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.






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