Monday, November 6, 2017

Smile, it's Monday (and Valencia are on fire)

It was a year ago tomorrow that I wrote this post after yet another poor display, while other media at the time described Valencia as being at "rock bottom" with 4th coach in a year Prandelli failing to produce the goods. The table made ugly reading with us in a relegation scrap, a full 11 points off the Champs league places. Honestly, to read some of the negativity on the previous blog, you’d think nothing had changed. I was going to comment there, but there are too many to respond to individually.
Compared to last year...
  • Valencia have equalled their best ever start to a season, the team is on fire, getting great results with football that is nice to watch. Rival after rival has been smashed: 6 at Betis, 5 against Malaga, 4-0 against Sevilla. 7 wins in a row.
  • Zaza has scored more goals than Luis Suarez, Greizmann, Bale and Ronaldo combined.
  • Rodrigo who I described back then as a player who “can't finish to save his life” has scored the same number of goals as Suarez/Greizmann/Bale. Even Mina has scored more than any of those “big names” despite being a sub most of the time.
  • Soler, one of the most promising young players in European football has emerged to strengthen our midfield, while Kondogbia is now doing what Enzo Perez couldn’t. In fact the team has strengthened in almost every position and has done so without breaking the bank.
  • We are now being talked of seriously as title contenders.
And if you doubt that anything has changed, I keep an eye on most of our rivals' blogs and we're scaring them. At the start of the season Sevilla fans sniggered about us as "a club that is ill, a disaster, lipstick on a pig." Now the same commenters are saying that we "continue to look potential league winners" or that we "look the best team in the league so far....have no European football to worry about and have a great chance to pull a huge suprise and win la liga." The fear and respect factor, absent for too long, has returned.

Do I need to go on….?
Is everything perfect with us? Not totally, but when is it ever perfect for any club? Our 2 right backs are inconsistent, the defence needs a bit of work, especially from set pieces, Soler has been a little off-form in the last month and there were a few negative headlines about the Zaza incident, though that was blown out of proportion by Madrid media keen to see us fail.

Valencia is benefitting right now from an almost perfect storm. Not only are our manager and players performing at the highest level, most of our opponents are below their best. Maybe that’s a temporary thing but right now the situation with our rivals is.....
  • Sevilla may have peaked. They don’t look like they’ve managed the change from Monchi and Sampaoli. Berizzo’s rotations are being criticised and their record signing Muriel isn’t producing the goods.
  • Atletico Madrid look stale. Greizmann is badly off form and seems to have his head elsewhere, probably on a big money transfer next summer. Maybe they’ll improve once their transfer ban ends and maybe they’ll spend the money gained from Greizmann wisely but maybe not and there is a growing feeling that Cholo Simeone may have run out of steam. An impending exit from the Champions league won’t help their finances either.
  • Real Madrid are struggling. Benzema and Bale are playing poorly and are being constantly whistled by their own fans. Ronaldo is off form and is starting to look over the hill. Still a star name, but his transfer value will drop if it goes on this way.
  • Barcelona are the only club that looks “with it” partly down to Valverde (whose departure from Bilbao weakens them, another plus for us) and partly because Messi is on another planet. Even there, there are problems ahead. Neymar has gone and his replacement has been injured and probably won’t be as good. Suarez hasn’t been producing, partly due to injury, but he hits 31 soon and his best days may be behind him. Most of all, there’s the delightful prospect, if you’re not a Barcelona fan, that Messi may leave for nothing, as he still hasn’t signed a new contract. So a player that Barcelona hoped would carry them forward or that they could at least get 400m for, could be out next season.
I still think the last 3 clubs will likely finish ahead of us at the end of this season, but even if that happens, we are favourites to finish somewhere in top 4 and return to the Champions league, a brilliant achievement when most expected us to scrape into the Europa league at best. But that’s just short term, the longer term picture looks even rosier. While we have the youngest squad of the top sides, they all face the challenge of having replace key players who are all coming to the latter part of their careers. Ronaldo, Benzema, Messi, Suarez, Iniesta, Pique, Gabi, Juanfran, FelipeLuis are all at least 30 and can’t carry their sides forever.

With the usual caveats about how it's early in the season etc, we may well be seeing the best Valencia squad since the Benitez era, so let's sit back and enjoy it and park a bit of the negativity. With that, I'll end my rant about your rants ;) with the words of Marcelino...
"Not losing any game in 38 is impossible. But let's enjoy the moment, the attitude, the points we have, the constant support that exists between everyone."