Monday, June 4, 2018

2017-18 Season Review: The Best and the Worst

With the season finished, now is a perfect time to sit down and reflect it.

Starting at the beginning, we had finished in a dismal position on the table last season at 12th. The turbulent coaching story continued with Prandelli resigning last season and Voro stepping in as usual to cover. As if that wasn't enough the players, which so much money was splashed on, did not live up to even fractions of their price tag. 

This season was going to be different. We signed a coach that had a track record, experience and was familiar with the country, it's language and the league. The investment strategy for players was different as well: take the players on loan and only should they perform well do we consider investing in them. Of course, part of this was due to necessity since Financial Fair Play would restrict our buying ability regardless. Some players like Paulista, Murillo, Zaza and Neto joined on permanent deals right away (with payments in installments), while others like Kondogbia and Guedes were considered for the future via the loan deals. In addition, excess baggage that didn't prove it's worth last season: Abdennour, Santos, and Nani, was sent elsewhere. Other young players were loaned out as a chance to prove their worth and either come back or be purchased by the club to which they were loaned. 

This set the stage for what was to be a brilliant season to watch and a great success, especially relative to previous seasons. We returned to the Champions League with a few games to spare, played an attractive brand of football, produced consistent performances and challenged the top teams.

From the beginning, we would go on huge runs of great form and build up a streak of undefeated games and great form for our players. Although we did struggle breaking down teams that would park the bus or aggressively break the flow of the counter attacks, we did punish almost every team that challenged us in an open game. The team would be soaring and then the gravity of injuries would pull us back down at points in the season. Our squad depth would be exposed, having no one on the bench to offer anything different. Then, Zaza would go on goal drought, Neto's feet were frozen solid, we would have a crisis in defense and midfielders were used to cover for injured defenders, and finally our right-back would give an opening for all teams to exploit. Despite all that, we managed to achieve the goal and if we were offered this position at the beginning, most if not all of us would've taken it. We actually did even better, as we could've very well finished 3rd or even 2nd.

So without further ado, here is the best and the worst for me in this season:

Best Player: Geoffery Kondogbia

Huge difference to previous holders of the position in previous seasons (Danilo, Enzo Perez, Javi Fuego). Offers great strength, dominant presence and great work ethic. He facilitated our counter-attacking style by intercepting passes and winning the ball back in midfield to start such a move. He had great driving runs forward taking on defenders confidently and producing a good pass or shot to finish. A great asset to have while defending corners and set pieces as he has won the aerial duels many times. He is well liked by the fans as well as his fellow players. Easily justifies his price tag and is undoubtedly a steal for this amount (25 million euros). The deal to sign him permanently was expected and good to see it go through.

Mentions:

Guedes: for taking our attacking game to the next level with his creativity, dribbling and pace.
Rodrigo: great goal tally, really stepped up in the second part of the season and a well-deserved Spain NT call-up
Gaya: perhaps the only constant in defense, one less for Marcelino to worry about.
Soler: Growing talent, versatile (midfield and wing play) nice to see him with the Spanish NT as well.

Worst Player: Martin Montoya

No doubt this has been our weak point all season. We got him on a free transfer, so it was a good deal in that sense. He wasn't always poor, he had some decent games, a few good. But when he was bad, it was really bad and we were exploited. It didn't help that his competition for the spot was Nacho Vidal who was ostracized by Marcelino from the start. He was then left to compete with Vezo for the spot and lost out to him a few times.

Mentions:

Nacho Vidal: I take it if he wasn't used all this time, then Marcelino doesn't value him highly.

Best Game: Real Betis 3 - Valencia 6

Despite conceding 3 goals and almost throwing away a 4 goal lead, it was very entertaining to watch. Lots of contributors, with 6 different goal scorers. Very open game from both teams, almost a comeback at the end only for the momentum to go back to us in the final minutes. Great away win.

Mentions:

Valencia 4 - 0 Sevilla: It felt so good handing a wide margin loss to a rival that's given us so much trouble. Very convincing win.

Worst game: Valencia 1 - 4 Real Madrid

A lot of factors for this. Losing to rival in a 6 point game. The controversial referee decisions at their worst. Losing at home, etc.

Mentions:

Getafe 1-0 Valencia: although we lost by one goal, this was quite embarrassing. A type of game where the other team played aggressive to break up counters, ended up with 10 men very early (25 min into the game) and still managed to beat us. 


Best Goal: Guedes vs Sevilla (4-0 home game)

Guedes summarized in this goal. Receives the ball in midfield, accelerates quickly taking out 2 players, gets to the edge of the box and fakes two more players before smashing it into the top corner from range. It was 

Mentions: 

Guedes vs Betis (3-6 away game): edge of the area, with a wall of defenders in front yet smashes it into top corner.
Rodrigo vs Leganes (0-1 away game): tight game, needed a goal, just substituted in, Kondogbia wins the ball back at the edge of the box, Rodrigo takes possession, runs across the edge of the box and bends it away from the keeper and into the net.
Vietto vs Girona (0-1 away game): struggling on form and getting tons of criticism and whistles but remains focused and produces a great goal. Carried the ball from midfield to the edge of the box, used the defender to block the keeper's vision and curled it to the top corner.
Vietto vs Las Palmas (Copa del Rey 4-0 home game): debut game, saw the keeper of his line and beat him from insane range


That's it from me. Just thought I would discuss this as we haven't had a chance to fully reflect on some of these things. Now I'll pass it to all of you.

Who were your best and worst players of the season? Best and worst games of the season? And Best goal of the season? Other comments or suggestions for improvement?

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