Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Valencia - Real Sociedad match thread

 I'm going to Mestalla for this one so another short thread.

After the high of the win over Atletico Madrid, Valencia returned to the usual inconsistency with a shaky performance against the league's bottom club, Almeria. We could easily have lost that game. Why do the team always do this?

For tonight, we do at least have Paulista and Yaremchuk available. Baraja has effectively said that Yaremchuk will get at least some minutes, so we should see his debut. Foulquier, Sergi Canos, Jesus Vazquez and Alberto Mari remain injured. 

Tonight's opponents Sociedad have made a solid enough start 2-3-1 with the defeat by 1 goal away to Real Madrid and with a midfield and attack including people like Oyarzabal, Kubo, Brais Mendes and Zubimendi and 12 goals scored so far, our defence will really have to be on their toes. Previous results against them have been all over the place. We beat them when we're weak then throw away points in good seasons, so I won't make any prediction for this, but I'm hoping for a good home win.

Well, I just got back from the stadium and have mixed feelings. For the first 30 minutes I thought we were the better team but then we conceded a dumb goal from a stupid mistake by Diakhaby. He's like Valencia in miniature: has a couple of good games, makes you think he's turned the corner and it will get better from now on and then reverts to business as usual. The second killer was the sending off of Amallah, which seemed harsh from where I was sitting. He'd been looking good up to then and almost playing as a second striker. That killed us off. I thought we'd fold in the second half but we fought well and a draw would have been a fairer result. I thought we were weak on the left, Diego Lopez did little, Gaya not much more. Thierry did well handling their winger and Fran Perez was lively. Duro was active but had very little service. Guerra is obviously a good prospect but his decision making tonight was off and Mamardashvili's distribution could have been better. I liked the little I saw of Yaremchuk's debut. He was active and a physical presence.

Overall, Sociedad clearly had a better squad than us. (Qualifying for Champions League gets you money you can use to buy better players... someone should tell our owner. ) But we mostly held our own. If it hadn't been for the sending off we could have got a draw. The big problem remains the squad depth as evidenced by the fact that our final defence consisted of 4 central defenders. With Vazquez out and Gaya often injured, that's a problem. On to the next game.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Almeria - Valencia match thread

 I'm off to Valencia tomorrow so with apologies and unless anyone else wants to do them, these will be shorter than usual until November, but a placeholder for comments is better than nothing.

Valencia produced a strong and convincing performance in the previous game to earn the first win over Atletico Madrid in nearly a decade. Nevertheless, the team remains an enigma. Doing well against bigger teams but not so well against smaller clubs. At least that's an improvement on last season when we were rubbish against everyone. So which Valencia will show up tomorrow? 

In team news, there are several absences which highlight the problems of a thin squad. Paulista is out likely for the next 2 games. He started the season well, so this is unfortunate. Foulquier similarly should be back soon. Not such a loss some fans will say, but with barely anyone else who can play as right back, it's better to have him for the last 20-25 minutes to give Thierry a rest than playing someone out of position. The case of Vazquez is similar, though he's more promising than Foulquier and his absence is sorely missed as Gaya needs the rest. Canos unfortunately got injured last game and should be out for several to come. I'd expect Diego Lopez to cover for him, with Amallah saved for the Sociedad game, though it could be the reverse. Lastly, there's the long term injury to Mari, a player who was showing promise and problematic with the team so thin up front.

Our rivals Almeria sit bottom of the table. (Useless fact: they're the most recently formed La Liga team, formed in 1989.) Like us, they narrowly escaped relegation last season An 87th minute penalty to equalise in the final game against already relegated Espanyol was all that kept them up. They did take 4 points from us last season and only a missed penalty at Mestalla prevented them from taking all 6. This season their start has been terrible: losing the first two games at home to R Madrid and Rayo and then drawing at Cadiz. Their home game vs Celta was mixed. They went 2 down, fought back to equalise, squandered 2 one-on-one chances with the goalkeeper and then lost to an 87th minute goal. In their last game at Villarreal they took the lead, but eventually lost to a 94th minute goal. On paper, this is a team we should beat easily and the type of game we must win if we have any dreams of a top half finish. In reality? We've thrown away points in so many such games before, so I hope for a win, but don't know what to expect.

The mood around Valencia now is weird. On the one hand, expectations have never been lower. Most of us would be happy with a comfortable 9th or 10th place finish, something that would have been seen as a disaster a few seasons ago. On the other hand, there seems to be a buoyancy and excitement around the team. Attendances for this season so far (obviously early days with only 3 home games) have been nearly 43,000, the highest since 14/15 under Nuno. (We haven't exceeded 43,000 since 2006/7.)

The attitude seems to be that even though the team is much diminished and one of the weakest Valencia squads this century, we at least have an exciting crop of young players from our academy to cheer for. Mosquerra, Guerra, Fran Perez, Diego Lopez and Mari might be raw in most cases, but they're our guys who've come through the youth system and will bleed for the club badge. 

It's hard to say what line-up Baraja will go for, especially with rotation and a midweek game against Sociedad to think about, but I'd expect something like Mamardashvili; Gaya, Diakhaby, Mosquerra, Thierry; Pepelu, Guerra, Almeida; Diego Lopez, Duro, Fran Perez. I would hope Guillamon can be eased back into the squad, Cenk will almost certainly play some of the game (it wouldn't surprise me to see him start instead of Mosquerra) and we may finally see some minutes for Yaremchuk.

Unfortunately, I think it was the weaker version of Valencia that showed up tonight. We're lucky to come away from that with a point as Mamardashvili saved us a few times. Our goals were great, super pace and finish from Diego Lopez after a link-up with Javi Guerra. It was Guerra who got our second as well with solid play from Fran Perez to create the chance. Sadly both times we couldn't hold the lead and the defending and marking was really poor in this game. Next up: Sociedad at home.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Valencia vs Atletico Madrid

 Valencia tomorrow comes up against one of their most annoying opponents. 

It's been nearly 9 years since we blitzed them on 4th October 2014, scoring 3 goals in the first 13 minutes and having Alves save a penalty for a 3-1 win in the early part of Nuno's first season.

Sadly, it's been a story of massive frustration since then. Even though we've beaten every other team, including Barcelona and Real Madrid, this fixture has been an awful one for us. 17 games. 6 draws and 11 defeats. We thought we'd done it early last year, taking a 2-goal lead away only for them to score in the 64th, 91st and 94th minutes. Sorry to say I don't expect to see this change tomorrow and think we'll lose by a couple.

I'll be out all day, so will miss this game and putting this post up as a "placeholder" for comments during and after the game.

Monday, September 11, 2023

9/11 - A sad anniversary

 11th September is a significant event in recent history, in global politics it means the 2001 attacks in New York. With apologies to those affected by that, 11th September 2019 is also a sad anniversary for Valencia fans. After 2 successful seasons, which saw the club secure back-to-back Champions League qualifications, a Europa League semi-final and the first silverware in 12 years by beating Barcelona in our centenary year, the ownership decided to destroy a good thing, pressing the reset button, dismantling a successful sporting structure under Alemany and Longoria and beginning the club's current downwards spiral into mediocrity. 

All of this because Lim couldn't contain his ego and wanted to mess and fool around again in the club's business after years of leaving it to professionals and getting 60 million upwards of Champions League cash a season in return. Marcelino claimed his firing was that he disobeyed Lim's orders to deliberately lose in the Copa. Since Gary Neville said in a later interview that Lim had told him to get out of the Copa as quickly as possible this seems very likely. Marcelino had also given some interviews which were straying into being provocative, but that happens and a compromise could have been reached. 

Bizarrely and depressingly, some of our fans at the time actually applauded this recklessness on the grounds that stability wasn't important, Marcelino's style was boring and some of the young players weren't being given a chance. (Just take a look at some of the comments at the time on the Facebook group or on here.) Mainly KangIn they were thinking of.... what happened there? Some even argued Celades would be a stopgap until we got someone like Pochettino or Ten Hag. I'm sorry, but talk about naive! Instead we got worse in the form of Bordalas and the nothingness of Gracia and finishes of 9th, 13th, 9th and 16th. The current trajectory seems to lead to one place: relegation.

Pretty much everything I predicted back then came true and worse: 
"Under Lim, those youth will never be the future lifeblood of the club anyway. They'll be sold, Alcacer-style, as soon as a richer club puts a chunk of cash down. For me, that's demoralising and seriously makes me question my support. Not for Valencia, but for Lim's Valencia, since his way is to remain a permanent c-list club, an also ran to the elite, who exist primarily as a means for him to profit and for Mendes to make money by showcasing talent.

We will never be at the level of a Bayern, Barcelona, Man City or Juventus but I think an Atletico Madrid style position is possible and is exactly where we were in the 2000s. This week definitively closes the door on that. Lim clearly will never ever accept that success can only be achieved through stability and trusting the club to professionals and has just proved it be pressing the "restore to year 2016 factory settings" button.

You can forget any ideas of Celades just being a stopgap for a serious high level coach. Celades is indeed unlikely to last long, but what serious coach will sign up for a project that sacks them when they achieve everything doable in two seasons? Had this before with Emery and Nuno "we'll be better off with anyone else" and each time we got chaos and regression. Change is NOT always for the better."

Sadly, it should be clear now to virtually everyone that Lim couldn't care less about the club. His mouthpiece Lay Hoon said in a recent interview that the goal now is to avoid relegation. That is the limit of these people's aspirations. I could write a long list of things these people could do better, but it would be a waste of time as I know it wouldn't happen. Until Meriton goes, that's exactly where we'll be at. 

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Alaves - Valencia match thread

So it's a tricky opponent today in Vitoria. Valencia have Almeida back in the line-up but again we see the problem with not doing transfer business in time. None of the 3 latest additions are judged ready yet.

10 minutes in and it's a ludicrous start. Valencia gave away a penalty in the first minute when Mamardashvili fouled after a poor back pass. He saved the penalty but then it was retaken for encroachment. He saved yet again! I guess Mamar penalty saves are like buses, you wait a while and then 2 come at once. A fat lot of good it did us: poor defending with Diakhaby failing to clear and it goes in off Cenk. The stupidity of not adding a central defender in the window comes back to kill us, with Diakhaby back in defence and back to mischief, costing us with mistakes.

Pathetic. Anyone still want to disagree that we're fighting to stay up this year after a poor transfer window? The squad is weaker than last year and we saw today how just 1 injury, to Paulista, messes everything up. The squad is paper thin as shown by subbing off Duro for an unknown youth player. Both teams squandered a few chances, but I don't think this result was undeserved at all. If anything, we deserved to lose by more. Only bright spot was that Mosquera did well.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Another poor transfer window closes.

 Another mediocre transfer window for Valencia has just closed. Yes, I know that some will argue that the players brought are upgrades, but they're not looking at the bigger picture. Look at the chart below. That's the value of Valencia's squad on 1st of September of every year of the Lim era, in millions of euros, adjusted for inflation.

The trend is clear. Valencia came off its worst season in 35 years. We narrowly escaped an embarrassing relegation.

A normal club would have reacted to that appropriately: by hitting the ground running when the market opened. Valencia had 2 problems last season. The first was having a number of mercenaries. Players on loan contracts who weren't committed. The bigger problem was lack of goals. Who was Valencia's remaining highest scorer from the 2022-23 season on 30th July? The 4th highest scorer of the 2022-23 season? Give up? It was this guy...

Yep, Diakhaby, with 3 goals, was Valencia's 4th highest scorer last season!  Ahead of him were

Kluivert 9 goals
Lino 8 goals
Cavani 7 goals.

None of those were prolific but after letting all 3 go, a normal club would have identified that and made strong efforts early in the window to improve. Instead we get the same rubbish and failure to learn.

Instead of strengthening the squad, the club went the other way. 14 players left, 4 joined with 1 loan being made permanent. Most of the changes are below (with Esquerdo and Castillejo's exits missing and Yaremchuk joining.)

Overall, by position:

Herrerin is probably the least controversial exit. He was brought in for emergency cover. He played all of 12 minutes for us in the Copa versus La Nucia. Thanks and goodbye. Not losing Mamardashvili is, like the dog that didn't bark in the Sherlock Holmes story, significant. A positive, since we're better with him than without.

Keeping Gaya is another positive, but getting rid of Comert is stupid. Not to say that Comert was anything amazing, but his low cost and adaptation to the squad and La Liga and lack of replacement are all questionable. Lato is a loss. A loyal club servant and good back-up. Keeping Guillamon (better in defence than midfield) would be a positive, if only Baraja would play him. Though Paulista started well here, his injury history means we're weaker here.

This saw the biggest changes. Racic is another I wouldn't have given away. Musah is a big long term loss for me. Yes, he had an awful last season but I think he was a good long term prospect. Unfortunately, money was needed. Pepelu and Amallah look like good additions. With the emergence of Guerra, this is the only area where we seem to be as fine as last season.

Cavani, Lino, Kluivert, Castillejo all gone. Only Canos and Yaremchuk added. The latter could be worthwhile, but after wasting 2 months of the the transfer window chasing Rafa Mir, we are clearly weaker there. Yaremchuk has actually scored a hat-trick this season, but against an Icelandic team in Europa League qualifying. Him, Duro and Mari, injured until Christmas, makes it a poor set-up.

All in all, I see the squad, despite 1 or 2 decent additions, as weaker and lacking in depth. I don't see anything in this window to say that Meriton have learned. Quite the opposite: I don't go for conspiracies but often it looks like these guys are deliberately sabotaging us. Forget any hope of a top half finish and let's hope we stay up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Valencia sign Amallah

Valencia have confirmed the addition of Selim Amallah, who becomes the 4th player to join us in the summer transfer window, counting Cenk. Amallah is mainly an attacking midfielder, but can also play central midfield or left wing. He joined Valladolid back in January and managed 2 goals in his 7 appearances, reasonable for a relegated club. He's the first Moroccan player at the club since Munir in 2016-17, though he also has Belgian citizenship, having been born there, so doesn't take up a non-EU spot.

Valencia paid 150,000 for his loan and have a buy option of 7.5 million. After the foolishness of developing players like Kluivert and Lino for other clubs last season without realistic buy options, Valencia have smartened up in this window. 

The club still has hopes of adding 1 or 2 players before the window closes late on Friday. Chief importance is a forward after Cavani and Marcos Andre's exits. The problem is that, after dallying all summer, there are less than 70 hours left. The Rafa Mir deal seems to have fallen through. The main issue seems to be that Sevilla were ready to sell him, but wanted cash and a definite sale, while Valencia were only offering a loan with buy option, which wouldn't guarantee Sevilla funds to get a replacement. Valencia don't want to splash the cash, preferring a "try before you buy" approach. The club's main plan B is now rumoured to be Colombian Rafael Borre, who plays for Eintracht Frankfurt. He'd an ok first season for them with 8 in 31 league games, plus 4 in 8 in Europe, but his form dropped off last year with just 2 goals in 32 league games. People who've watched him seem to rate him ok, but these scoring statistics don't excite me. 

A winger is the 2nd wish from the club and we will see what happens there. There has been no more news on Ivan Jaime and previous windows have seen players (often from the Mendes stable) emerge out of nowhere at the last minute.