Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Valencia are safe, but have a bigger problem to fix

I decided to wait a few days before writing this blogpost until the situation settled a little bit. Firstly, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. This week should have been a joyous one for Valencia. A first win over Real Madrid in front of our own fans since 2019 (we, of course, beat them due to the Soler penalty hat-trick during Covid.) But not only that: a win which effectively guarantees Valencia’s place in the top flight, which looked seriously under threat.

Of course, what should have been a great week is now one of the worst for our club and the city in ages. The racist idiocy of a few fools has dragged the name of the club and city and fanbase through the mud and tarnished the result. I’ve seen quite a few of our fans giving the other side of the coin: certain players aren’t punished for provocation due to the club they play for, Valencia are being treated harshly compared to other clubs etc etc. Those views have merit but there is a time and place for such discussions and NOW IS NOT THE TIME. Our focus should be on one thing and one thing only: any racist in our fanbase, in our stadium or near our stadium is one racist too many. It doesn’t matter what provocations, true or not, happen. Abusing any player on the grounds of race, nationality, religion, sexuality etc is 100% unacceptable. It is wrong. Full stop.

Now, as far as what’s been done, that only goes part of the way. There should a zero tolerance policy to it. It shouldn’t have to get to the point where protocols are enacted and games paused. Ground security should immediately eject any offenders and they should be banned. A tough example would cut this out.

“But it was only a handful of people in the stadium! Our fans are no worse than others” I’ve been in Mestalla enough times to know this is true, but there were a group outside the stadium chanting racist slogans. Those people are banned, rightly from the stadium, but they’re still allowed to crawl around outside, engaging in abuse which sometimes veers into bigotry and damaging our reputation. It’s on the police to deal with them, so Valencia need to liaise with local authorities and tell them in no uncertain terms that their payment for policing also includes keeping these fools from gathering and arresting them if they do gather and break into racist chants. Do these clowns not see that we have Diakhaby, that we have Musah, that we have Thierry, that we have Kluivert and Moriba etc?

Finally, our fans in and around the stadium need to make it clear through banners and counter protests, that these Yomus groups are not welcome. We can easily criticise wider authorities for not doing enough to deal with the problem but we should set a proactive example.

Let’s move on to the positive that we would have been talking about if all that hadn’t happened. Valencia are now effectively safe. I’ve been looking at the table and the remaining games and I believe that even if we lost the 3 remaining games we’d still stay up as it would take a very unlikely combination of results to relegate us.

As things stand, we are ahead of Celta, Cadiz, Almeria, Valladolid, Getafe and Espanyol and 2 of those 7, including us, could go down.

If level on points, we have the better head-to-head against Celta and Getafe and effectively Valladolid due to goal difference. We drew with Espanyol earlier in the season so the head-to-head depends on that. Cadiz and Almeria will finish above us if we’re level on points.

Let’s take the worst case scenario. We lose all 3 remaining games. The other teams then get perfect results, all winning, against teams not in the relegation fight. So the teams in capital letters win

Villarreal – CADIZ
Elche – CADIZ
Betis – GETAFE
CELTA – Barcelona
ESPANYOL – Atletico Madrid

Just to start with, I think all those results happening are very, very unlikely, but if anyone disagrees, I’m sure there’s a bookmaker who’ll happily give you good odds. (You’ll lose your money.)

However, that situation would leave La Liga as:

Cadiz 44
Celta 43
Getafe 41
Espanyol 40
Valencia 40
Almeria 39
Valladolid 38
(bottom two go down)

So that’s the situation if we lose and all other teams get perfect results. We’d still not be in a relegation position. There would be remaining games not included above:

Cadiz vs Celta,
Almeria vs Valladolid,
Espanyol vs Almeria,
Valladolid vs Getafe

Almeria-Valladolid would be key.
If there was a draw or Almeria won Valladolid would need to beat Getafe on the last day.
If Valladolid won, Almeria would need to win away at Espanyol on the last day.
In both those cases, Getafe and Espanyol would also be fighting for survival, so wouldn’t lose easily.

So I think even on 40 points and no more wins, we’re safe.

Staying up when confirmed leads us into the familiar discussions of the manager and transfer window, usually disappointing though they are. Baraja has stepped up to the plate and delivered the safety he was hired for. Should he stay on? I’m on the fence. I certainly think we can do better but there’s the problem of who would come to Valencia now with all the instability (and this week’s controversy doesn’t help either.) On the other hand, he’s shaken things up, given the academy players a chance and they’ve delivered. It would also look bad to reward him for saving us by firing him.

Let’s hope for a win at Mallorca to end this nasty week on a more positive note.