Sunday, August 9, 2020

Keys to the Next Season

The new season for Valencia is set to start on Monday, August 10. That's when new coach Javi Gracia will take hold of the reins of the team and start working with them. As the date approaches, I would like to take some time to go over the keys to the next season's success.


Valencia must act quick in the transfer market. With a long list of players on the blacklist and with plans overhaul the entire squad, Valencia cannot afford to wait. In recent seasons we have seen Valencia wait until the last moments of the transfer market before beginning to move. This has caused Valencia to lose many signings to other teams.

With budget being a key issue for the next season, which is partially why so many sales are planned, we could see a scenario in which Valencia cannot secure signings without first getting rid of the players on hand. This seems to be already happening on two levels. Firstly, Diego Liete is reportedly the first signing for the team but the signing will remain on hold until some players are offloaded. Secondly, with only 3 non-EU passports available to the team, the pool of signings for Valencia is restricted. Paulista is on his way to acquiring an EU passport, so this will help take some pressure off. Any time wasted will give other teams opportunities to steal the players.

Finally, Javi Gracia must give his input in terms of both incoming and outgoing transfers. Lim and management have shown they are incapable of making that decision and have refused to hire a sporting director. Javi Gracia is the only one as such that is capable of making the decision from a sporting perspective rather than a purely economic one. 


This is one that I have seen completely missed in similar articles from other sources. Every player with the exception of 2, have been on the injury list at one point or another for Valencia. With key players unavailable and a lack of effective replacements on the bench, Valencia suffered for long runs in the season.

There has already been movement in this department. Early July, one of Valencia's doctors, Dr.Casany, resigned after losing the confidence of management in the ability to handle injuries, specifically the Guedes injury. Dr. Pedro Mateu took over after. Additionally, several academy doctors and physios have been fired just this week.

A key part in this is also making sure that players who are injury prone are offloaded if possible and any new signings vetted more rigorously in terms of their injury history.

The fitness of some players has also been of question in games. Some players were caught walking or sleeping at crucial points of the game and have cost the team valuable points.

With COVID-19 affecting somewhere between 35-50% of the Valencia squad and recent studies showing that there are long-term/chronic affects even after recovery, the medical department should be equipped to deal with this. They will also have an important role to play to keep the squad and staff safe as the situation continues to evolve.


The departure of Ferran has aired out a lot of dirty laundry about the squad. These were things that many fans have speculated about from the attitude displayed by various players, and it is only now that confirmation has been given. Salary disputes, contract renewals, egos, loyalty to Marcelino and the resentment from his firing and the alienation/blame of younger players for his departure. How Gracia deals with this will show a lot about his character.


Valencia has been very predictable in games this season. Most teams have been able to read and nullify the Valencia tactics and it isn't very hard to do that. The team is designed, in theory, to play counterattacking football. Soak all the opposition pressure and hit back in explosive counterattacks. However, under Celades this was really missing. The team would get 2 or 3 passes into the counter attack and then pass the ball back at the first sign of an obstacle or challenge from the opposition team. Then the players would get stuck playing this very tame possession football without the ability to do so and struggled in breaking down the opposition defense. The team would then be forced to surrender possession. Closer to the second half of the season, the team decided to just hoof the ball up the field every time they would get stuck in this possession period after a failed counter attack. This almost certainly resulted in giving possession back to the opposition. 

Gracia has to be willing to reward good performance and punish poor performance. A merit based system should be implemented over the favoritism based system we have seen recently. Even if the player is a senior player or is a big name signing, if they are not performing to the required level, they need to negative stimulus to correct the behavior. Once a player has their spot in the team guaranteed despite poor performance, then they start to feel entitled and no motivation or growth occurs. 

Gracia should look to be more flexible in his tactics and formations. The rigid ways of previous coaches has seen Valencia adopt a rather strange loyalty to the 4-4-2 formation in all scenarios regardless of opposition. The positions of players has also been another area where the previous coaches have been rigid. Players like Guedes, Soler and Kang In must be experimented with to find out their ideal position rather than simply adopting their position from previous coaches. 


Ferran warned that care must be taken with other younger players to avoid a scenario similar to his. Him and Kang In were in the same bubble of exclusion so no doubt they have had many conversations with regards to this. There needs to be plenty of opportunity for young players to participate and get some minutes under their belt whether that's for Valencia or on loan with another team. Having the players sit on the bench or in the stands and just grow in resentment. Players that do end up playing for the first team and show promise should very quickly be involved in a renewal process to safeguard from outside interest. Players with 80-100 million euro release clauses should not end up leaving for fractions of that amount. 


Building a squad of young players will require a lot of effort in instilling discipline in the squad. We have seen even senior players over recent seasons show a complete lack of discipline. The basics of the game has been compromised as a result. This can be seen with the sub-par quality in all areas from fitness, passing to shooting, offense and defense, transitions between the two, as well as set pieces. Gracia needs to get the team on the same page and vision of his ideas. There should be no shame or hesitation in taking sessions to work on particular aspects of the game rather than accepting it as fact and continuing to work on more advanced areas of the game. If the basics are lacking, everything that comes after will follow suit.


Many fans, including some on here, have lost hope and trust in the management and the club. They see coach after coach being replaced and a few steps back for every step forward. They seen an owner that shows more interest in serving his friends and visiting other clubs than his own. They see a loss of presence and negotiating power of the club in the transfer market for players and coaches. Needless to say, there will be a lot of hesitation about the ability of Javi Gracia to turn things around no doubt. The patience of fans shrinks with each and every coach and that will be a difficult challenge to overcome. However, if the fans do see attractive football, the coach being an individual rather than an "official" or puppet of Lim, and most importantly results, they can be won over and will stand behind him. It's good to see so many fans want to give Gracia a shot despite this hesitation.

Alemany has reportedly made a rather interesting statement recently. He has stated that if Lim was willing to pick up the phone and have a discussion with him, that he could be convinced to return to the club. Despite previous disputes, he claimed that his love for the club leaves enough room for a come back. Unfortunately, Lim's ego will likely mean this will not happen. Murthy certainly would rather retain all powers given to him than concede some or all grounds to Murthy, so he is likely to work against any such movement. If his return can be secured, it will be a very important step forward to winning the fans back and is an opportunity that the club shouldn't miss.