Monday, August 20, 2012

Valencia CF season 2012/13 preview

Valencia CF season 2012/13 preview
Valencia CF was very active in the transfer window this summer, with players going out and new players coming in. Valencia CF also had a coach change with Unai Emery leaving and going to coach Spartak Moscow and former Valencia CF player Mauricio Pellegrino becoming the new coach.

The biggest loss for Valencia CF is probably Jordi Alba as he was the breakout star from the previous season and thus got the attention of Spanish giants FC Barcelona. Performing great at the Euro 2012 didn't help keep him at Valencia CF and he was determined to leave, so Valencia CF had no option than to get as much as it can from his sale. He was ultimately sold for 15 million euros to Barcelona, they tried to include Paco in the deal as well, but Valencia CF would have none of it. 

Probably the second biggest name to leave was Mehmet Topal who had two very good season at Valencia CF and was a key player in the midfield, where he swapped with David Albelda for starting position. He was sold for 4.5 million euros to Fenerbahce, at least 2 million euros bellow his market value.

Others who left are Hedwiges Maduro who left for Sevilla, Dealbert who joined Kuban Krasondar, Aritz Aduriz who joined Athletic Bilbao, Michel Herrero who joined Valencia CF neighbors Levante and just recently Chori Dominguez canceled his contract with Valencia CF and went on to join Rayo Vallecano as a free agent. 

Overall Valencia CF racked up 22 million euros from the sale of players, mainly most of the money came from the Jordi Alba sale. So far Valencia CF has only spend 17.5 million euros on purchases and has at least 7 million euros that it can spend for a left back.

Valencia CF didn't have any big signings this summer and all of the purchases were cheap options and steals.  That said Valencia CF got some pretty good players, mainly because Valencia CF looks to be smart at the market and find players who have only only one year left of contract to lure them in and get them on the cheap or work before hand, try and get personal agreements with the players and work to sign them long before the transfer market opens.

Coming as a third goalkeeper is Felipe Ramos, though he is going to mainly feature for the B team, he will cover when one of the two main goalkeepers are injured, like in this case Guaita.

For the defense we only brought in Joao Pereira and apart from him we haven't brought anyone really, the team purchased Alex Quiantilla, but he is mostly for the B team as well and is more of a defensive midfielder that can also play in defense. He is going to be called upon only when some of the defenders are injured or can't play, but even then we might see Pardo ahead of him.

Joao Pereira is the new right back, he comes for a 3.5 million euros from Sporting Lisbon and judging by his Euro 2012 performance he is a reliable right back and is a good purchase.
Valencia CF is still negotiating with Lyon over the transfer of Aly Cissokho, but I expect the transfer to be finalized very soon. 

In the midfield area we signed Andres Guardado who comes from Deportivo La Coruno as a free agent as his contract expired and has signed a 5 years deals with Valencia CF. He is a very talented player, who still has room to grow and we can expect him to be an improvement at left wing over what Mathieu and Alba were last season.
Fernando Gago was brought in as a defensive midfielder, he comes from Real Madrid for a fee of 4 million euros, in the deal was also included Sergio Canales, so Valencia CF basically got 2 players for the price of 11.5 million euros, pretty good business there. 

The new signings in attack for Valencia CF are Jonathan Viera who comes from UD Las Palmas for a 2.5 million euros fee, a real talent, touted by many as the new Silva and certainly he has proven his talent in preseason and I expect him to be a huge star for Valencia CF very soon and Nelson Valdez who comes on a 1 year loan dead from Rubin Kazan.

Preseason Report:
The fist preseason match was against German outfit Eintracht Braunschweig who play in the second division in the Bundesliga. This was also Valencia CF new coach Mauricio Pellegrino his first game in charge of Valencia CF, or any other team for that matter, as he was always an assistant coach under former Valencia CF coach Rafael Benitez. Valencia CF drew 1-1 with them and there was no transmission of the match to see how the team played.

Second match was against SV Rodinghausen which Valencia CF beat 2-1 and according to some media the play was pretty good and some of the youngsters showed real progress.

Third match was a walkover against Arminia Bielefeld who are basically 3rd division Dutch club and nothing less than a big victory would have been disappointing. In this match Jonathan Viera really shone, providing 2 assists and having a big influence in the attacking third.

Fourth match was against Portugal giants Porto and was played for the trophy that Valencia CF awards, or Orange Trophy or in Spanish Trofeu Naranja. The match was pretty interesting, also very equal and Parejo did pretty well in midfield, controlling the match for most of the time. Standard time finished 1-1, but Valencia CF won on penalties after Diego Alves did some pretty amazing saves and Porto failed to score 4 times.

Fifth match was against Indonesia, the club went there as a big sponsor opportunity and to advertise the team more to the Asian market and it was a big success. As it turns out tens of millions followed the match and also an entertainment show that hosted Soldado, Jonas and one more. I have quite a bit of visitors from there as well, though haven't see an increase since Valencia CF went there. Anyways the team won that match 5-0.

Next match Valencia CF won 2-0 over Tottenham at the Mestalla. Pellegrino called this match a real test for Valencia CF and said he is taking it seriously and the team would show its strengths at this match. The play wasn't that great and Tottenham did have more possession and chances, but Valencia CF defended strongly and took its chances.

Final match was against Eintracht Frankfurt where Valencia CF lost 4-2. It was a surprise loss, but Pellegrino played most second team and B team players so the result wasn't that surprising, especially knowing the back line was mostly B team as well as the unfit Rami.

System and players:
New Valencia CF coach Mauricio Pellegrino said that he wasn't interested in formations and systems, but about concepts and that he'd like Valencia CF be really tight defensively and improve in attack, especially on the sides.

He continued using the same 4-2-3-1 system Unai Emery was using ever since he came as a coach. So the formation will be 4-2-3-1 this season as well, with pretty much the same squad from last year, with only few changes.

Formation: 4-2-3-1
Starting 11: Guaita/Diego; Pereira, Rami, Costa, Mathieu; Gago, Tino/Ever; Feghuoli, Jonas, Guardado; Soldado.

Lets start from the back and go from there. Vicente Guaita and Diego Alves will be battling out for the starting position. Guaita was the favorite for the starting eleven this season as well, but with his injury Diego gets a chance and he did great against Real Madrid and if he keeps the same level, its likely that he will become the starting goalkeeper, although its likely that both goalkeepers will rotate quite a bit. But Valencia CF is lucky to have two top quality keepers and we are set in this department.

In defense we have Joao Pereira and Antonio Barragan that will battle for the right back position, with Joao Pereira having the advantage as he is more experienced, played in a more competitive environment for a long time and overall seems the better player, but Barragan may give him a challenge if he keeps improving.

In central defense we have Rami, Costa and Ruiz and these will be battling for starting position. Adil Rami was really bad in the last preseason match against a way weaker opposition, so its likely well see Ricardo Costa and Victor Ruiz be the defensive duo for the first 3 matches and then I can see Rami getting a chance and fighting mostly with Ruiz for starting position, as Costa is pretty solid and seems to improve with age.

Jeremy Mathieu is the only natural left back and has been great for the whole preseason. He has great attacking skills and always supports the attacking players, but can defend really well as well as he has great acceleration and speed. Last year he changed places and positions with Alba, but so far this season he doesn't have a competition on his position, although Valencia CF is working on getting Aly Cissokho.

In midfield we have the reliable veteran David Albelda who will be covering the defensive midfield slot and new signing Fernando Gago that is likely to overtake Albelda for the DM slot, as the veteran is probably in his last year as a player.

Slightly further forward we have Alberto Tino Costa, Ever Banega and Daniel Parejo who will be competing for the central midfield slot. Right now Tino Costa is in the starting position just because he has more experience than Daniel Parejo and Ever Banega is injured, after he broke his bone last season on his leg and is still recovering. But once he is fully fit and has had enough training, he is likely to slowly but surely overtake Tino Costa in the starting position as CM. Ever Banega was a real threat last season and with him on the team Valencia CF went on to win most of the matches in the first half of the season, slowing down considerably though when he got injured. 

On the right side we have Sofiane Feghuoli who is going to be the started and back-up Pablo Hernandez who may actually leave soon for Swancea City AFC, though we'll see how that goes. Last season both players were very useful and between them had about 20 assists and 10 goals. Pretty equal in skill, but Feghuoli was more consistent and so for that he will take the starting position. You always have Piatti who can play pretty much anywhere, from right wing, left wing, attacking midfield to striker. So he could also be used on the right wing sometimes, although he is likely to be more of a back-up to Guarado on the left wing.

On the left wing as I already mentioned we have Andres Guardado who will be undisputed starter as there is weak competition for that side, coming mostly from Piatti, we also have Juan Bernat, but he is likely at least 2 more years from any kind of decent involvement in the first team. 

We have 2 natural attacking midfielders in Sergio Canales and Jonathan Viera, but Jonas Goncalves has really made that position his own and is likely to be starter there for most of the matches, except when Valencia CF play 4-4-2 and he starts as a second striker. Canales and Viera are likely to get matches in the Copa Del Rey, the team has depth, so we can see a completely different side in that competition, though Canales is likely to play as an AM against weaker opponents and of course if he recovers well. He did have the same long injury twice, so we'll have to wait and see how he recovers.

In attack we have the undisputed starter Roberto Soldado, our recent loan signing Nelson Valdez as a direct back-up to Soldado and then we have youth player Paco Alcacer, though Pellegrino will probably take his time with him and is not likely to start in many matches.

Overall this is going to be an exciting season once again and I know I say that every season, but with a new coach, squad reshuffling and some interesting happenings with the competition, this is going to be a season to follow. I have the same expectations I had last season and that is to finish 3rd place in La Liga, reach the last 16 in the Champions League and go till the semi-final in Copa Del Rey. Anything else will be a bonus and while I would want to think we can do it, I'd rather be pleasantly surprised than majorly disappointed.