It's always tough writing these match reports when the team doesn't perform. Well, it's another bad result but this time we walk away with no points gained instead of the usual draw. The pressure is building on Nuno and it showed on his face during this game. He was constantly sighing and scratching his chin not knowing what to do. The lesson from last game for the team was that doing the same thing over and over won't give different results and we need to create chances in a different way. This game had clear chances that could've decided the game but converting chances is still a huge obstacle for the team.
Nuno fielded a lineup with major differences from the previous game hoping new eager faces will shine through for him. Rodrigo finally got his chance in the center and was really lively but, and this might sound harsh, you need to finish one v one chances. We talked about this before. A one on one chance has to be converted especially from a Champions League team. Sure, you will have exceptional saves every now and then from keepers. But, most of our one on one efforts end up wasted and that cannot happen.
Valencia CF began the first half with lots of pressure on Espanyol, players were lively, the passing in general was a lot better than last game and chances were made. They were made and not taken. And from one corner kick, Espanyol took the lead. Despite constant pressure from Valencia CF, the curse continued and the team couldn't score. Second half, followed pretty much the same pattern with a flurry of yellow cards fired at both team in a short span of time. It was a half of many stoppages in play as the pressure was building up. As a result, Espanyol had a period where they were creating really dangerous chances and they would've converted if it weren't for Domenech making saves in quick succession. Gaya will likely miss the next game against Granada.
Other than Domenech having a great second half, there were other player performances that must be noted. Bakkali's introduction into the starting lineup was definitely a step in the right direction. I mean he dominated the Espanyol defence for almost the entire first half and even had a few shots on target after he cut inside just at the edge of the box. In contrast, Piatti who came in late in the second half had no where near the same impact, every time he would get the ball, he would lose it soon after. I don't know if you guys/gals agree with me on this, but Enzo's presence in midfield today was more effective. He was involving himself more in the attacking play, making good passes, through balls and having a few runs at the defense. He was playing more of a box to box that he's usual holding midfielder role, and this box to box play is what he was brought to do. This could also be a step in the right direction. However, to do this Nuno had two defensive midfielders in play in Fuego and Danilo Barbosa. I feel that took away from the potential of the 4-3-3, it was more like a 4-2-3-1. Since both de Paul and Gomes were left out of the 18 man squad, and Parejo is being rested, Nuno made the most of what he had. But we really needed that creative player in midfield.
In terms of tactics, the only different thing was the unusual amount of long balls today. It definitely adds a different dimension to the attack but at points it felt like it was depended on too much and was more of an act of desperation. Let's just say that Nuno is starting to try new things rather than sticking to the same thing. Now the challenge is to convert chances and find a combination that works. Espanyol played as a team. There were also times when players were taking their runs to far and choosing to go the distance alone instead of involving others.
1-0 Victor Alvarez (18')
RCD Espanyol (1): Pau López, Arbilla, Álvaro, Enzo Roco, Duarte, Cañas, Víctor Sánchez (Diop, m. 88), Hernán Pérez, Víctor Álvarez (Burgui, m. 70), Asensio (Gerard Moreno, m. 75) and Caicedo.
Valencia CF (0): Doménech, Joao Cancelo, Santos, Abdenour, Gayà (Feghouli, m. 61), Javi Fuego, Danilo, Enzo Pérez, Bakkali (Piatti, m. 65), Santi Mina (Alcácer, m. 65) and Rodrigo
Domenech 6 - pulled off some key saves that gave Valencia CF a fighting chance and keeping the game within reach.
Cancelo 5 - I feel Cancelo is a lot more reserved in his play nowadays, he stopped going on those exciting runs but a postitive that came from that is that he's involved more in defence. Still working on a proper balance.
Abdennour 5.5 - His presence in open play is undeniable. He clears the ball well and makes good challenges. Next step would be to work on set pieces, he needs to be a commanding presence in both penalty areas.
Santos 5 - decent start, definitely needs time to get used to the team and had one crucial challenge that stopped Asenjo from scoring. Again, both attacking and defending set pieces needs to be involved more.
Gaya 5 - active down the left, decent performance but we've come to expect more from him. Injury will be a tough blow to deal with as it seems Orban is not as trusted by Nuno this season.
Fuego 4.5 - the captain for the night did most of what he was required to do but failed to break up play when Espanyol came on the counter.
Enzo 5.5 - this is a very promising game from him, caused havoc in the first half but slowly faded away in the second.
Danilo Barbosa 5 - I honestly don't have much to say about his play, can't think of anything good or bad he did.
Santi Mina 4.5 - Didn't do enough for me, was in position to recieve the ball a lot of the time but couldn't do anything with it.
Rodrigo 4.5 - He was really active and had some sporadic periods of good linkup play but that 1 v 1 chance is a bigg err in his performance.
Bakkali 6 - Most involved player and caused danger to Espanyol many times. Really unpredictable to defend, can cut in well, blistering pace and a good shot on him.
Alcacer N/A - didn't have much of a chance to be judged
Feghouli 5 - okay he had plenty of time to be judged but once Piatti came on, and Rodrigo already there, he seemed confused as to where he's supposed to go or what he's suppposed to do.
Piatti 4.5 - lost the ball and several times in the short period of time he was on, gave the ball away when we really couldn't afford to do so.
Final Comments: Alright Valencianistas, we're on the verge of a crisis in form (some of you will say it already happened but I believe it could still be avoided). Lots of teams in Europe have started off on the wrong foot and managed to fix it but we're about to enter a period where things could get out of hand. Losses and draws will decrease morale which will put more pressure on the coach and players which will decrease morale further causing more losses and draws, etc over and over. I mentioned momentum last report and this will be important. Momentum is built with smaller opposition so that it becomes a good weapon against bigger teams. This weekend against Granada at home will mark one of the last chances to build momentum beyond which opposition gets tougher. Lyon then Bilbao then Malaga then Gent then Atletico Madrid. Even though it's one game, every bit of momentum helps. Granada is also on bad form, they've lost all but one of their games home and away by 2 or more goals. At the end of last season, we beat them 4-0 at Mestalla. I believe the fans could turn this around at Mestalla. If the crowd backs the team from the beginning and they win, it will be a big boost in confidence. If the crowd jeer and and ask Nuno to leave from the very beginning it could be very tense which isn't favorable. I hope its the former option that crowd chooses cause the team needs all of us to back it at this critical point.