Thursday, December 25, 2014

Valencia CF season so far

Warning: Long wall of text

Valencia CF had a rough summer, Bankia had announced the sale process of Valencia CF months before and there were several companies with offers on the table to acquire the club. Peter Lim's company Meriton scored the most points by the evaluation company responsible for the sale process and the talks between the club foundation, the Valencia government and Bankia would result in the agreement that this was the best deal for all sides.

Just when things seemed to be running smoothly the sales process would hit a brick wall, with Bankia deciding to change up the initial sales agreement and complicate the sale of the club. Of course they had their reasons, now that they had a serious and good offer, they decided they want more money out of it. So the process came to a grinding stop. Even though it was now just Peter Lim's offer the sale of the club was in question.

Even with all the problems around the sale of the club, the staff was hard at work at securing new players and rebuilding the team. One of the best deals was actually achieved the previous season when Valencia CF purchased Otamendi from Porto for 12 million euros, but due to an unforeseen foreign players clause issue the club was forced to loan out the player. The player was kind of forgotten in the period that followed, after all Valencia CF had immediate issues and a squad that was playing each match. Unknowing to anyone Otamendi would prove to be one of the best signings for Valenca CF in the past several years and looking from today's perspective a damn good transfer deal.

The defense this season with Otamendi at the helm of it has been impeccable, in fact gone are the days were I would get gray hair in the final 10 minutes of every match, wishing its over so that the team could hold on to the 2-1 lead and not receive a last minute goal, which of course the team ended up conceding a last minute goal. If it was not last minute than the defense sure had a tendency to complicate things and fail to clear basic situations. Otamendi has been the best player so far and most do agree with me on this one, as I had a poll recently which had 90% of the people voting for Otamendi as the best new player this season and I think overall the best player as well, new or old. 

Peter Lim who had purchased Rodrigo Moreno and Andre Gomes from Benfica would loan out the players to Valencia CF, technically Benfica loaned them out to Valencia CF, but they were both owned by Meriton. That won't be all though and the club and Meriton would work closely together to bring in another major signing in Alvaro Negredo from Manchester City on loan with a clause in his contract to purchase the player for 25 million euros if Valencia CF qualify for the champions league.

Many players would be on their way out though, with several players leaving the club as a free agent, among them Ricardo Costa, Jonas Goncalves and others, with Juan Bernat and Jeremy Mathieu being sold to Bayern and Barcelona in a matter which the club didn't have an option to keep them. This would actually turn out for the best, as Mathieu was in my personal view too much error prone and Juan Bernat was good, but still very inexperienced and inconsistent.

Of course looking at it from the current position its even better since Otamendi was automatically a starter and was able to really gel with the team and of course Jose Gaya has done amazingly well, in fact so much so that I think his contributions easily outshine what Bernat contributions to the team were.

The club itself bought some players, Rodrigo De Paul was purchased from Racing club and Skhodran Mustafi was purchased from Sampdoria for 8 million euros. Lucan Orban came in for 4 million euros goalkeeper Yoel arrived on a loan deal initially and was then purchased.

The final change would be the coach, the club decided to end the contract with Pizzi who actually did very well the 6 months he was coach and the arrival of Nuno was purely political since he is close friends with the agent Jorge Mendes our club was dealing with, who is also a personal friend with Peter Lim, so the change was purely political and not based on performance or sporting considerations. This was the cause of much anger among the fans who saw Nuno as an inferior coach who was unproven at higher level.

With all of the changes that occurred, almost a completely new squad, new coaching staff and a transition to possibly a new ownership the pressure was on for results. Of course the brunt of this pressure laid on the new coach who had to make a team out of a random group of players, most of them new, some of the coming from the B team and few old players that survived the rebuilding process.

Things could not be harder for the coach, when the fixtures were revealed and we found out that Valencia CF is going play against Sevilla in its first match of the new season, away from home to make matters worse. The second match was not easier either with Malaga who at that point was significantly weakened from the time they had Pellegrini as coach, but were still a relatively strong team.

Surprising to many the first match would end in a draw, even though Valencia CF played with one less player for much of the second half due to De Paul getting sent off with a straight red card in his first appearance for Valencia. Sevilla was a strong team, coached by former Valencia CF coach Unai Emery and strengthened by Ever Banega who Valencia CF sold to them.

More surprising still is that the team would go on and score 3 goals in the next 4 matches, winning all of them, before being held to a 1-1 draw against a very organized Real Sociedad side before going on to beat defending champions Atletico Madrid by three goals to one.

Fast forward to today and the team is currently sitting in 4th position on the table with 31 points out of 16 matches played in what has been a solid start to the season, one which I wouldn't have guessed if you asked me in the summer. I though that just muddling through this season would be okay and building up for a good second season, but the performances have been great and we are looking towards a very successful first season.

When  I look at the team and all of the players I think we have a good team, we have good amount of depth as well, with Lucas Orban, Vezo and Cancelo as defensive replacements, all of which have shown great potential to an attack that consists of Negredo, Paco, Moreno. Negredo a very experienced and proficient striker, Paco and Moreno great talents for the present, who've already shown their worth and who've helped the team. The flanks are also quite stacked, with Piatti, Feghouli, De Paul.

One of the weaker links right now is the midfield, Parejo has not always been at his best and has had some inconsistency issues, Fuego is limited in his offensive contributions and while their is no doubt about his superb defensive contributions, one wishes he could do more and help the team to control possession and in an offensive manner.

Gomes has also been very good, he's created space and opportunities for other players, but again sometimes his overall contributions seem a little but low. Felipe Augusto who was purchased last moment basically after the deal with Enzo Perez fell through has proven to be a miss so far. He hasn't impressed at all in the several matches he's been given a chance and Zuculini who in on loan here from Manchester City hasn't even gotten the opportunities to prove himself.

Good thing is that Enzo Perez looks like a done deal right now and is highly poised to join Valencia CF when the transfer window opens, but you never know. He was poised to join Valencia in the summer, but at the last moment Benfica decided to disregard the agreement with Peter Lim for a 25 million transfer fee and demanded 30 millions and thus the transfer failed.

Overall apart from Enzo Perez I don't think there is someone that I would particularly want to join Valencia CF. The team seems quite balanced right now, there is enough players for most of the positions, we have players who can also play in several different positions and we also have some young talented players like Gil and Rotert Ibanez who have too much competition, so they can't even get a good playing time to be able to develop more.

If you are reading this you've made it to the end of my little editorial piece, so good on you and if you found any grammatical errors or contextual errors or wanted to correct me on a piece of information, please do so in the comments section and I will correct any mistake as soon as I can.