Showing posts with label editorial. Show all posts
Showing posts with label editorial. Show all posts

Monday, June 8, 2020

Valencia CF post Covid19

This is a guest article by Abzinho, who many of you know from the comments section.

Current state of Valencia 

With the season continuation finally upon us, I’m filled with so much pessimism when I think about the future of this great institution. If recent history of this club has taught as anything during the lim era, few words come to mind, chaos, bad strategy, uncertainty, regressive. Over the last few years under this regime we’ve been stuck in a circle of a step forward two steps back. Until recently I was willing to give Lim the benefit of doubt, but I’ve come to the realisation that the project he proposed has failed and he’s failed relative to where I thought he would take this club when he became an owner. An owner doesn’t necessarily need to be hands on but if you don’t have a competent management structure in place then in my eyes nothing fruitful will happen. But based on what is clear to see,  lim’s decisions to hire “yes men” with little to no real knowledge of running a football club has been detrimental to Valencia cf. Those who he previously hired who did have those capabilities were quickly removed once they spoke against the owners view point. The lim era has shown of track record of poorly managed club with a huge influence as it seems form his close friend “Mendes”. Now I’d like reiterate that having Mendes as a adviser isn’t necessarily all bad, he has a client portfolio of some of the most talented players in the world. But for some reason Valencia seem to end up with the worst of the bunch. Financial capabilities of course come into play and funds at the club have been limited, even so that still doesn’t justify how we keep getting it wrong time after time. This strategy of following mendes recommendation for most of our purchases had limited the club exploring other markets such as, South America and other European markets. The way I see the dynamics between lim and mendes is, both have their own interests, however by lim following mendes recommendations which have mostly failed over the last couple of years, the only winner in that equation is mendes. I could be wrong but based on recent history it’s hard to see it any other way. This in itself really makes me question what is lim’s intention with this club. 

Where are all our club legends?

Another thing worth questioning is, where are all the club legends and why isn’t their leadership being used at the club? We’ve seen several who were recently involved all gone and never returned and based on the structure of the current regime, I’m not surprised. What really resonates with me regarding the way the club is run currently is Santiago Cañizares insight discussing the many things wrong at the club. The club is run by money men and very few if any football men.

 Replenishing the squad under further financial constraints 

I recently saw comment from lim stating the need for 10-20% cut on cost which I believe was around 383M when the season started. Will this further limit are sending and who will we lose as a result? The chaotic cycle continues and don’t let them fool you with “pandemic financial impact”, this is a story of constant failure by a bunch of parasite who are not benefiting the club but rather leeching off it. With that being said I think my position on lim and his administration is quite clear so I have nothing to add. They only thing I’d ask our fans is, what shape do you think Valencia will be in 5-10 years from now under its current leadership?

I was going to do a summary of each position and suggest who is extendable in order to replenish the squad, but I thought I’d rather just cover the main weak positions.

Here we go…

Right back – we have four players in this position and not a single one is up to the expected level, that sums it all up.

My solution – get rid of all but wass (loan young Portuguese guy) and sign Álvaro Odriozola. 

CB – paulista and Hugo Guillamón (give him a new contract) aside replenish the rest.

CM – sell either kondogbia or coquelin bring in a creative midfield (ideally ceballos). Play soler more in this position. 

Wingers – sell cheryshev, give more opportunities to manu and kangin. As for ferran if you can’t give him what he wants, acquire as much as you can for him. If that’s Barca or real get additional players as well as cash.

Forwards – sell gameiro, sobrino and Rodrigo (still possible to get a good return from him). Guedes as frustrating as he’s been needs to be given one more year. Now that he’s overcome his injuries a lot is expected from him.

Gk – cillessen will most likely leave due to financial constraints, but needs to be replaced as I don’t have much faith in domenech as a number 1. He’s a great number 2, but nothing more.

All in all I’m predicting a bleak future ahead for the club as I’ve completely lost faith and trust in these morons in charge. Don’t be fooled by the countless number of players we’re linked with, we’ve seen that movie one too many times. What will the club look like this time next year? One thing I’m quite confident about is we will consistently be inconsistent.

Finally I’d like to leave you all with food for thought. once this pandemic passes and normal service has resumed will we start protesting against this ownership that has failed the club? Or will we wait until we’re totally screwed before going against this embarrassing leadership structure?
I know where I stand!

Stay safe everyone and please take time to acquire knowledge outside of your domain and once we all understand the troubles in the world today, we can work to something better.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Valencia's mid-term report

There's one game left until the first round of fixtures has been played so now is a good time to look at where the team is at, through player ratings.

The season had a turbulent start, overshadowed by limited activity in the transfer market as a result of the ongoing internal feud. The team then started in the worst possible way. Missing a 92nd minute penalty at home to Sociedad which would have given a two-goal cushion, then conceding a 98th minute penalty to throw away 2 points. After a defeat in game two, a dour 2-0 win over Mallorca was achieved which proved to be Marcelino's swansong. Celades had his doubters and they seemed to be proved right when the team went down 2-5 to Barcelona in his first game. Results since that, however, have improved and the team is in a good, but not excellent position, with a tough fight against teams like Sevilla, Sociedad, Bilbao and Getafe to repeat 4th place. The big achievement so far has been reaching the last 16 of the champions league for the first time in 7 years.

So, here are the manager and player ratings and comments, 6 was the default score.

CILLESSEN 6 - arrived in a swap for Neto with most of us seeing him as a minor improvement. So far he's been no better. There have been a number of quality saves, but also real gaffes, against Barcelona and Levante for example. Mixed evidence. Jury is still out.

JAUME 6 - has proved as always to be a capable back-up but 6 goals conceded in his first two games and suspicions about his weaknesses in the air and at set pieces prevent him from getting a higher rating.

WASS 6.5 - has mostly played at right back, where he started his career. Hasn't excelled there but his experience and versatility have proved useful for the team. A well taken chance against Granada and a somewhat lucky equaliser against Chelsea have been his highs.

PICCINI  (N/R = no rating) was never that amazing, but is missed as a squad player. 

THIERRY 1.5 - when some of us complained about the coaching change, it wasn't out of love for the previous manager's style of football. It was because we saw the bigger picture: more meddling by Lim and Mendes was sure to happen and that rarely goes well. This season's exhibit A for the prosecution is this guy. 12 million splashed out for a player with only a handful of club games. Predictably, it hasn't gone well and all his three appearances have seen the team concede three goals (Ajax, Getafe and Osasuna.) A loan looks inevitable. Him playing a key role at Valencia in the future doesn't.

MANGALA (N/R = no rating) bringing him back was another clear Mendesism. In fairness, he did well against Betis, but that was cancelled out with an iffy display against Villarreal.

GARAY 5 - this very well could be his last season and he looks a fading force to me, so replacing him wouldn't be the worst thing.

PAULISTA 7.5 - has really done well this season, looking a solid defender, but needs to curb his temper, with the sending off against Ajax a clear example.

DIAKHABY 6 - gets criticism from the fans, but is a solid third choice at the back and proved vs Chelsea that he can double as defensive midfielder too. Still needs more experience, as his nadir vs Lille proved.

GAYA 6.5 - has generally had a decent season so far, while not hitting the heights of previous seasons, especially in attack.

COSTA 5 - with Lato pushing for more game time (which he hasn't got) Costa returned as the replacement to scepticism. He's done okay so far, without being amazing. It's noticeable when he's playing on the right that teams target that side.

FERRAN 8.5 - is enjoying his breakout season with high level performances. Ended the year with 3 goals and 3 assists from the final 8 games. The big question: can the club renew his contract, which expires summer 2021?

SOLER 6 - unlike Ferran, his breakout hasn't quite happened and a 2-month injury layoff didn't help. A valuable player, but can he realise his early potential in 2020?

ESQUERDO N/R - somewhat fortunate to make the first team due to the incessant injuries. Haven't seen anything so far to suggest he'll be more than a bit player at Valencia.

PAREJO 7.5 - remains the engine room of Valencia, how he manages to hold on to the ball is a thing of wonder and still scares opposition keepers from free kicks. Just ask Oblak. Now, if only he could score penalties in the Champions league.

COQUELIN 7 - brought in as a back-up, has established himself as probably main choice after Dani with solid performances. Just lacks the box to box abilities of the next guy...

KONDOGBIA 4.5 - after an excellent debut season when he rivalled Guedes for player of the season, he has been a let down, with constant injuries and the feeling that he's only playing at 50%. Like Guedes, fans will hope to see a return to his best next year. Speaking of which....

GUEDES 3 - Oh Goncalo, where art thou? If you were to summarise a Guedes season at Valencia, it would be: 2.5 months where he's on fire and looks like Ronaldo reborn. 3 months injured. 3.5 months mediocre, where he runs into dead ends, loses the ball or falls over and gets dispossessed easily. So far this season, we've just seen the injury and mediocrity. For 40 million, more was expected than half a great season out of 2.5 seasons. His return to playing is said to be the end of this month. When he does come back, he really needs to step up, otherwise he'll go down as yet another expensive flop of the Lim era in the mould of Abdennour, Enzo, Negredo etc.

CHERYSHEV 6 - a good player when he's not injured. That's the problem, isn't it? He seems to spend half the season on the sidelines with injuries, which is a shame, because as he showed with the goals and performances at Bilbao and Lille, he's a useful player when fit.

KANG-IN 5.5 - like Ferran, it was hoped that this would be his season. Just hasn't happened and not only due to injury. He got a good goal against Getafe, but needs more regular playing time, which would probably come through a loan.

VALLEJO 6 - though mostly limited to sub appearances so far, has proved a handy player, with an ability to dribble at defenders. Question is similar to Kang-In, how can he get the game time necessary to improve?

SOBRINO 4 - the coaching change provided him with a second opportunity which he hasn't taken, good goal against Sevilla notwithstanding. Just doesn't look to have the level for Valencia.

RODRIGO 6.5 - forever a player who divides and polarises the Valencia fanbase. Supporters point to his link-up play and assists, which he's currently joint top of La Liga for. Critics lambast him for his lack of goals: just four in 21 games. Needs to seriously improve the latter, though we say that every season.

MAXI 6.5 - has been a good addition so far, offering something different to the attack with strength and aerial power. Needs to sharpen up his finishing, though.

GAMEIRO 6 - a combination of the comments about Cheryshev and Rodrigo. Not a bad player when he's not injured, which happens too often and also needs to work on finishing.

CELADES 7 - has done a very good job since coming in at a difficult time. Won over the dressing room and improved some aspects of Marcelino. We no longer see players ostracised, the team are better to watch and there's some tactical flexibility. On the negative, the defence really needs to improve, the injury situation needs to be investigated and the number of penalties conceded and missed needs to be reduced. Lastly, the team could to with some coaching on avoiding conceding late goals. If he can sort out those flaws, there's no reason why he shouldn't stay coach after this season.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Alemany goodbye?

I promised to put this post up and hoped for something a bit more substantial, but we're still stuck with rumours and gossip. I won't be around for most of next month, so won't have internet a few hours from now.

As all of you will know there are strong rumours that Alemany is on his way out. Lim basically gave him a free hand with transfers in the first two summers but now wants to be more involved. That's his prerogative as the owner and the person who, ultimately, is paying for these transfers. Alemany, feeling that this makes him redundant looks to be out.

From the rumours on Twitter and other sites it seems that a few things led to this. Alemany (and Marcelino) wanted to bring in Rafinha from Barcelona. Lim, concerned about his injury history, vetoed this. In contrast, Lim wanted to bring Otamendi back, but Alemany opposed this, feeling that even after a wage cut, Otamendi would be by far the highest earner at the club, and this would affect squad harmony. Lastly, Alemany allegedly wanted to give Marcelino a longer contract. After all, it was him who brought Marcelino in when Alexanko was arguing for Setien instead and it was Alemany who defended Marcelino when he seemed to be on the verge of being sacked in January. Lim, maybe mindful of the lack of continuity of some of Valencia's other managers, didn't want to commit to a longer contract which could lead to a large compensation payment in the event of a sacking. All this could explain why Valencia's progress in the transfer market has been painfully slow: aside from the young players already signed and the swap of goalkeepers, only Maxi Gomez has joined.

Obviously the question this raises is, if Alemany goes, who follows? Both Longoria and Marcelino were close to Alemany and may follow him in resigning. It all sounds a bit of a disaster. Just when the club finally looked to have gained some long overdue stability, is it going to collapse in internal fighting again?

Fans have been quick to draw parallels with the summer of 2015, when Salva and Rufete were forced out. Those analogies are worrying, but don't quite work. For a start, there isn't a manager at the helm closely tied to Lim for fans to focus their anger on. (Yet. Worrying rumours of Mourinho as the next manager are swirling.) Secondly, the situation with Mendes is different. Mendes is now closely associated with Wolves and the FA Premier League gives him a much better vehicle to market his prospects.

Ultimately, we just have to hope for the best in this and see how it pans out.

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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Valencia - Manchester United match thread

Valencia's centenary year was supposed to be a triumphant one, with the team consolidating its place in the Spanish and European elite. Instead, as we all know, it's been a massive disappointment, with a series of limp attacking performances making the team simply hard to watch. I usually stick with the games until half time and then, in frustration, leave the commentary on in the background while I go and do something else and I know I'm not alone. It's only reasonable defence and the fact that traditional rivals like Sociedad, Villarreal and Bilbao have also been doing poorly that has saved us from being in a relegation position. Compared to results achieved in the same games last season we have dropped a point against R.Madrid, 2 against Betis, Celta, Leganes and Sevilla and 3 against Espanyol and Girona, while gaining 1 versus Villarreal and 3 versus Getafe, so even just achieving the same results as last season in the remaining games would leave us outside top four, which is out now and I seriously doubt we can even make top 7 now. 

Worse, the reasons for it don't seem totally clear which makes solutions hard. The team and manager are the same but nothing seems to work. Various players have seriously dropped off on last year's performance, Kondogbia, who was a titan last season, doesn't even make the line-up any more, and few people care, as he's been worse than Coquelin when on, Guedes doesn't excite and Rodrigo has reverted to the Rodrigo of early seasons with us. Marcelino's tactics seem too rigid, lacking a plan B, but I think most supporters know from hard experience that mid-season managerial changes have rarely helped us, while they've definitely undermined our reputation in the long term. There has also been the Zaza question, but I'm not convinced that things would be better with him still with us. He came to us with patchy form, had a brief purple patch, then reverted to type, notching a miserable 3 goals in his last 24 appearances. In his home country, at Torino, he's struggled to make an impact, starting just 3 games, subbing in 11 times, usually in the last 25 minutes and scoring just once. He's clearly as out of form as everyone.

So to tonight's game. Valencia will finish third whatever happens. So a dead rubber game, right? Not exactly, besides the morale boost from a win and the bragging rights gained from sticking it to a much loathed figure like Mourinho, there are short term and long term advantages to winning. 

Short term, a draw earns us €900,000, a win nearly 3 million. There's also the seeding situation in the Europa league. The best 4 third-placed teams will be seeded and the others unseeded. Currently, we have 5 points and of the four groups that have finished, Napoli have 9pts, Inter 8, Bruges 6 and Galatasaray 4. Looking at the groups still to play, it seems that only a win will get us seeded, draw or lose and we will be unseeded in Monday's Europa league draw. Longer term, a win improves our European ranking, making it more likely we can get a better seeding in future, while also earning more money due to a better ranking.

In teams news, the four Gs are out. Gabriel, Guedes and Gameiro are injured, Gaya is suspended. I'd expect to see Neto in goal rather than Jaume, with Lato on the left and Diakhaby and Garay in the centre. Right back will be interesting, it would be a good chance to rest Wass and bring Piccini back  Cheryshev will likely start on the left and Parejo in the centre. Kondogbia should start this one to give Coquelin a rest with Soler making up the right wing. Up front, Bats should start with one of Mina and Rodrigo rested and then coming on later as a sub. Kangin is on the bench and this would be a good time to blood him in the second half. 

I'm not sure how much of this one I'll watch and it finishes late my time so I won't be doing a match report tonight. Please use this thread to give us your thoughts before, during and after the game.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Formation Change?

First off, congratulations to France and all French fans and supporters on the World Cup win. With the World Cup now over, everyone is looking ahead to the new club season. However, the World Cup always has an impact on the new season. The performance of players causes a lot of movement in the transfer market with clubs keen to steal away the best performers. The World Cup also gave us a good taste of VAR (video-assistant-referee) which will be in full effect this new season, hopefully with a few kinks worked out. However, the World Cup is also a lesson in tactics and formations, and that's what I want to speak about today.

I read an article on Superdeporte that suggested that Wass was being experimented by Marcelino as part of a double pivot. I didn't think much of it at the time but while watching the World Cup, I realized that many of the top teams, all use a variation of a formation with double pivots: 3-4-2-1, 4-2-3-1 or a 3-5-2. The champions France played a counter-attacking style as we do, but the core of their success is the double pivot of Kante and Matuidi. No doubt many coaches looked at the tactics used in the World cup either to emulate them or at least to figure out how to stop them, and Marcelino would have been no exception. 

So why change the 4-4-2, which has worked well for us this far? Well, my guess is that Marcelino only opted for this formation since it was simple and effective. Given the time and resources he had, this made sense. But a coach has to adapt to the times and this could be a reason to change. 

It struck me as odd that Marcelino would invest in yet another CDM and another CB. This leaves us with 3 CDMs (Kondogbia, Coquelin, Racic) and 6 CBs (Garay, Murillo, Paulista, Vezo, Diakhaby, and Jimenez). On top of that, there were rumors that Valencia were going to use Nani as a bargaining chip with Sporting CP to facilitate the signing of another CDM, William Carvalho. This didn't materialize. That would've left us with 4 CDMs. Now, this could be for a few reasons. It could be the club is anticipating Kondogbia will be sought after by bigger clubs soon and have already planned his future replacement. Racic could also be a temporary cover for Coquelin whose injury might make him miss some of the next season. As for the CBs, many have speculated that Garay would be on his way out since he has one of the highest salaries and could fetch the biggest price out of the players. However, it could also be in anticipation of a formation change. 

In a formation with 3 CBs, having 5 or 6 CBs doesn't seem so strange anymore. Similarly, a squad with 3 or 4 CDMs, in a formation with double pivots, is not strange either. This, at first sight suggests that we would play a 3-4-2-1 or a 3-5-2. This could looks something like this:

Guedes?/Ferran                 Parejo/Soler
Gaya/Lato    Kondogbia/Coquelin    Wass/Racic    Montoya?/?
Murillo/Jimenez      Garay/Paulista      Diakhaby/Vezo

This is very similar to the way to the way Belgium would play, 3 CBs with wingbacks on either side of the double pivot. In front of them, two mobile and/or creative players with a central striker. Now, if one of the center-backs leaves on loan or is sold, this could be adapted to a lineup similar to France's 4-2-3-1 as follows:

Guedes?/Ferran                Parejo/?                      Soler/?
    Kondogbia/Coquelin    Wass/Racic    
Gaya/Lato     Murillo/Jimenez       Diakhaby/Paulista      Montoya?/Vezo

***Note, I didn't include Zaza in these, as he seems to be getting pushed out. However, he could very well fit in as the central striker in these formations, with Rodrigo playing just behind. Guedes remains a maybe so I kept him but I'm hearing names like T.Hazard, Malcolm and Kostic to replace him. Maksimovic was signed by Getafe, so he wasn't included.

Both formations have been effective in the World Cup especially conducive for counter-attacking football. Of course, this is just pure speculation from my end based on our transfer-activity, some news and my analysis of the World Cup but we'll see what happens in the preseason friendlies and the next month and a half of the transfer window. A lot of the time, there is a cascading effect with transfers where as soon as a club gets their player, the selling club will buy to replace and then that selling club will also do the same and so on, unlocking the deadlock.

As usual, please share your thoughts with everyone in the comments below. Is it safer to stick with the 4-4-2? Or would you like to see a formation change? Which one? Which transfer targets would make it work? How should we lineup? 

Monday, June 4, 2018

2017-18 Season Review: The Best and the Worst

With the season finished, now is a perfect time to sit down and reflect it.

Starting at the beginning, we had finished in a dismal position on the table last season at 12th. The turbulent coaching story continued with Prandelli resigning last season and Voro stepping in as usual to cover. As if that wasn't enough the players, which so much money was splashed on, did not live up to even fractions of their price tag. 

This season was going to be different. We signed a coach that had a track record, experience and was familiar with the country, it's language and the league. The investment strategy for players was different as well: take the players on loan and only should they perform well do we consider investing in them. Of course, part of this was due to necessity since Financial Fair Play would restrict our buying ability regardless. Some players like Paulista, Murillo, Zaza and Neto joined on permanent deals right away (with payments in installments), while others like Kondogbia and Guedes were considered for the future via the loan deals. In addition, excess baggage that didn't prove it's worth last season: Abdennour, Santos, and Nani, was sent elsewhere. Other young players were loaned out as a chance to prove their worth and either come back or be purchased by the club to which they were loaned. 

This set the stage for what was to be a brilliant season to watch and a great success, especially relative to previous seasons. We returned to the Champions League with a few games to spare, played an attractive brand of football, produced consistent performances and challenged the top teams.

From the beginning, we would go on huge runs of great form and build up a streak of undefeated games and great form for our players. Although we did struggle breaking down teams that would park the bus or aggressively break the flow of the counter attacks, we did punish almost every team that challenged us in an open game. The team would be soaring and then the gravity of injuries would pull us back down at points in the season. Our squad depth would be exposed, having no one on the bench to offer anything different. Then, Zaza would go on goal drought, Neto's feet were frozen solid, we would have a crisis in defense and midfielders were used to cover for injured defenders, and finally our right-back would give an opening for all teams to exploit. Despite all that, we managed to achieve the goal and if we were offered this position at the beginning, most if not all of us would've taken it. We actually did even better, as we could've very well finished 3rd or even 2nd.

So without further ado, here is the best and the worst for me in this season:

Best Player: Geoffery Kondogbia

Huge difference to previous holders of the position in previous seasons (Danilo, Enzo Perez, Javi Fuego). Offers great strength, dominant presence and great work ethic. He facilitated our counter-attacking style by intercepting passes and winning the ball back in midfield to start such a move. He had great driving runs forward taking on defenders confidently and producing a good pass or shot to finish. A great asset to have while defending corners and set pieces as he has won the aerial duels many times. He is well liked by the fans as well as his fellow players. Easily justifies his price tag and is undoubtedly a steal for this amount (25 million euros). The deal to sign him permanently was expected and good to see it go through.


Guedes: for taking our attacking game to the next level with his creativity, dribbling and pace.
Rodrigo: great goal tally, really stepped up in the second part of the season and a well-deserved Spain NT call-up
Gaya: perhaps the only constant in defense, one less for Marcelino to worry about.
Soler: Growing talent, versatile (midfield and wing play) nice to see him with the Spanish NT as well.

Worst Player: Martin Montoya

No doubt this has been our weak point all season. We got him on a free transfer, so it was a good deal in that sense. He wasn't always poor, he had some decent games, a few good. But when he was bad, it was really bad and we were exploited. It didn't help that his competition for the spot was Nacho Vidal who was ostracized by Marcelino from the start. He was then left to compete with Vezo for the spot and lost out to him a few times.


Nacho Vidal: I take it if he wasn't used all this time, then Marcelino doesn't value him highly.

Best Game: Real Betis 3 - Valencia 6

Despite conceding 3 goals and almost throwing away a 4 goal lead, it was very entertaining to watch. Lots of contributors, with 6 different goal scorers. Very open game from both teams, almost a comeback at the end only for the momentum to go back to us in the final minutes. Great away win.


Valencia 4 - 0 Sevilla: It felt so good handing a wide margin loss to a rival that's given us so much trouble. Very convincing win.

Worst game: Valencia 1 - 4 Real Madrid

A lot of factors for this. Losing to rival in a 6 point game. The controversial referee decisions at their worst. Losing at home, etc.


Getafe 1-0 Valencia: although we lost by one goal, this was quite embarrassing. A type of game where the other team played aggressive to break up counters, ended up with 10 men very early (25 min into the game) and still managed to beat us. 

Best Goal: Guedes vs Sevilla (4-0 home game)

Guedes summarized in this goal. Receives the ball in midfield, accelerates quickly taking out 2 players, gets to the edge of the box and fakes two more players before smashing it into the top corner from range. It was 


Guedes vs Betis (3-6 away game): edge of the area, with a wall of defenders in front yet smashes it into top corner.
Rodrigo vs Leganes (0-1 away game): tight game, needed a goal, just substituted in, Kondogbia wins the ball back at the edge of the box, Rodrigo takes possession, runs across the edge of the box and bends it away from the keeper and into the net.
Vietto vs Girona (0-1 away game): struggling on form and getting tons of criticism and whistles but remains focused and produces a great goal. Carried the ball from midfield to the edge of the box, used the defender to block the keeper's vision and curled it to the top corner.
Vietto vs Las Palmas (Copa del Rey 4-0 home game): debut game, saw the keeper of his line and beat him from insane range

That's it from me. Just thought I would discuss this as we haven't had a chance to fully reflect on some of these things. Now I'll pass it to all of you.

Who were your best and worst players of the season? Best and worst games of the season? And Best goal of the season? Other comments or suggestions for improvement?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why Valencia shouldn't (and won't) bring David Villa back

Let's get the obvious out of the way first: David Villa is a club legend on a par with Mario Kempes. His goals kept Valencia as a force to be reckoned with even when the club was struggling financially and most of us probably felt totally gutted when the news broke that he was on his way to FC Catalonia.

With Rafa Mir refusing to sign a new contract and on his way out, Valencia only has 3 main strikers, plus Guedes, who can play there in an emergency and Zaza's knee condition has been causing concern for at least a month. Luckily for us, it flared up during international breaks, meaning that he didn't miss any games, however, he was in visible pain when scoring against Betis. Marcelino previously stated that just resting Zaza wouldn't solve the problem. He will require some form of surgery. The problem for the club is that that could mean him missing a significant period of time, maybe 6-8 matches. As a result, the club confirmed today that they are going to postpone such surgery for the time being and hope that the situation doesn't worsen. This is a gamble not without its own risks as if the tear worsens, Zaza could be out for far longer, but Simone has been so key to the team that the club is unwilling to risk the momentum built up by managing without him. That's caused the issue of a backup striker to rise up the agenda again.

That's led many fans, such as in the comments section of the last match report to suggest the solution: Villa returns to Valencia, during the MLS mid-season break. The idea isn't without merit. He's been playing well in the MLS, earning a return to the Spain squad as a result. Adoring fans would give him lots of leeway and ticket sales and sales of merchandise would increase. For me, Villa will always be welcome back to the Mestalla, but in a different role. Coach, club ambassador, whatever, but just not as a player.

There are numerous reasons why. To start with, retreads can be hit and miss and sometimes and the whole exercise can just backfire. But from footballing and logistic reasons it doesn't make sense either. Villa hasn't played in Europe for 3 and a half years and the standard of football in the MLS is far lower than Europe. Had he been in his early 30s, I'd have been interested, but he's 36 next month and after so much time out of the bigger leagues, it's asking a lot to return to one of the world's top two leagues.

His age also raises other concerns as well. His injury history is impressive, but he is at a stage of his career now where he will be more prone to injuries. If we are covering possible injuries to existing strikers, then bringing in a much older striker doesn't seem wise. Most importantly, the player himself has consistently ruled out a return to Valencia or Europe, doing so in September 2016, December 2016 and again today.

But the main reason is a logistical one, the fact that La Liga and the MLS seasons are out of sync. The MLS season runs from 1 March until 30 September, with pre-season starting about 5 to 6 weeks before that, around 20-22 January. Why would New York agree to hand over their player so he can get tired out in the 2 months before their league season starts and miss pre-season training? Why would Valencia take a player knowing they'd have to return him in late February? Such a deal wouldn't make sense for either club.

Valencia does need to think seriously about bringing another striker in, at the very minimum on loan until the end of the season. Villa, for all the reasons listed above does not fit the requirements and would be an exercise in nostalgia, not football reality.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Meriton criticises "fake fans"

After months, possibly even years of silence, Meriton released a statement through the club's main website (here) where it defends its position and goes on to attack its critics in the Valencia fanbase.

The intro sets the tone: "Since Meriton took control of VCF, a number of fake fans from different sectors have tried to dominate the news about VCF and have sold fake news and lies to our real fans. These fake fans are loud and are motivated by self-interests, not the interests of VCF, and certainly not the interests of the real fans who form the silent majority."

The article goes on to laud Meriton's achievements, focusing in particular on the Champions league qualification under Nuno and the second place reached so far this season. It points out that many of the problems such as the debt, unfinished stadium, EU fine and so on predate Lim's ownership and are due to local sources, while Lim "invested more than 200m of his own money to save the club."

It then launches a scathing attack on these 'fake fans': "The last 2 seasons, fake fans sabotaged the atmosphere in the dressing room. They attacked the team bus and threatened our players. At Mestalla, they tried to intimidate the team instead of helping them as real fans would. This lame and shameless attempt to weaken Meriton didn't and will not work."

So what is the truth? The fact is that in some things, they have a point. Lim did come to the rescue at the right time, when no local sources could be found to put up the cash. The club was mismanaged badly before that by local owners.

There are clearly sections of our fanbase who are problematic and parochial and, regardless of the results, will never accept a foreign owner. Some of the criticisms did seem to have some racial undertones, dismissing Lim as a "chino" or Chinese when he's from Singapore, something as ignorant and stupid as calling a Spanish person a Pole (since the distances are comparable.) From that flowed some weird and wacky conspiracy theories, such as the one that Lim had bought the club simply to launder money (as though sinking 200m into an indebted football club is a smart way to achieve that.)

For all that, there are numerous problems with the statement. The first issue is the timing. As I pointed out in the previous blog, Valencia is in a fantastic place right now, so bitterly attacking fans at this moment seems odd.

The biggest problem is the total failure to admit that anything went wrong, especially in the last 2 seasons. The previous Valencian owners screwed up badly, but it wasn't only because, as the Meriton piece claimed, they had the "intention to benefit a very closed circle of people." In trying to play catch up with Real Madrid and Barcelona, the Valencian owners overextended themselves financially, leading to a cycle of debt which Valencia is still struggling with. But their motives weren't all selfish, they genuinely wanted the club to succeed, but went about it in an unsustainable way.

Meriton made exactly the same mistakes in the first year. The 77 points and Champions league qualification which they boast about was impressive, but it was built on a similarly false foundation. In committing to high transfer fees for players like Alvaro Negredo, Rodrigo, Cancelo and Andre Gomes, they stored up problems which soon became apparent further down the line. In the summer of 2015, Valencia had to make good on the commitment to pay all those transfer fees, 90m worth of spending which was only exceeded by Manchester City and Juventus. That meant that the club had little money to strengthen the squad for the subsequent Champions league campaign, which resulted in a disastrous season and mounting Financial Fair Play problems which forced the club to sell its best players in summer 2016.

Following on from that, it's totally out of order to dismiss the concerns of countless Valencia fans as just being those of fake fans. Numerous poor decisions were made in the first seasons of Meriton ownership and one of the things that drove a wedge between the ownership and the fanbase was the failure to own up to those mistakes.

The vast, overwhelming bulk of Valencia fans were hugely supportive of Lim's takeover. That only changed when numerous poor decisions were made which led to negative results, including the club finding itself in a relegation battle.

Meriton's statement would have been better if it had said something along the lines of "previous local owners made lots of mistakes, we came here to clean up those and had to invest a lot to do so. In trying to do so, with the best of intentions, we made numerous mistakes of our own. We realise that, have learned from that and moving forward, will not repeat that." That would have carried far more weight than attacking fans, blaming them for issues which arose from those bad decisions, indulging in self-congratulatory backslapping and pretending that the previous two seasons of shame didn't happen.

I do hope that they have learned/will learn but the statement doesn't inspire confidence and reopens old wounds at a time when people were forgetting them. The statement promises "a series of editorials" so we can only hope they improve on the tone of the first.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Precarious but Promising: Valencia’s Midfield

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.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review of the season

Valencia’s 2016-17 season has to go down as one to forget, as it was a virtual re-run of the disastrous season before. The summer of 2016 was especially chaotic. First off, the selection of coach was a dubious one. Some of our fans are never long-term thinkers and had briefly wanted Ayestaran to stay, but that all changed when the team lost the last 3 games of 2015-16, giving him a poor W3-D1-L4 record. Mysteriously, despite this, the club confirmed him as the coach for 2016-17m even though many of us voiced our worry.

Having missed Europe altogether it was pretty obvious that major changes would be needed to the squad. Everyone accepted that Andre Gomes was a goner and it was just a question of who would join him at the exit. Feghouli left for free and the club had a blacklist which included Alves, Negredo, Abdennour, Enzo, Santos, Barragan and Piatti. Also, Parejo tried to force an exit to Sevilla, which the club vetoed.

The problem was, it didn’t seem that there was any plan B. The club just seemed to naively assume that clubs would come in and pay the money required and when that didn’t happen, the useless Garcia Pitarch flapped around like a headless chicken. The club was strongly linked with Raul Albiol, Amadou Diawara and Felip Kostic, none of whom arrived. Instead, the only summer acquisitions were Nani and Medran.

In the end, Negredo was loaned out, while Barragan and Piatti were given away cheaply. That didn’t solve the problems so talk turned to selling the club’s biggest stars, Mustafi and Alcacer. 3 months of the summer had passed with little resolved other than selling Gomes.

Such uncertainty was hardly good for the first game. It all began well, Mina netting early on against Las Palmas, but it was a false dawn for him and the club as we lost 2-4 at home. Mustafi and Alcacer both played and Ayestaran adamantly told reporters after the match that both were not for sale  as Lay Hoon had said so. Instead, they'd just played their last game and within a week both had been sold and Ayestaran and Lay Hoon had been fatally undermined by Lim’s behind the scenes deals.

The next game with Eibar and Betis followed patterns which would become all too familiar. At Eibar, we dominated but missed numerous chances and lost. With Betis we went 2 down fought back well to level then lost to a last minute goal. Immediately talk turned to relegation battles. It was easy to see why, the club had lost its best defender, midfielder and main 2 strikers in the summer and the replacements were a rag tag band of loans and free transfers. After another defeat, Ayestaran was sacked having taken a dismal 10 points in 12 games in charge. Supersub Voro stepped in and Valencia won a tense game against Alaves with a late penalty.

The club tried to hire Marcelino but La Liga ruled out it on a technicality. Would they have done the same with Madrid or Barca? I doubt it. After offering the job to Scolari and Van Gaal the club turned to Prandelli. It began well, with a win at Gijon, but quickly went downhill. That and 2 wins over Leganes in the cup would be his only successes. While he could talk the talk, he couldn’t walk the walk and his last league games saw 3 draws and 4 defeats. Prandelli went to Singapore to demand 4-5 new signings. He also launched a stinging attack on the players, with an infamous fuori tirade.

It’s unclear if he got the wrong idea from the Singapore or if Lim promised him these signings then backtracked (likely the latter) but he resigned at the end of 2016. Having alienated the players and produced poor results, it was for the best. But VCF were in dire straits, 17th and only out of the relegation zone on goal difference. 

Voro took over again and was hit with a defence crisis, with injuries, suspensions and international games leaving us without our 4 defenders in the Copa. A makeshift defence of Suarez and B team player Javi Jimenez proved a disaster and we were out of the cup and morale sunk even lower after yet another last minute goal denied us the points at Osasuna. The next month and a half, however, saw an uptick which would drag us to safety. A few factors helped. The main credit has to go to Voro who showed that Valencia had the tool available to do what Prandelli couldn’t. Soler established himself as a first team regular. Zaza and Orellana were brought in, and, while the latter has been a let down, offered new options in attack. The team went on to record some impressive results, beating Bilbao and Espanyol, with the highs being the win at Villarreal and the win over Real Madrid.

Though the season has ended on a more upbeat note than the 2016 year did, massive improvement is still needed. The positive results have still been mixed with far too many lacklustre performances. The 0-4 collapse at home to Eibar and limp performances against teams like Malaga and Atletico Madrid being the main lows. Despite that, the mood is a lot more optimistic than it was 12 months ago. You just have to compare the despairing comments which greeted the news that Ayestaran would be the manager with the optimism greeting Marcelino’s appointment. This is due in no small part to the new director, Alemany, who pushed for Marcelino over coaches with questionable records like Setien. Early signs are that the coming summer will be less disruptive and more organised. The club is close to fair play limits so there is less need to sell players. Cancelo and Enzo will likely be goners and I wouldn’t bet on Gaya being with us in the Autumn, but realistic replacements are already being lined up. Here’s being hopeful that we’ve finally turned a corner.


Attendances: after a spike in Lim's first season, the Mestalla has been emptying. Valencia saw a 9% drop in attendances last season, with only Betis doing worse. That followed the previous season's 15% drop in attendances at the Mestalla, which was the worst in La Liga.

Concentration: the team conceded too many early or late goals.
Defence: continued to be awful, it wasn’t until late January that we kept a clean sheet!
Attack: not lethal enough and neither Rodrigo, Mina nor Munir took advantage of the chances to show what they could do.
Transfers: a mixed to negative bag, with too many loanees failing to produce. Mustafi, Gomes and Alcacer weren’t adequately replaced, though Zaza may fill the role of the latter.
Managers: hiring inexperienced ones or ones that don’t speak Spanish doesn’t work.
Communication: telling supporters you will not sell players then doing so is poor form and will build mistrust.
Absence: Lim needs to come to Mestalla when the heat dies down.

Voro: deserves massive credit for steadying the ship
Lessons learnt: while Prandelli didn’t work out, his hiring and the attempts to sign Van Gaal and Scolari showed that, at last Meriton had woken up and realised that proven managers were needed. The hiring of Marcelino is further confirmation.
The youth squad: the breakthrough of Soler and Lato and the fact that Valencia B are still in the fight for promotion is a clear sign that we have a steady pool of quality youth to draw on.
Transfers that did work: Montoya for free is exactly the type of acquisition we should be looking to make. While Zaza was not cheap, he at least displays the type of fight and effort that many other players could learn from.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Under Voro, Valencia has become a top six side

It's easy to be depressive and despondent if you're a Valencia fan. After a promising start, with a great 2014/15 season, things rapidly declined, with protests against the manager, the owners, a lot of disappointing results and a series of managers all adding to a sense of instability and despair at Valencia.

The year 2016 was particularly dire for Valencia. The club set itself up as a laughing stock by appointing the unexperienced (sic) Gary Neville and then, when that predictably failed, repeated the error by confirming Pako Ayestaran as manager, even though the latter had posted a below par 3-1-4 record in his 8 games in charge. The latter would be duly replaced by a figure of gravitas in Cesare Prandelli, but again, after a promising start, the latter proved to be all talk and no results and then rage quit after a dispute over transfers, though cynics would say that he jumped before he was pushed. With "hot prospect" managers and experienced managers all failing to turn things around, Valencia looked screwed. The team ended 2016 in seventeenth place, with only goal difference keeping them out of the relegation zone.

That's the past and it's high time Valencia fans got over that and focused on the here and now. The current 13th place looks poor, especially after a 12th-place finish last year, but it actually masks what has been Valencia's best period since the departure of Nuno. Points gained in 2017 have been:

32 Barcelona
31 Real Madrid
30 Atletico
25 Sevilla
21 Valencia, Bilbao, Espanyol. Eibar

Sure, Valencia have played a game more, but that doesn't really affect that, since it was against Real Madrid: a team who have won 10, drawn 1 and lost against Sevilla in other games this year. If the league had started after Prandelli resigned, Valencia would be a respectable joint fifth after 13 games (a third of the season) played, and with a realistic shot at Champions league football.

Look at it another way to gauge Valencia's performances under the current manager. Counting his 3 games in charge after Ayestaran, Voro's Valencia have played 17 games in the league, winning eight, drawing three and losing six. In other words, in nearly half a season, they've averaged 1.58 points per game. Maintaining that average across the season would be easily doable for a side which has beaten Real Madrid, Bilbao, Villarreal and Espanyol and would leave Valencia on around 60 points - good enough for 6th place in four of the last five seasons.

This is important to remember, because a lot of Valencia fans simply don't seem to appreciate how well we've been doing. They see only the negative headlines, hear or see protests outside the ground, look at the league position or go to the Mestalla to see empty seats: Valencia's attendance is down 5.5% this season and only Betis and Celta have a bigger drop. But they miss the trees for the wood. The question is not how Valencia can improve but rather, how can the team maintain its level, a level of performances worthy of Europa league football and just make the next step to Champions league placings?

I would suggest several ways....

1) Offer Voro the job.
He's proven he can get the results needed. The players play for him and the fans are 100% behind him. Give him first refusal on the job. This would also reverse a trend of the club seemingly not respecting people who have put the time, love and effort in (cf Feghouli or Piatti.)

2) Get a shirt sponsor
It's ludicrous that such an obvious revenue source is being missed and for unexplained reasons. If there is uncertainty over whether Valencia will be playing in Europe factor that into the deal with a reduced rate when the team is out of Europe. Better some cash than none.

3) Improve the squad
Fairly obvious. The team needs a stronger midfield especially.

4) Improve communication
Lim clearly takes a hands-off role but that's no excuse for not having his underlings set out a clear and honest strategy for the club and its transfer dealings. If the club has no money, say so. It will be better if fans are forewarned that players need to be sold rather than bs that we'll be keeping star X but then selling him and, in the process, killing fan's trust in the club hierarchy and undermining people of good faith like Lay Hoon.

5) Think long term
In morale terms, fans can't suffer a transfer window like the chaotic one of summer 2016. Identify targets in advance and have a contingency plan in case it's impossible to sell the desired players.

6) Leave decisions to football people
I respect Lay Hoon, but she isn't a football person and the appointment of a chief executive with a football background is a welcome development.

7) Exploit the Asia market more
Having an Asian owner offers a golden chance to expand in that market and raise the club's brand. It's how Real Madrid, Barca and English clubs built up their funds. Maybe I've missed something, but I have seen little sign of that happening so far.

By the way, I plan to do tomorrow's match write-up, but the game will finish after midnight my time on a working day, so it's more likely it will be up some time later on Friday. Patience please.

As always your comments are welcome.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Importance of Luck

Valencia has not had, by many teams' standards, a great season. The club hired and fired two managers, settling for a man who has never coached a team in a professional league for more than 3 or 4 games. Not to take away from what Voro has managed during his short tenure, but to find themselves with him as their best option shows Valencia’s board is a little desperate.
And they should be. Valencia was forced to sell some of its best players--Paco Alcacer, Andre Gomes, and Mustafi--over the summer to make ends meet. To replace them, the board brought in players for whom it would be kind to call gambles, such as Medran, Mangala, and Mario Suarez. Some of the gambles payed off, like Montoya and Mangala. Others look less comfortable on the pitch, like Mario Suarez. Regardless, from the start, Valencia looked to be on tenuous ground.
The season started with a wild 2-4 loss against Las Palmas in Mestalla. Though Santi Mina scored the first goal, the lead couldn’t be kept, as Livaja scored his first goal in LStiga only ten minutes after. Then, we had a harsh penalty called against us, letting Las Palmas take the lead. They soon scored again, another debutante in La Liga, Kevin Prince, and though Santi Mina scored again, the game was out of reach.
That game is fairly symbolic of the season. The team plays well, scores, and then collapses as the opponent exploits its various instabilities. Two weeks later, after tying a two-goal lead against Real Betis with 10 men--a Herculean feat--a minute 92 goal cost us the point, and the moral boost. 

Against Barcelona, after taking the lead in minute 56 and later being tied up until minute 93, a harsh penalty robbed Valencia's fan of the chance to savour that feeling of holding back a great team. 

Against Celta, another lead was given up. A minute 93 goal conceded against Malaga cost us another 2 points. Against Eibar, after playing a strong first half, in the 45th minute, an incredibly severe penalty and red card was given to Soler for a typical scruff in the box.
Luck is an integral part of football. It's a crazy, messy game with many variables and moving parts. A goal can be scored or conceded in a matter of seconds. Real Madrid is a team with extremely good luck (some saying suspiciously good luck) being able to pull "remontadas" against very difficult odds. Many times, a team can play well but still be unlucky. It’s part of what makes this sport so fun to watch. 

Recently, Valencia has had terrible luck. They had terrible luck with referees, with their transfers, with their fans, and more. The last-minute goals, the unfair penalties, the untimely injuries. It weighs a team down.
This is not to say that Valencia is solely held back by bad luck. The team has played very poorly for stretches of the season, and deserved the correspondingly poor results.To truly fix Valencia’s issues with form, solutions need to come tactically and systematically from management. 

Still, on a team level and on an individual player level, it has often seemed as though Valencia was labouring under a curse.
Can we hope that curse may be lifting? Against Espanyol, Valencia was able to keep their lead and get all three points. Against Real Madrid, Zaza and Orellana put in the two best chances the team had in the first 12 minutes, and then the team was able to hold off one of the best offenses in the world, no small accomplishment. Against Athletic, there were two fortunate goals and a returning from injury Aduriz that let Valencia through unscathed.
Don't wash that lucky jersey yet. The trials aren't over, the deep issues still remain, and anything can happen in football. Nevertheless, going into the rest of the season, there is reason to hope that Valencia might have better luck,and that it will create a certain stability that will let them deal with their problems.
What do you think? Has luck affected us more than other teams? Will we get better? Let us know in the comments section below.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Few Thoughts...

Just thought I'd write a few points on my thoughts about what's been going on recently and just to cover some points that I think might have been missed.

Firstly, I am just as disappointed as the rest of you at this transfer window. Here are a few positives and negatives I managed to come up with:


1) We managed to get rid of a lot excess luggage that's been dragging itself around the team and getting paid but not giving us our money's worth. Barragan, Piatti, Orban, Yoel and Danilo all needed to go and they did.

2) Despite initial rumors stating otherwise, we did manage to retain Diego Alves. Previous posts have correctly described the lack of identity of the club (signified by players who have been here 2 years or more at least). Diego Alves is one who has been there for about 5 years now. His presence is important not only because of the identity issue but he is a true leader on the field. As far as being vocal and talking to his team, Diego does plenty of that. He should really be getting the captain's armband and not Perez which worries me (Diego might not be in Ayesteran's plans). I'm sure you are all familiar with how every time we are defending a corner, you hear one loud voice scream "Ariba! Ariba!" encouraging everyone to jump up. Or when we concede he claps and encourages the team to get back in. All that on top of the fact that he is our best goalkeeper undeniably.

3) We didn't rush into expensive Negredo, Rodrigo and Enzo Perez type signings. This point might be due to necessity rather than smart judgement. Garay may have been a tad bit overpriced but I am not complaining too much since he is a quality player and we desperately need a quality defender. This FFP might be a blessing in disguise in the case of Mangala cause I fear what could have happened if we did have the money. Would we have spent 30-40 million on him despite him not proving his worth yet?


1) We did lose a lot of Valencia CF identity. A lot of the players marketed as Valencia CF's future are gone now. You can say the club is larger than any player and that we have lost our best players in the past all you want but it doesn't make it better. When Lim first bought the club we all thought good now we can keep some of our players for a change. Yet mad spending to no one other than the benefit of his friends cost Valencia CF a lot.

2) Once again we benefit others while we suffer. It's true that a lot of the players did ask to leave and there is always the "you can't turn down Barcelona or Real Madrid" but we're not giving them any incentive to stay or even fighting for them. I mean Andre Gomes's release clause was some absurd 115 million euros or something. We didn't even get close to that. 30 million?! I get the urgency to sell with FFP but really? Why set an absurdly high release clause if you're going to accept an amount that low. We're helping the league champions who don't need any help as it is and we're hurting ourselves. More on this point is that our last two signings (Mendes and Garay) are both Mendes inspired.

3) Replacement that we did get were not adequate and are unproven in some cases. Our defense I feel has definitely improved but Mangala could still be a question mark. Abdennour had one game where he did do well and we saw his potential but has easily been our worst players since. He needed to leave. His mind looked set on the Premier League for a while now so let them take him please. However I don't think Suarez is a big improvement on Fuego, could be wrong but it doesn't seem that way. Munir has some promise and is a lot more mobile than Alcacer (who relies more on positioning) but again is unproven. And Montoya...same deal.

4) We learned Lim's judgement is questionable. They say stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Why are we doing the same thing over and over? We keep trusting Mendes to give us the next superstar of the century and pay absurd prices that nobody else is willing to pay of them plus his commission and have always been disappointed. Why do we still deal with him? This comes back to letting Ayala, Rufete and Salvo go. Ayala made us really good signings since he had special influence especially on Argentine players. Otamendi for 12 million euros was a steal and we sold him for close to 50 million after one year. That is what I call return on investment. Now you invest in this 50 million in 3 or 4 "Otamendi's" and so on. Who knows how many actual prodigies we turned down cause they weren't Mendes related. Yet clubs seem to always sell us their junk and "prodigies" for such high prices and not willing to step down a bit. Yet we always make it easier and facilitate them signing our players. Why do we always have to be the ones to step down? Lim if you're reading...Please get those 3 back, and lets start making good deals again. Getting them back will not be a sign of weakness but a sign that you actually care.

5) Financial Fair Play? We don't have enough money? Lay Hoon was explaining that people thing we get the money from the signings instantly and that we have a 100 million or something euros to spend but in football money gets paid over 2 or 3 years. Fair point. We need to meet FFP so we sell even if we don't want to do so. And even if we sell we are still in a shortage of money. Well why then are we still waiting on a shirt sponsor? You cannot complain that you don't have enough money if you are not making the most out of the opportunities you have. Every year for the while now we have a shirt that's blank from the front and we keep waiting and waiting and no sponsor. I just looked up a table of Premier league incomes from shirt sponsors. Let's say we are slightly better than West Ham's annual income of 8 million euros annually on shirt sales at 10 million (This just a worst case scenario), then over the past 2 or 3 years we have 30 million euros, the amount for which we sold Gomes/Alcacer. But we keep leaving the shirt blank waiting for a better deal. Well some deal is better than no deal. Put Mendes's companies name or something since we like him so much, just get some money for it already.

6) Manager probably is weak link. We have not had a proven manager for the past while now. They all make their way into the club and leave the next year and we have no consistency in results or managerial position. Ayesteran did have a decent run last season but is he really the manager we need? I was thinking the other day, we have a manager that keeps saying I would love to go back to Valencia one day in interviews and is currently managing Newcastle in the 2nd division of the English League. Please tell me we can at least convince him to come here? He helped Valencia a lot and was an important part on Valencia's path to greatness. Who better to put us back up than him? I wouldn't even mind keeping Ayesteran with him. I have nothing against him, I just think it's about time we get an experienced manager.

7) Clubs mocking us? I know this is the least of our worries but Barcelona president said something that I found offensive. I hope the translation was incorrect but he said something along the lines of (while talking about the Alcacer signing) that playing for Barcelona alongside Messi, Suarez and Neymar and telling your grandkids about that is better than staying at Valencia and scoring even 50 goals a season. And then adds with all due respect to Valencia. Some respect that is? Is that the speech they give to our players when they take them from us?


Anyways, I haven't written in a while, I will try to be more regular but here is a summary of what I thought over the past while (good work from SlickR to keep up with all the pre-season and transfer window). The last two signings especially gave me some hope in that we might be able to compete for mid table somewhere if we play it absolutely right. I don't know if we're ready for top four yet but we can sure try. A lot people I read in some posts (not necessarily on this blog) say there is no point in supporting the club anymore and things like that. The least we can do is stand by our team. There are a lot of negatives but let's at least make the fan's support a positive in the lack of other positives.