, Maxi brings along potential and physicality. But with Rodrigo´s pending move, will we be able to get an adequate replacement?

I am actually surprisingly optimistic about this. Guedes can potentially play in Rodrigo´s position, especially since he does not provide much defensive cover on the left. That frees up another spot on the left that Ferran or Kang-in could gain some precious minutes from. Alternatively, if we manage to get any of the rumoured replacements and sell Sobrino, I think our squad will still remain very competitive.

The Club Saga
The Mateu saga and our transfer activity point to an important issue that is worth further discussion. Is the Academy and promising VCF youth players still a priority for us?

A move for Rafinha could essentially spell the end for Kang-in. As highlighted earlier, Kang-in and Ferran are already facing stiff competition. I suspect both are actually inclined to move on to get more playing minutes and continue their development. If Marcelino continues to leave them on the bench this season, their development will definitely be curtailed. This has trickle down repercussions on our club´s global marketing, as well as on our youth players aspiring to break into the first team.

Until the day we are financially rich (hopefully), we might need to continue with our proven policy of promoting youths, and investing carefully in other players that can add to the squad. This has been low risk yet high in returns for the club. To do this, there has to be faith in the academy players. VCF fans seem genuinely excited when Kang-in and Ferran are brought on. If the club management is sincere about growing the club academy, it is aligned with the fans, and can only be positive for the club.

Concerns
On the sporting side, our performance against Inter showed that our team could be slick in attack when they click. There were still moments of concentration lapses and loss in tempo but I remain optimistic.

However, I fear the saga is far from over as both sides will possibly continue to clash over subsequent sporting decisions. Lim is definitely going to stamp his authority given the money he invested while the sporting team will expect more mandate and freedom given their achievements over the past two seasons. In short, we might need to brace ourselves for a rocky season. Hopefully we have a much stronger start this season, which would help to ease the tension between all parties.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Official: Valencia CF loan Jaume Costa from Villareal CF

Valencia CF have officially announced a loan deal for Villareal CF left-back Jaume Costa. The 31-year old will be the back-up left-back for Gaya this season. This loan deal is 1-year deal spanning until June 30, 2020.


There were some reports that Didac-Vila would be the chosen left-back, however, this seems to have fallen through with Marcelino presumed to have pushed for Jaume Costa instead. Jaume Costa started his career with the Valencia B team. He has played in Spain throughout his careers with a loan for Cadiz before joining Villareal B in 2010 and then made the jump to the first team in 2012 where he has played since.

Expecting some announcement with respect to Rodrigo soon with the player reportedly having said goodbye to the teammates and staff already.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Official: Valencia CF loan Eliaquim Mangala from Manchester City

Valencia CF just released an official statement announcing the return of Manchester City defender Eliaquim to Valencia. This will be the defender's second loan spell at Valencia having featured beside Garay in the 2016-17 season where he scored 2 goals.


The deal is a loan deal spanning 2-years, taking us to June 2021. Mangala will complete Marcelino's 4-man defense alongside Garay, Paulista and Diakhaby. This puts Javi Jiminez in a situation where he has to either agree to stay sidelined or be loaned elsewhere to get some minutes.

Mangala's contract with Manchester City was until June 2020 so this effectively means we have the option of signing the 28-year old defender for free. In addition, he has taken a pay-cut in wages to facilitate the move.

There was concern of an injury for Mangala since he struggled with it at Everton where he was loaned last season. As such, the signing was contingent on the medical check-up which Mangala has now successfully completed.

Expecting left-back Jaume Costa signing from Villareal coming up soon with deal reportedly finalized also.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Alemany goodbye?

I promised to put this post up and hoped for something a bit more substantial, but we're still stuck with rumours and gossip. I won't be around for most of next month, so won't have internet a few hours from now.

As all of you will know there are strong rumours that Alemany is on his way out. Lim basically gave him a free hand with transfers in the first two summers but now wants to be more involved. That's his prerogative as the owner and the person who, ultimately, is paying for these transfers. Alemany, feeling that this makes him redundant looks to be out.

From the rumours on Twitter and other sites it seems that a few things led to this. Alemany (and Marcelino) wanted to bring in Rafinha from Barcelona. Lim, concerned about his injury history, vetoed this. In contrast, Lim wanted to bring Otamendi back, but Alemany opposed this, feeling that even after a wage cut, Otamendi would be by far the highest earner at the club, and this would affect squad harmony. Lastly, Alemany allegedly wanted to give Marcelino a longer contract. After all, it was him who brought Marcelino in when Alexanko was arguing for Setien instead and it was Alemany who defended Marcelino when he seemed to be on the verge of being sacked in January. Lim, maybe mindful of the lack of continuity of some of Valencia's other managers, didn't want to commit to a longer contract which could lead to a large compensation payment in the event of a sacking. All this could explain why Valencia's progress in the transfer market has been painfully slow: aside from the young players already signed and the swap of goalkeepers, only Maxi Gomez has joined.

Obviously the question this raises is, if Alemany goes, who follows? Both Longoria and Marcelino were close to Alemany and may follow him in resigning. It all sounds a bit of a disaster. Just when the club finally looked to have gained some long overdue stability, is it going to collapse in internal fighting again?

Fans have been quick to draw parallels with the summer of 2015, when Salva and Rufete were forced out. Those analogies are worrying, but don't quite work. For a start, there isn't a manager at the helm closely tied to Lim for fans to focus their anger on. (Yet. Worrying rumours of Mourinho as the next manager are swirling.) Secondly, the situation with Mendes is different. Mendes is now closely associated with Wolves and the FA Premier League gives him a much better vehicle to market his prospects.

Ultimately, we just have to hope for the best in this and see how it pans out.