Monday, May 27, 2019

Great end to the centenary season

We have a guest editorial by Abdi Ibrahim, thanks to him for this contribution.

This review will focus on three key areas:

1: Quick summary of the season
2: Marcelino – is he a one trick pony or is there a tactical evolution on the horizon
3: Planning for next season

Season summary

A season that has brought us pain and joy in equal measure has finally ended. The result,  a champions league position next season, a valuable euro experience deep into the competition and a much needed Copa trophy to stick in our cabinet. The most important aspect of what the has team achieved this season was to EXPERIENCE how to WIN when it really matters.

In my opinion our season trajectory changed on two occasions first Piccini late winner against huesca and also when we came back to beat Gijon 3-0 in the Copa second leg. After that game the next 20 games would see Valencia only lose one game and build a self belief that would eventually safe Marcelino’s job. There were times during that rough period where the managers position was under huge pressure. I was one of the few in our fan base that wanted him gone (I’m still not completely sold, but we’ll discuss that later), but fortunately the management showed faith and rightly so in hindsight. The team managed to turn things around and achieve something I thought (as well as many)  wasn’t possible at some stages in the season. Hats off to Marcelino and the team for a great turnaround and for bring us a tangible achievement in the form of a Copa trophy. Like I said before, this is a young team, so learning how to win is the most important thing and hopefully this will be foundation to build on.

Biggest achievement of the season, aside from the obvious Copa win and top 4 achievement, I would say was our defensive record, which has massively improved this season and ultimately that’s a huge part of why we achieved what we did. We had the 3rd  best record both in goals against and clean sheets in La Liga. Something which seemed impossible not long ago. My only concern is our attack has suffered as a result, so we really need to find a balance to optimise our chances of winning.

Player of the season for me is of course Parejo, who’s had another great season and I believe he featured in La Liga’s team of the season. Rightly so, he has given us key goals and assists from midfield (I think he was our leading scorer in La Liga), which say a lot about our average forwards. Parejo has endured a lot of tough times during his time at Valencia, but there’s no one more deserving of our recent success more than him. Don’t get me wrong he has frustrated us countless times and will always be a tier below some of our midfield generals from yesteryear, but he will now  no doubt be synonymous with Valencia now he’s a champion. This is why I feel Parejo should finish his peak years with us, so it’s crucial we keep him. Our defence and GK definitely deserve a shout out for our accomplishments this season, hats off to them all.

Review on Marcelino – can he evolve as a manager?

Going back 6 months ago the Marcelino topic would divide our fan base between those who felt stability was needed and those including myself, who saw weaknesses and thought his limitations will only get us so far. I think it’s fair to stay the right decision was made and he’s definitely earned his stay for NOW. Despite my reservation in keeping him beyond this season, credit where credit is due, he’s really snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Marcelino’s 4-4-2 style built on a solid backline to soak up pressure and hit team on the counter is what we used throughout the season (I personally didn’t like the passive nature of this style) and in the end with luck and hard work from all it brought us success, so again hats off to him for persevering and making it work.

Now let’s get into the limitations of Marcelino recent body of work with Valencia and the reason why I alluded to a need for a tactical evolution. Marcelino style in my opinion has limitations in that it’s very passive and the few times we have possession it relies on smooth fast error free transition from defending to attacking. Against elite teams that dominate the ball much like what we saw last night against Barcelona and against Real Madrid in the league recently, it works perfectly and tactically that’s how you play superior teams, so that fine. Where I have an issue is we have used this same method against inferior teams many times home and away  throughout the season, instead controlling and stamping our authority in the game. There were many times in the season where a weaker opposition was dominating possession and I would wonder why we’re not asserting our dominance and quality in the game.

Another issue I have with Marcelino’s style is our players lack of confidence and quality to stay composed in pressured situations. For example the defence kick the ball out aimlessly anytime a little pressured is applied, Neto struggles playing the ball from the back, and apart from parejo and few others, most struggle to hold the ball. Now I don’t know if this is a coaching instruction or if the players we have just don’t have that quality, but for a professional footballer at this level playing for Valencia not to have composure is unacceptable. Either way this needs to improve if we want to progress, the modern game is built on control and composure.

Finally I put forward this question, has Marcelino shown tactical flexibility? In my opinion, I haven’t seen it and his persistence in sticking with with plan A was there for all to see during the season. Who knows maybe a change in setup and some of those draws in the league could have been victories. But I guess since we achieved our target of top 4 it wasn’t terminal. This was worth mentioning because we seemed very predictable and teams new what to expect, therefore meant our opposition would prepare for us knowing what was coming. I’d like to see Marcelino mix it up and become unpredictable, maybe try a 4-2-3-1 or even 3-4-3 with wingbacks setup, after all we have the personnel to play those system. I say that to say this, the modern game has changed and requires a manager to adapt and be flexible depending on the opposition.

These are the key areas of Marcelino’s evolution I would like to see him improve next season. But overall I’m glad he’s proved me wrong in delivering our seasons objective and then some. I hope he doesn’t rest on his laurels and evolves as a manager.

Next seasons plans – ins and outs 

I think it’s safe to say this is the best position Valencia have been in for a very long time. With a very good squad foundation to build on, another champions league qualification, a trophy, a competent front office and ownership and a new stadium on the horizon the future does indeed look bright. But only if we continue this upwards trajectory where in. We have to be smart but ambitiously aggressive in strengthening this team.

Must keep: Neto, Domenech, Garay, Paulista, Diakhaby, Gaya, Wass, Parejo, Kondogbia, Coquelin, Soler, Guedes, Torres, Gameiro and Mina?

Loan: Lato, Kangin, Racic

Sell: Rodrigo?, Maksi, Murillo?, Vezo  Medran, Piccini, Sobrino
Rodrigo – in my opinion Rodrigo has regressed from last season and is expendable. He’s hot and cold and doesn’t provide the consistency we need from a forward. We haven’t had a prolific goal scorer since soldado, Paco was next in line but we know how that story ended. We have similar players to Rodrigo, which is why I believe selling him for a good price (45-50 mil) would allow us to replenish our forward line and go in a different direction. I think Rodrigo at 28 has hit his ceiling in terms of development and last season (2017-2018) was his peak I believe. That’s why I suggested the players below who are 3-6 years younger and have a better upside.

Mina – I’m indecisive about Mina, he can be very frustrating but can be useful rotational player that offers key goals from the bench. For that reason and if we sell Rodrigo then Mina stays.

Murillo – he’s a player I like. Not sure what the problem is with Marcelino, but if that can be resolved I’d keep him. He’s approaching the peak age for a defender and his experience and quality would be useful. Hope he stays and gets he’s fair share of opportunities.


Right back – anyone of Mukiele, Pedro Porro or Dubois
Dubois 1st Mukiele 2nd Porro 3rd

Central midfield: Teji Savanier, I’ve mentioned this guy before, he’s a natural leader who’s taken the french league by storm playing for Nimes. I think he can be brought relatively cheap but we need get in there early, as there’s speculation Sevilla are sniffing around.

Right midfield: Denis Suarez, with many players expected to leave Barcelona, I think we can get him at a discounted price.

Forwards: any two of  Raul de Tomas, Mariano Diaz and Wesley Moraes.

RDT – reminds me of soldado so much. He recently said he wants to stay at Madrid (don’t know why, should have learned from Diaz mistake In  coming back), but they have bigger fish to catch in the summer. We’ve been linked with him before and he would be a very good signing and I think he’s getable.

Diaz – he realised what a huge mistake he made in coming back. Showed at Lyon he’s a very good player. Another player we were recently linked with, who would be great signing.

Wesley moraes – he’s a different type of forward to what we have. Wesley is a physical imposing forward who has speed and good link up play, reminds me a little of balotelli without the childishness. He’s fresh off a 17 goals and 10 assists season, which has not gone unnoticed from the English league as Newcastle and West Ham have already started proceedings. We were linked with him last season before we went for gameiro.

I think Rodrigo will go, with Atletico, Napoli, Madrid (don’t know why), Barcelona (still don’t known why) being linked with him. If he’s sold at an inflated price and we buy any two of the above, that would be a good bit of business in my eyes.
I just hope we don’t sell any of our young homegrown assets. Gaya, Torres, soler and kangin should be kept at all cost, that’s our present and future stars.

Let me know what you guys think.