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.









Sunday, July 14, 2019

Valencia sign Maxi Gomez / Mina and Abdennour leave

Valencia have made official the signing of Maxi Gómez. 

He joins on a 5-year contract with a 140 million release clause. Valencia identified the player as a signing back in April and hoped to get the deal done in time for the transfer window opening, but Celta delayed in order to see if he did anything at Copa America and then strong competition from West Ham, who were offering at least double the salary that we were, led to a drawn out transfer saga which has thankfully been resolved in our favour. As part of the deal Santi Mina leaves and rejoins Celta with Jorge Saenz also going there on loan and Valencia paying 14.5m, with a possible 1.5m more performance related. 

I called last year for Maxi to be signed, 

so I'm really happy about this signing.

There are a surprising number of our fans who seem to be against this. The main arguments seem to be
  •  Mina has better stats
  • The cost is too much, we'd have been better signing Borja Iglesias
  • Gomez doesn't do so well without Aspas
I think the cost is a fair price and as for Mina vs Maxi comparisons, those need to be seen in the context of Celta being fairly rubbish the last few seasons. Apart from Aspas, Pione Sisto and Wass were the only players capable of supplying chances. At Valencia he will have Guedes, Parejo, Soler etc providing chances. Time will tell, but after the Batshuayi fiasco the club has gone for a player proven in La Liga and the only players who have scored more in the last two seasons are Messi, Luis Suarez, Griezmann, Aspas and Stuani, all of whom are too old or unattainable. The fact that he has turned down a much bigger wage in England is a positive sign and already wins him points in my book.

The slight negative in this is the loss of Santi Mina, who'd proved himself a useful third option up front in recent times. Mina joined us at the start of July 2015 having impressed with Celta, leading Valencia to pay his buy-out clause of 10 million, with Mina refusing a new contract in order to sign for us, something which annoyed Celta fans as much as Alcacer's exit annoyed ours. Mina's early times at Valencia were really disappointing. Used up front either on the right or left of a 4-3-3 he struggled to make an impact and it wasn't until his 14th game that he scored, hitting a late equaliser against Barcelona. He repeated the feat later that season, scoring the winner at Barcelona, capping off a 22-pass move. (Incidentally, it got lost in the euphoria, but Valencia's first in the Copa final came after a 16-pass move, when it comes to tika-taka, Valencia can beat Barcelona at their own game.) That season also saw his best game in a Valencia shirt, scoring two and assisting three in a 6-0 rout of Vienna in Europe. He also scored what I think was one of his best, sprinting the length of the pitch to score the winner at Granada.   

Despite that, his stats and performances remained disappointing until the arrival of Marcelino. Like Rodrigo, he benefitted from playing more central, improving his performances and scoring more frequently, even overtaking Zaza in the pecking order at the end of 2017-18. However, last season saw him behind either Batshuayi or Gameiro to partner Rodrigo and ultimately it's understandable that he wants to head back to his boyhood club where he'll be guaranteed starter.

Lastly, the week just gone saw the departure of Aymen Abdennour. He arrived at Valencia on the back of strong performances with Monaco for 21.8 million as the replacement of Otamendi. It quickly became apparent that he was nowhere near that level as a series of horror shows gifted goals to opposition teams. It didn't help that his defensive partner was often the equally useless Aderllan Santos and together they made up what was probably Valencia's worst defensive duo this century. After 29 appearances in his first season, he saw injuries in his second but was gradually phased out under Voro. The only time he ever looked remotely useful was under Prandelli, but that was because there was a back three with Garay cleaning up after him. Valencia loaned him out to Marseilles, hoping to get back at least half of what we paid, but he also flopped there and in the end the club has just cut its losses and let him go to Kayerispor of Turkey on a free. Thus ends one of the worst signings of recent years. I think the signing of players like Gomez instead of such costly flops shows the progress the club has made. 




Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Murillo leaves / Maxi Gomez deal close

Jeison Murillo's time at Valencia is at an end. We signed him as one of the centre backs for the 2017/18 campaign and he had a fair few starts in the early months, playing 8 of the 12 games after he signed before getting injured for 3 months.


When he returned he got a few games, but that was because Garay was injured and by that point, Garay and Gabriel were Marcelino's main choices. In 2018/19 he was mostly sidelined, playing in the home games against Juventus and Celta before playing his final game in the Copa at Ebro. He then joined Barcelona on loan as part of a joke with his agent. Sadly, it also didn't work out for him as he played just 1 full league game, another as a late sub and a couple of games in the Copa. The deal takes him to Sampdoria on loan, with them paying 2 million, which will mostly cover his wages. They then have an obligatory buy of 13.5 million. Many of us wanted him to stay as one of four defenders but given that Marcelino clearly doesn't count on him, this is for the best and at least Valencia make a small profit of 1.5 million on the deal.

The other news is that the long drawn out saga of Maxi Gomez seems to be over. Valencia first expressed their interest in late May but Celta understandably decided to wait until Copa America was over on the off-chance that his value would rise. It didn't as he didn't play but when the tournament finished, West Ham had renewed their interest in signing a player that they first tried to get in January. While Valencia seemed the obvious choice, due to language and Champions league football, West Ham were able to put a much higher salary on the table. That a club that finished 10th, never gets near Champions league football nor challenges for anything is able to do that is a serious indictment of La Liga's lousy financial model in the last decade that has allowed C-list English clubs to outbid us.

Just yesterday, it seemed that West Ham had won the race but, credit to Celta, they were more interested in honouring their agreement with us and maintaining good relations than chasing the money. Of course, their motives are not all altruistic, they regain Santi Mina and get Jorge Saenz on loan for 2 years as part of the expected deal. I think this will be good business for Valencia when confirmed.

There are still many questions to be answered. Will Rodrigo and Piccini stay? If not, who replaces? Who will be the fourth defender? Who will Valencia sign as Parejo's understudy, if anyone? Who will take remaining unwanted players (Abdennour, Medran, Nacho Gil, Sobrino etc) off Valencia's hands? Plenty to do, but I think the Murillo and Gomez deals would be a good step forward.