When Marcelino Garcia Toral was hired, many who had followed the Spanish manager’s career knew what to expect. At every team he’s coached, he’s been a big fan of a simple 4-4-2.
He’s been very successful with the 4-4-2, getting Villarreal a 4th place finish in his last year as coach there, so no reason existed for him to not roll out his tried and test formation. The question was how was he going to bend Valencia’s squad into that shape.
Dani Parejo was a natural in the central double pivot, and his companion would be whichever destroyer Valencia were able to get their hands on. They were quite fortunate to get a player of the caliber of Kondogbia, a player who was a midfield force in Monaco before sinking to obscurity on Inter’s bench. A physical powerhouse, he has brought tackles and interceptions to Valencia’s midfield, as well as a silky touch and a surprising range of passing. The two players have established a strong partnership, but a problem looms in the distance.
Marcelino’s Villarreal would commonly trip and fall in the months of February and March, because the 4-4-2 is only as good as it’s double pivot. This would be a problem at Villarreal because they only had two players for their double pivot: Bruno Soriano and Manu Trigueros. They would grow tired as the season wore on, and so their performances would inevitably drop.
At Valencia, the double pivot does and doesn’t have more depth. Due to Kondogbia’s red card against Real Sociedad, he will miss Valencia’s next match against Athletic Bilbao. This will give us insight as to how Marcelino will rotate the midfield. The obvious solution is to put Soler in the double pivot alongside Dani Parejo and play Pereira and Guedes on the wings. This is a fine temporary solution, but the problem with this is that it means that there is less rest for Soler, who is giving exhausting performances every game on the wing.
Should Soler be the primary replacement for the center, Marcelino will need to rotate carefully and unprompted by injury to ensure all 3 players, Parejo, Kondogbia, and Soler, stay fresh. This will then require careful management of Guedes and Pereira, as they are asked to cover Soler on the wing. They will need rest too, and that will require for Marcelino and Orellana to figure out their personal differences to add more depth to the wings. Nacho Gil will also probably be required to rest the wingers as well. Hopefully Gil will be able to take advantage of the opportunities.
Another piece in properly rotating the midfield will be Maksimovic and how he performs when he plays. He has already had some promising cameos, and if he can establish himself as a reliable player, then he will be useful when resting either player in the double pivot. Should he end up not being good enough, he will make the rest of the puzzle much higher.
All in all, Valencia is in a good place, with a strong starting midfield and a decent bench. However, it will take careful management on Marcelino’s part to make sure that the team continues to perform at the high level it has been displaying.