Showing posts with label feature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label feature. Show all posts

Friday, January 22, 2021

The where are they now of the Lim era part 3: attackers

The last part of the series on everyone who played in a competitive game for the first team and then left. Part one: here and part two: here.

 Iban Salvador. Had a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo, playing the last 10 minutes of the Copa 2nd leg against Barcelona in 2016. By chance that was also the last game of 3 others on these lists: Diallo, Zahibo and Villalba. As we’d lost 7-0 in the first leg, how many of us watched that? Released that summer, he’s been with a few clubs since. Valladolid, who loaned him to Murcia and Leonesa, before he transferred on a free to Celta reserves. After a season there, he joined his current club, second level Fuenlabrada, in 2019. He has at least broken into the Equatorial Guinea national team and scored the only goal in a crucial African Nations cup tie against Libya last November. 

Vinicius Araujo. Always looked like a mid-season panic buy, with Valencia playing 3.5 million to Cruziero for him in January 2014. After 6 unsuccessful appearances, a series of loans followed as Valencia tried to recover some cash. After the loans at Liege, former club Cruziero and Brazilian club Sport didn’t work out, he made a surprise brief return to Valencia. Played in the dead rubber second leg of the Copa at Celta (after we’d lost the 1st leg 1-4) and even scored his only Valencia goal. That was his swan song. Loaned to Huesca a week later and joined Zaragoza on a free later that year. An unsuccessful season there meant he returned to Brazil for a similarly unsuccessful stint with Vasco, who loaned him to Avai. He finally saw some success last season at Montedio Yamagata of the Japanese second division. He’s certainly travelled around.  

Munir. Joined on loan in summer 2016 to cover Alcacer’s departure. Did finish as joint top scorer with Rodrigo, but 7 goals in 25 games wasn’t enough for Valencia to even consider the 12 million option. After returning to Barcelona he hardly played and joined Alaves on loan where the prat celebrated scoring against us in the Copa as though he’d won the world cup. Moved permanently to Sevilla where he’s established himself well.

Alcacer. A player who was developing well into the talisman of the Valencia side so it was a sickener how he left and how badly handled it was. A chaotic exit with Lay Han Choon being undermined by her boss, who first told her he wasn’t leaving and then negotiated a sale to Barcelona after that. Most well know his history so I won’t dwell on it. Controversial exit. Struggles at Barcelona where he was behind Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Did well at Dortmund, now also doing well at Villarreal. A sad tale of the mismanagement and chaos at Valencia summed up in one player.

Negredo. Valencia’s record signing at the time for 30 million. How would The Bomb do? He lived up to his name, but not in a good way, as a financial bomb. He’s subsequently said that joining Valencia was a mistake and he’ll not find any Valencia fans arguing with him. A loan season at Middlesbrough proved unspectacular and he moved to Besiktas in Turkey but eventually lost his starting place. Their financial problems meant he lasted only a season. Two prolific years at Al-Nasr in Dubai followed before he returned to Cadiz for this season.

Nani. After a couple of middling seasons, we tried and failed to recover cash with a loan to Lazio. He was then released to return to Sporting Lisbon. After a single season there joined Orlando in the MLS in 2019 and is still there.

Zaza. Who can forget this guy?

Eyebrows raised when he was first linked with us. Despite his flaws, left a positive impression at the Mestalla and had a real purple patch, equalling the most-games-in-a-row scoring record. That turned out to be a blip as his goals dried up, with just 3 goals in his last 24 games. To the consternation of many fans, he was moved on to join Torino for 14 million. In hindsight, it looks like a wise decision as his scoring rate hasn’t improved: just 15 goals from 70 games in his three seasons there. 

Vietto. After being linked with Valencia for a long time (we had a buy option on him as part of the signing of DePaul, but didn’t use it) finally joined on loan in January 2018. Started spectacularly with a hat-trick in his second game, a Copa win over Las Palmas which included a goal from the halfway line. Just 2 goals in the next 17 games followed, we declined the 16 million option and he was loaned to Fulham, managing just a single goal in 22 games. Then joined Sporting Lisbon, who he’d rejected to join us. They sold him for 7 million to Saudi club Al-Hilal last year.

Batshuayi. After 3 decent seasons at Marseilles, Chelsea and Dortmund, looked a great loan pick up. What could go wrong? Everything. He seemed sluggish, overweight and off the pace. He seemed to unbalance the team and after his loan was cut short, results flowed for Valencia. Looked like he’d got his revenge by scoring a late winner for Chelsea at Ajax in our Champions league group but it wasn’t to be. Loaned to Palace where his 6 goals in 26 games are hardly setting the world on fire.

Rodrigo. A slow burner. Looked like a useless and expensive bust in his early seasons where he was misused on the wings. Began to show some form in the Ayestaran-Prandelli era where he moved to central striker in a 4-3-3 but then got injured. It was only with the arrival of Zaza and switch to 4-4-2 that he began to produce. His linkup play between midfield and attack are sorely missed. Just 3 goals in 15 games for a Leeds side that have been struggling recently.

Santi Mina. After a slow start, won the fans over with a super sub role producing goals, though I doubt anyone misses the LeBron James celebration which he overused? Has hardly excelled at Celta since returning there. Marked his 50th appearance since rejoining Celta this week with a goal but that’s only his 2nd of the season and 8th overall. Does have 3 from 3 in the Copa against lower division sides, but he’s well below the potential he started to show at Valencia.

Rafa Mir. Along with Danilo Barbosa, the poster child for critics who complained that Mendes had too much influence at Valencia. His highly controversial selection for a crunch Champions league game at Zenit arguably sealed the end for Nuno, who resigned the game after. Mir's relationship with the fans soured and after an abortive attempt to join Real Madrid, rejoined Nuno at Wolves in the second level but only got 4 games. Has since had loan spells at Las Palmas, Nottingham Forest and Huesca, with only his last season with them in the Spanish second flight really impressing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The "where are they now?" of the Lim era part 2: midfielders

Continuing our trip down memory lane of players who had competitive minutes with the first team since Lim took over but have left us. Obviously some of these guys played in more than one position. 

Left wingers

Bakkali a flair player who won over the Mestalla faithful, but his defensive contributions were lacking and as a result he only started 5 of the 40 games he played for us. After a loan at Depor, returned to his native Belgium at Anderlecht in 2018 and played half the games in his first season. Injury sidelined him for most of 2019-20 and since returning, he’s been out of favor, only playing 2 games this season.

Sito. Made his debut in the last game of the 2015-16 season, replacing the injured Piatti in the 38th minute. (That would be Piatti’s last ever Valencia game, more on him in a minute.) Sito played a single minute the following season and that was it for him. Loaned to Lorca and then released on a free to join his current club, Asteras Tripolis of the Greek top division where he’s begun to establish himself.

Piatti. We hotly debated his merits for ages on this blog. Valencia sold him for the usual scandalously low price to Espanyol. Debuted with a goal and 2 assists and had a sensational debut season ending with 10 goals and 11 assists. Saw reduced returns after that, though, and injuries recurred. Another injury February 2019 kept him out for most of that year. In January 2020 he was released and now plays for Toronto in the MLS.

Nacho Gil. Made his debut in February 2017 and then began to see some game time and starts under Marcelino. Doubts crept in and he was part of the controversial experimental line-up which flopped badly away to Las Palmas in January 2018. That would be his last game. Joined Elche on loan the following week before being released in the summer to join second level Ponferradina. After 2 seasons there he joined Cartagena who had been newly promoted to the second level. Has been a regular as they fight relegation. 

Central midfielders

Bruno Zuculini. Joined us on loan from Man City in Nuno’s first season but only played half a game. Loan was cancelled mid-season and a series of loans in Spain, England and Greece followed. Permanently joined Hellas Verona of Greece in 2017 but only lasted a year before returning to his native Argentina with River Plate.

Felipe Augusto. Represented by, you guessed it, Mendes. Nuno brought him with him from Rio Ave. After a few sub appearances, started his only game, a disastrous 3-0 defeat at Depor and was subbed off at half time. (That game also ended the Valencia career of Yoel.) After a couple of sub appearances in December he never played another minute the rest of the season. Returned to Portugal and was loaned out to Braga before a permanent move to Benfica. They in turn loaned him to Turkish top flight side Alanyaspor. He was then sold back to Rio Ave where he was a regular until dropping out of the team last month.

Carles Gil. One of the first to depart under Nuno, joining Aston Villa in January 2015. He had a decent enough spell there but returned to Spain in summer 2016 for two years at Depor. Then moved permanently to the MLS to play for New England Revolution, where he’s a regular.

Fran Villalba. Attracted a lot of buzz after emerging in 2015 but never made it. His last game was the dead rubber Copa 2nd leg vs Barca (incidentally also the last game for 3 others on these lists.) After spending all of 2018-19 on loan at Numancia, he joined Birmingham City permanently, though with Valencia reserving half his rights. After an ok season there he’s been back in Spain since summer 2019 on loan at Almeria , who have a buy option.

Enzo Perez. One of many expensive busts for 25 million. He started well, but there were always questions over his fitness and after 2 years, Valencia cut their losses and transferred him on the cheap to River Plate where he’s a regular.

Danilo Barbosa. Controversial Mendes addition for the 2015-16 season where he was a regular, playing 32 games. Valencia rightly declined the 15 million buy option. Returned to Braga who loaned him out to Benfica and Liege. Surprisingly, Braga did get a decent fee of 10 million for him from Nice in 2018. He was a regular for them in the first season but gradually fell down the pecking order, being used as emergency cover at central defence and has only played 4 games this season with talk of a transfer.

Wilifried Zahibo.

Broke through in the Neville era and got 7 games, starting 6 of them, even managing a goal in the Copa against Granada. But the Copa 2nd leg against Barcelona with Valencia well eliminated already would be his final game. Left after one season and played at the second level with Gimnastic. After 2 seasons there he moved to the MLS with New England Revolution for 2 seasons. Spent last season with Houston Dynamo, but only played 4 games. His contract there expired last month and was not renewed, so he is now a free agent.

Tropi. Mestalla player who made his La Liga debut, and his only top flight appearance in the 89th minute at Elche in March 2015. Got a couple of late sub appearances under Neville in Copa and Europa league the following season. Has had a journeyman existence since then. Year-long loans at Alcorcon and Lorca. Signed by Recreativo Huelva but released after the 2018-19 season. Atletico Madrid reserves signed him for 2019-20 before he joined third level UCAM Murcia last autumn, where he is a regular.  

Andre Gomes. The transfer to Barcelona, though it brought in 37 million ultimately, really stung, especially since the 2 guys that follow on this list were not up to the task of replacing him. Had a torrid time at Barcelona before a loan at Everton became permanent. Was a regular at Everton in his first season, even after overcoming a horror injury but has struggled for game time this season being used more as a sub.

Alvaro Medran. Bought in summer 2016 as a very cheap replacement for Andre Gomes. Though he showed some early promise, lacked the consistency to be a regular, making 19 appearances and scoring 3 times. Started in Marcelino’s first game in charge in 17/18 but that would be his final appearance. Went to Alaves on loan where a managerial change proved disastrous for him, leading to him infamously breaking down in tears in a post-match interview. After another loan at Rayo, he joined Chicago Fire on a free, where he’s a regular.

Mario Suarez. As I said in the previous post, if Simeone says you’re past it, you are. Joined on loan from Watford in summer 2016 with a buy option to replace the departed Fuego. Was a regular for the first half of the season without convincing. With Voro taking over and Soler’s emergence he was deemed unnecessary and didn’t even play a single minute after February 2017. Joined Guizhou in China that year before returning to Spain with Rayo in 2019. Was a regular the first season but now struggles for game time, used as a sub mostly.

Javi Fuego. After 3 ok years with us, joined Espanyol. 2 seasons later spent a single season at Villarreal where he featured rarely as he spent most of the season injured. Released by them, he dropped down a level to join Gijon where he’s ever present. Considering he turned 37 earlier this month, that’s not bad going for a midfielder.

Maksimovic. Was a good pick-up on a free from Astana but got frustrated at lack of game time behind the next 3 guys on this list and left to join Getafe where he’s done very well. It’s a shame because with the current state of our midfield, he’d be a useful player to have.

Parejo. His departure for no money and the manner of it: tossed out as if he was no one when he was actually a loyal, long time club servant, still annoys. Has been a regular at Villarreal this season.

Coquelin. Not going so well for him up the coast. Has really struggled for game time, with brief sub appearances the norm since October and for the last 5 games he’s played 4 minutes and hasn’t even been in the match squad the other 4.

Kondogbia. I hope he gets more money at Atletico because he’s certainly losing game time. Hasn’t played more than 27 minutes in a league game since joining them and didn’t even play the last 3 games.

Right wingers

Fede Cartabia, played both wings. Joined us at age 13 and made a decent breakthrough for 2013-14, playing 40 games. But fell out of favor and a couple of seasons of loans followed. Made a surprise return to Valencia in summer 2016 but only lasted the first half of the season. Released on a free and returned to Depor, where he got reasonable game time, but was loaned out to Braga and then last season to Al-Ahli of Dubai in the UAE. Still there but out of favour. Another promising youth player who never quite made it.

Feghouli. After 6 reasonable seasons with us, he fell out with the club at the end and left for a season at West Ham. Moved to Galatasaray in 2017 and is still there, recently passing 120 games for them.

Orellana. Joined in January 2017 and started well, with a winner against Real Madrid but was then frozen out and left to join Eibar. After two and a half reasonable seasons there, moved to Valladolid for this season.

Ferran. Doing well at Man City. Too painful to write any more.

DePaul. Another one that got away. After a brief spell back at his boyhood club Racing he moved to Udinese where he’s highly rated and played 165 games to date.

Andreas Pereira. His loan spell with us ended sourly as it became obvious we weren’t going to buy him and he responded by sulking. Returned to Man United and saw decent game time last season but is now on loan at Lazio.

Rober. Made sporadic sub appearances in Nuno’s first season before heading out on loan for a couple of seasons at Granada and Leganes. Made a brief return and scored his only senior goal in his final appearance in a Copa win over Zaragoza. Joined Getafe in January 2018 but was barely used and moved to Osasuna on loan a year later. Their promotion for 2019-20 triggered a buy clause but he didn’t play much after that. They loaned him out to second tier Leganes for this season.

Monday, January 18, 2021

The "where are they now?" of the Lim era part 1: goalkeepers and defenders

 Just for something different. I was looking over my spreadsheets of player appearances recently and wondering what had happened to some of those guys post-Valencia and decided to do a couple of nostalgia driven posts on it. This is the full lowdown on every former player who kicked a ball in a competitive game with the first team since Lim took over in 2014. Salva Ruiz and Michel, who were registered but never played, are not counted, nor are the guys currently out on loan (Jimenez, Piccini and Guerrero.) 


Diego Alves: it almost became a ritual: dubious penalty whistled, Alves played mind games with the taker and, to the roar of Mestalla, saved it half the time. Injured the last game of 2014-15 season and never recovered his previous form. He’s now back home in Brazil playing for Flamengo and still saving half the penalties.

Matt Ryan: signed to cover Diego’s injury, got injured himself early on at Valencia and that effectively killed off his Valencia career as he found himself fighting for the number 1 spot with Jaume and then with Alves when he returned. After just 10 league appearances, joined Brighton where he did well until this season when he fell out of favor and is now transfer listed.

Yoel: signed as backup and never recovered from a disastrous performance at Deportivo followed by letting in 4 in the Copa. Even the injuries to Alves and Matt Ryan failed to give him game time as Jaume was preferred. Loaned out to Rayo and Eibar, being bought by the latter, who also put him out on loan to Valladolid. Now just a back-up at Eibar.

Neto: early questions were asked when he seemed static as goals went in past him, but established himself as a reliable keeper. It all ended weirdly with him getting the huff with Marcelino when Jaume was maintained for the Copa. His time at Barcelona hasn’t convinced and he’s recently been asking to leave to get more game time. Safe to say the Cillessen-Neto swap, which seemed a good idea at the time, hasn’t worked out for anyone.

Lucas Orban: signed from Bordeaux, his Valencia career got off to a dream start when he came on as a late sub and scored an equaliser against Sevilla in Nuno’s first game in charge. His only goal for the club. Though he got a few games in the middle of that season, he struggled to establish himself and left on loan to Levante before moving permanently to Genoa. After struggling for game time there, returned to his native Argentina where he now plays for River Plate.

Siquiera: if Simeone thinks you’re past it, he’s usually right. Signed in Jan 2016 to cover at left back even though Lato was showing promise. Got game time at the end of 15-16 but didn’t convince and ended injured. When he returned he struggled for games with Lato and even Montoya preferred when Gaya was unavailable. Valencia did not take up the buy option and Atletico Madrid released him. After a year without a club, retired in 2018.

Jaume Costa: after his loan year with us, back at Villarreal where he’s still a back-up who rarely plays.

Ibrahim Diallo: signed for Mestalla as a promising youth from Eupen in Summer 2015. Played 4 games in the Copa, two of them the full 90 minutes, one the dead rubber second leg against Barca after we had been crushed 7-0. Lacking game time, returned to Eupen and played most of 2016-17, but suffered a horrific knee injury at the start of 2017-18. After 2 and a half years of various treatments proved unsuccessful and he hadn’t played a minute, he retired last summer at the age of 23. Now works as a video analyst for Eupen.

Vezo: Had a lengthy spell of six seasons at the club and I was sorry to see him go for while he was never amazing, he was always a useful backup. He got fed up of that role and joined Levante where he’s been getting the game time he lacked. 

: best defender we have had in the last decade, he of course abandoned us after 1 season to join Man City and was doing fine there until cracks started to appear and fell out of favor. Despite being linked with a Valencia return many times, he’s now back in Portugal at Benfica.

Mustafi: formed a decent partnership with Otamendi before joining Arsenal in a deal which eventually saw Paulista, Coquelin and 14 million come the other way. After a good start at Arsenal, it fell apart and he’s now the butt of jokes among their fans who will be happy to move him on.

Abdennour: signed as Otamendi’s replacement on the strength of a good season at Monaco he quickly alienated the Mestalla faithful with error heavy performances. With Garay and Mangala arriving it was game over and Valencia attempted to recover some money with a loan to Marseilles. After he failed there, he was released and spent a year in Turkey at Kayserispor where he also didn’t convince. They released him on a free to Qatari club Umm Salal where he at least gets some game time though his career is effectively over at top level.

Santos: awful signing that we blew 10 million of the Otamendi money on. After even making Abdennour look like a great signing he was loaned out to Brazilian clubs and then Valencia apparently got some money from Al Ahli for him. After not impressing there, they let him return to Portugal, to Rio Ave, on a free.

Jeison Murillo: always a mystery why it didn’t happen for him at the Mestalla as he looked a solid 3rd choice defender. Loaned out to Barcelona, where he played just a single game and then to Sampdoria. Joined the latter permanently, struggled for game time and now plays regularly on loan at Celta.

Roncaglia: after the strange decision not to give Murillo game time, Roncaglia was brought in on loan to cover. Looked error prone and got sent off at Girona so it was no surprise that his time with us ended after half a season.

Garay: probably the best defender of the Lim era after Otamendi. Started to become too injury prone but was ultimately a victim of the internal club politics. Though he’s recovered from last year’s injury, he remains without a club.

Barragan: despite never being great, had a long 5 seasons with us. Sold to Middlesbrough in summer 2016. After not impressing there, returned to Spain with Betis who released him to join Elche last summer.

Montoya: Barragan’s replacement. Proved no better and not an answer to the club’s long lack of a decent right back. After teaming up with Matt Ryan in Brighton he returned to Spain last year with Betis.

Nacho Vidal: broke through under Marcelino and was even touted as one of the best Spanish young players but a few iffy performances led to him being dropped and he left for Osasuna where he’s been a regular.

Cancelo: big money transfer to Italy followed by another big money transfer to Man City. His career is going well.

Florenzi: should have gone better for him than it did, but injury and the general chaos at the club meant that his loan becoming permanent was never an option. Doing well with PSG now.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

An open letter to Anil Murthy

 As some of you will have seen, Anil Murthy has released a statement on the club's website explaining some of the club's actions.

It deserves a reply, and I've pinged him on Twitter, though without little expectation of acknowledgement. 


First of all, that the club’s president has taken the time to outline some of the club’s thinking is to be welcomed. All too often, due to a lack of communication, supporters have been left in the dark on the club’s motivations. This has led to an atmosphere of mistrust, bred conspiracy theories as to the owner’s real motives and made the fans feel as if they don’t count. The regrettable comments by the owner’s daughter on social media have simply added to this. So in that context, some explanation is appreciated.

To begin with, the statement is accurate in some respects. Valencia before Meriton was poorly managed by local owners. Decisions were made which created considerable problems further down the line. Those led to some of the issues which the club currently faces.

What is problematic is the version of history presented in the statement. The history carefully skips over the first 3 years of Meriton’s ownership. In that period of time a number of mistakes were made which simply deepened the club’s financial and sporting problems.  

Large amounts of money were spent, often blindly, on “prospects.” Often from Portugal and usually from the Jorge Mendes roster. Considerable sums were also spent on players past their best. Much of that was a significant overspend on players who did not work out: 30 million for Alvaro Negredo, 25 million for Enzo Perez, 23 million for Aymen Abdennour,  9.5 million for Aderllan Santos and 9 million for Nani. Only sporting failure prevented a similar mistake to be made in the case of Danilo Barbosa, who the club had planned to buy for 15 million.

For balance, it does need to be acknowledged that there were successes: Andre Gomes and Joao Cancelo, while Rodrigo Moreno has at least proved valuable to the club despite being one of many players with a questionably inflated transfer fee of 28 million. However, it is clear that that strategy was overall not a success and added to the club’s debt issues. Exacerbating this, the club too often put the sporting project into the hands of people with little or no experience of either presiding over a sporting project or managing a top level club in Spain: Chan Lay Hoon, Gary Neville, Pako Ayestaran and Cesare Prandelli to name just some. Their failures undermined the club still further.

Next comes one of the biggest problems with the statement: “In 2017/18, after nearly a decade, the club started paying back the banks. The banks were finally happy. They trusted that this version of Valencia CF would be sustainable. In 2019/20, VCF had by far their greatest ever income in history. The club won a first trophy in 11 years, beating Barcelona in an historic battle in the Copa del Rey.”

It seems strange that the club claims credit for the Copa win. Two previous managers, Marcelino and Gary Neville, have stated that Peter Lim instructed them to get out of the cup as soon as possible. The cup win appears to have come in spite of Meriton, not because of it.

The major problem and what is not mentioned in this statement is why the club managed this high income in 2019/20. What happened between 2017 and then? The answer is simple: the club entrusted the running of the club to professionals. Mateu Alemany was hired to oversee the sporting side. He in turn recommended the hiring of Marcelino as head coach, while Pablo Longoria was given responsibility for scouting. Hiring tested and experienced professionals produced results. The club qualified for the Champions League two years in a row.

The impact of that on the club’s finances were profound. According to UEFA’s accounts, the club received 57.1 million from participation in the Champions League and Europa League for the 2018/19 season. While the accounts for 2019/20 have yet to be published by UEFA, Valencia making the last 16 of the Champions League is worth over 60 million in participation fees and prize money to the club. On top of that, the club benefits from ticket sales, merchandising and sponsorship, all of which would add at least 20 million to those figures. It also made it a more appealing destination for ambitious young players and coaches.

“We must be a serious club. We must be responsible” is a laudable sentiment. However, the actions which Valencia’s owners took in 2019 were anything but serious or responsible. To the astonishment of Valencia fans and the entire football world, they dismantled the sporting structures which had brought success and ended the club’s turmoil and lack of achievement. Showing once again a lack of self-awareness of the mistakes made in the two seasons prior to 2017/18, they yet again entrusted the club to an untested coach who lacked experience of being a club’s head coach anywhere. It's clear that relations between the owner and the previous manager Marcelino had broken down, but why was a more experienced coach not appointed and given part of a pre-season to work with the players? Why wait until after the season had started and just before crunch games in the league and Champions league?

In other words, 2019 represented a return to the flawed model which had been tried several times in 2015 and 2016 and had resulted only in mid-table finishes. Predictably, this led to a failure of the sporting project for 2019/20 and results in renewed financial problems for the club.

“We need to reduce the cost of our team” is true but again, a major reason for that is the poor decisions taken in 2019, which have left the club short of 60-70 million of income from European football. It is also totally unclear to fans how the financial issues can be solved by gifting players with two years of their contract left on free transfers to clubs directly competing with us for European places. Some transfer fee would be expected and would go some way to quelling supporter unease. Furthermore, as replacements for those players, we are now being linked with “prospects” who have never played in the Spanish league, who are represented by Jorge Mendes, and who the club seems willing to gamble 15-20 million on. Basically, this is simply returning to the same mistakes of Meriton’s first three seasons in charge and shows a spectacular failure to learn.

Unfortunately, the President’s statement then contains a number of statements or implications which are either questionable or simply untrue.

“Pushing to have a big stadium and big name players, wining LaLiga and the Champions League at all cost will lead to a repeat of the past. “

As noted previously, the club is already repeating mistakes of the past. However, the implication that Valencia fans are “pushing to win La Liga and the Champions League at all cost” is totally incorrect. The overwhelming majority of Valencia fans realise that, due to the imbalances in club funding within La Liga and other major European leagues, winning either of these top prizes is unachievable until major reforms of how clubs are funded and how TV money is allocated occur.

What fans do expect is the club to make top four at the very least on three seasons out of six, with qualification for the Europa league the other three occasions. Additionally, winning the Copa del Rey or making the final at least twice a decade. The 2017-19 period showed that these are realistic objectives. Ultimately, we want a club that we can have pride in, not an underachieving mid-table team with constant managerial changes and instability. 

Lastly, most fans would take issue with this claim: “We have qualified for Champions League three times in our six seasons here, and won a trophy. It is no less, if not better, than the previous six seasons before we arrived. It is also in line with VCF’s Champions League qualification record throughout the club’s history.”

It’s true that the three Champions league qualifications are exactly the same as the six seasons prior to Meriton, however two of the three seasons in which Valencia failed pre-Meriton did at least have the club in the Europa league. There lies the big problem:

in the 17 seasons prior to Meriton’s takeover, Valencia failed to qualify for Europe just once. In just 6 seasons under Meriton, Valencia have failed to qualify for Europe three times.

In the 17 seasons prior to Meriton, 8th and 10th were Valencia’s worst placings. Under Meriton, the club has finished 9th, 12th and 12th.

It may now be too late to win back the fans’ trust. Moves are already underway in several penyas to organise a boycott of the club, which would involve not attending games after the COVID restrictions are lifted and not purchasing merchandise.

If the club wants to avoid that, it needs to stop repeating the same mistakes over and over. The President’s statement is a step in the right direction towards better communication, but a flawed one, since it lacks self-awareness, avoids taking any responsibility and fails to understand that a successful sporting project and stable financial situation are inextricably linked.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Player discontent with Celades growing

Various stories are coming through that Celades has lost the dressing room and the respect of the players after a number of incidents.

The first situation seems to have been with Diakhaby. Following his last game, Diakhaby said that he'd had a productive chat with the coach, something which the coach confirmed at the time. However, later Celades was more critical of the player, blaming him (not without justification) for costing the team 2 points. Worse, commentator Pichi Alonso released a story saying that "club sources" had told him that Celades had met with Diakhaby, shown him a video of his errors and this had ended with Diakhaby leaving the meeting in tears. Diakhaby, through L'Equipe, flatly denied this. The bigger problem was that the feeling was that the leak could only have come from Celades, meaning that he was backstabbing his players. While Diakhaby will have little sympathy among Valencia's fanbase, things like this will seriously undermine the trust of players in the coach.

The second blow-up was with Maxi Gomez. Following the Osasuna game, Maxi got frustrated with the coach, asking why he was always the first subbed off. Discussions became so heated that allegedly Maxi aimed a headbutt at Celades and had to be restrained. He turned up at the next training session in apologetic manner, but was given a cold shoulder by Celades and told to go home, further angering him.

After being told that Maxi wouldn't feature in future games, other members of the squad got angry, seeing him as a key player. Ferran Torres posted a message of support for Maxi on Instagram.

The club's captains met with sporting director Cesar Sanchez reaching agreement that Maxi would not be ostracised and would instead be fined. However, the mood following the meeting didn't seem to improve. Kondogbia posted on Instagram shortly afterwards: "¿El traidor? Es como una serpiente, pica y se esconde…" (The traitor? It's like a snake, it bites and then hides...") a message which seems to be aimed at the coach.

Celades' substitutions in general seem to be causing frustration. Guedes was visibly angry after being subbed off while having his best game of the season versus Osasuna. Another player who seems to getting annoyed is Ruben Sobrino. 4 of his last 6 appearances have seen him play 1 minute (twice), 2 minutes and 4 minutes. While Sobrino is below the level Valencia need, the player seems to be arguing, not unreasonably, that such brief cameos are pointless, as he has no chance to prove himself and make an impact on the game. His annoyance came to the fore in the Osasuna game, when the manager sent him out to warm up with 86 minutes played. Sobrino, given all the previous, got angered and Celades responded by not bringing him on.

Of course, a contrary opinion to this could be that the players should simply man up and accept the coach's substitute decisions. If it were one or two players, this would go fine, however annoyance seems to go throughout the squad now, with numerous players at odds with the coach. That never ends well. When I wrote my review of the season a few posts ago I said that Celades would probably be in the hotseat after the summer. Not only does that look unlikely now, there are serious questions over whether he can even make it to the end of the season. The team plays without direction, Celades' subs often don't make sense and the below par performances from the players are probably affected by growing dislike of the coach. Champions league is out now and even Europa starts to look like a struggle. Hopefully the owner will draw the necessary conclusions and hire an experienced coach to take us forward.

***Edit/update*** Stories that Celades offered his resignation to the club last night, but this was turned down. His days seem to be numbered.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Garay explains his position

Garay has just released an emotional video on Instagram (here, in Spanish) in which he explains his side of his contract renewal situation.

He claims that the assertion that he refused a decent sized salary is false, with the only offer made during the Marcelino time and substantially less than what he currently receives. He says that he has always wanted to renew with the exception being for a short period of a few weeks after Marcelino's sacking when he wanted to see how things would develop.

He says that since his injury, the club has made no new offers, apart from suggesting that if he took a bigger salary cut than the rest of the squad this would help his case.

He looks very stressed, really annoyed and at one point, on the verge of tears, saying that he's sick of being misrepresented on this issue.

Despite all that, clubs generally look really unfavourably on such uses of social media, so I would say that this had definitely sealed his fate and he has kicked his last ball in a Valencia shirt.

The question now is who replaces him. The club's defensive planning has been poor for some time. Given his vulnerability to injuries, having 4 defenders has clearly not been enough and there have been various times during the last few seasons when other players have had to plug the gap, Coquelin most notably. The signing of the even more injury prone Mangala just made things worse and this is clearly one of several areas where the club needs to invest in. They also need to blood a fifth defender (Javi Jimenez?) who can step in when needed.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Valencia v Barcelona (15 June 2003)

Today is a special anniversary for me. It was exactly 16 years ago that I finally got to visit Mestalla. Valencia at that time had been on a roll. Two unsuccessful Champions league finals in a row in 2000 and 2001 had been followed by the first league title in over 30 years. After all that excitement, the 2002-2003 season was a let down.  In the Champions league, after negotiating the two group stages (this was the last to feature two group stages) Valencia went out in the quarters to Inter Milan on away goals. In the Copa, Valencia's rotations didn't work and after a 3-3 draw at now defunct third level Alicante CF, we lost on penalties in the round of 32.

In La Liga, Valencia had struggled, dropping from third to the fringes of the Champions league places in spring. The biggest problem was one that had been clear the previous season. Even when we won the title, Ruben Baraja had been our top scorer with a risible 7 goals. Strong defence had saved us. (Sound familiar?) This season had been the same, with the team really struggling for goals. At the time of this game, John Carew was the leading scorer, with a disappointing 8 goals.

A 1-2 defeat to Real Madrid in the previous game at Mestalla in the 35th round of games had allowed Celta to overtake us for fourth. So this game, the 37th of the season, was crucial to our Champions league hopes.

Our rivals, Barcelona, had their own issues. The arrival of a certain little Argentinian guy was a few seasons in the future and they had missed out on the top three in the previous three seasons and were languishing in seventh place. With both cup finalists not in the top six, Barca were in serious danger of missing out on Europe altogether. They came into this game hoping to avenge Valencia's 4-2 win at the Camp Nou in January.

The positions at the time of the game were:

1. Sociedad 73 pts
2. R. Madrid 72
3. D. Corunya 69
4. Celta Vigo 58
5. Valencia 57
6. A. Bilbao 52
7. Barcelona 50

Real Sociedad were chasing their first title since 1982 and would ultimately be unsuccessful.

The day of the game itself had been baking hot, the season started a bit later then and went on a month longer, finishing on 22 June with the cup final a week after that. I was looking for work in Valencia at the time so had to settle for the cheaper seats "in the clouds" at 42 euro a go.

Valencia lined up with a 4-2-3-1. Canizares and a defence of Carboni, Marchena, Pellegrino and the on-loan Reveillere. Screening them were Baraja and De Los Santos. The attacking midfield was made up of Kily Gonzalez, Aimar and Rufete, supporting the lone striker, Carew.

Barcelona's line-up was Valdes ; Gabri, Puyol, De Boer, Reiziger ; Enrique, Mendieta, Cocu, Overmars ; Kluivert, Javier Saviola.

Luis Enrique, of course, would go on to manage Barcelona and Spain, while Gaizka Mendieta was making his first return to the Mestalla since his transfer two years earlier.

The game itself proved a baptism of fire for me. Strangely enough, despite it being a relatively unimportant league game in the pre-YouTube era, the full game is online. I only recommend it if any of you are feeling masochistic, though.

The first half saw Barcelona have the better chances and Canizares had to make a couple of saves. The dynamic changed just before half-time. Marchena brought down Mendieta and then Carew lost it a bit, body checking the referee and then getting in his face to get a debatable straight red card. Mendieta scored to make it 1-0.

Those events put Valencia on the back foot for the second half. Juan Sanchez came on for Rufete, with youth player Borja Criado later coming on to make his third and final appearance for the first team. Those attacking changes failed to produce the equaliser and, in the 73rd minute, the first half repeated. Barcelona countered, Luis Enrique dribbled past two of our guys and was brought down by Carboni just before he could shoot. A clear penalty, but the double punishment of a red card for Carboni seemed harsh. 0-2 down, with 9 men and news coming in that Celta were 2 goals up against Sociedad spelled the end of Valencia's Champions league hopes. Marc Overmars added a third for Barcelona before Juan Sanchez gave us a late consolation goal.

Sociedad's defeat at Celta cost them the title. Carew's season had ended on a low note, he was loaned out the following season and never kicked a ball for Valencia again. Mista took over as main forward and produced a better following season.

Valencia went on to finish fifth, qualifying for the UEFA Cup which we won as part of a league and European double. For me, it was a sign of things to come: harsh and dubious refereeing decisions favouring Barcelona and disappointing seasons would feature quite a bit in the next 16 years but those just make the wins even sweeter.

How was your first game at Mestalla?

Monday, June 10, 2019

Valencia's future in European competitions

In this post last year I looked at how Valencia would benefit from European competition financially. The figures for that are almost in. Valencia have so far earned 40.75m from the Champions league (15.25m participation fee, 17.7m from the ten-year ranking, 3m per win and 0.9m per draw.) On top of that, the club gets 5.5m from the Europa league. TV money is yet to come on top of that, I'd guess around 8m, though the figures aren't usually released until mid-October. When you add gate receipts, merchandising and so on, our windfall from European competitions easily passes 60 million.

When you look at the breakdown, it's obvious that the Champions league (CL) is where it's at: we got over seven times as much money from that as the Europa league. Does that mean we should ignore the Europa league altogether? Not at all, without the ranking points from that we would be in pot 4, instead of pot 3, in next August's draw and would also receive 3.4m less in CL money next season.

Ensuring that that money keeps coming in and making progress in Europe are the big challenges ahead.

The news here isn't good. You would think that Valencia reaching the semi-finals of the Europa league would boost our ranking, maybe even putting us in with a chance of pot 2, but in reality we are almost unchanged from last season. This website (look under the CL tab) assumes that seeded teams win in each round. Valencia are guaranteed pot 3, but are much closer to pot 4 than pot 2. That's down to the fact that seeding is based on the last 5 years in European competition and Valencia was absent in 14/15, 16/17 and 17/18.

For ranking points, teams get 2 points for a win and 1 for a draw in European competitions. There is 1 bonus point for reaching quarters, another for the semis and another for the final. Those points are the same for either Europa league or CL. For CL, teams also get 4 bonus points for playing group stage and 5 bonus points for last 16.

Looking at the CL tab in the link above shows the problem. Valencia are 33.5 points behind the last ranked team in pot 2, Ajax. We could catch up this season but not enough. The ranking points from 15/16 then expire after next season which means that we are basically stuck in pot 3 of the CL until at least the 2022-23 season, that's the next three seasons at least playing groups of death, unless we get pot 1 by winning a European tournament. Missing a single season in Europe or failing to reach at least CL last 16 or EL quarters will prolong that. We must qualify for Europe and take whatever competition we're in seriously.

The problem with the current European competitions is that no one is happy with them. UEFA's tendency to give increasing numbers of guaranteed places in the group stages to a handful of top countries has forced most federations to play a ridiculous number of qualifying rounds, up to 6 for the smallest federations and 4 for most. For clubs in The Baltics, for example, that means that usually 2 or 3 of 4 entrants fall at the first hurdle, with any survivors usually culled off a round or two after that and facing unsexy ties against clubs from Scandinavia, Poland, Czechia, Belarus or The Balkans. It's hardly a way to promote interest in football in countries where ice hockey seems more interesting.

To cater for the concerns of smaller clubs, UEFA is establishing a new third-level competition, provisionally called Europa league 2 until they can think of a better title. That will start in the 2021-22 season and will feature the last qualifier from Spain, could be us if we finish 7th. The winners of that only qualify for the Europa league and the money is likely to be even worse than that so it's one for us to avoid.

Of far more interest to us are the proposed changes to the CL for 2024. Richer clubs like Manchester United are annoyed at missing out on the CL and UEFA themselves recognise the $$$ that they can earn by having them in. UEFA has suggested a more closed arrangement for the CL. Under that, there would be four groups of 8 teams instead of eight groups of 4. The bottom 8 teams would be relegated to the Europa league, with the other 24 continuing for the next season. After the inaugural season, the only way to get into the CL would be by winning the domestic league then being one of 4 teams winning play-offs between 40+ champions or finishing in the last 4 of Europa league, which would likely be a tougher prospect as all teams would take that far more seriously.

With a guaranteed 14 games instead of 6 in that, CL prize money would more than double. Valencia could potentially be looking at 100+ million a season for participating in that. A few seasons of that would more than wipe out the club's debts and leave us solvent for the first time in 30 years. But only if we get in. It's not yet been confirmed how the teams will be selected for that but the general thinking is that it would be done on the basis of UEFA's 10-year ranking, with maybe the top 32 from that or top 30 and the Europa league and CL winners from the season before. Valencia are currently 23rd in it, but more recent lists start to put us lower: 27th in the last one I can find.

It has to be said that the changes are only proposed and due to be discussed in August. Valencia and other clubs have already expressed opposition and there's a good chance the changes will be rejected, but I really think some change like that is inevitable. The idea of a European super league has been around since the late 1980s and you only have to look at recent developments to see this. Winning the domestic league is now usually not enough. In recent times, PSG have parted company with Emery and Juventus with Allegri despite domestic league success, while Valverde is under heavy pressure at Barcelona. In all cases, it's because of failings in the CL. Among major leagues, England is the only exception to this. All that suggests that a super league will happen, likely through reform of the CL and Valencia has to be in that.

Interesting and challenging years ahead.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

How changes to domestic cups will affect Valencia

There are some major changes coming up in domestic cups, with more confirmed and proposed for Europe. Here I want to look at how the changes to domestic cups will affect us.


The old format which has been used for about 15 years was seen as boring, so the Spanish Football Federation decided to make some changes, inspired by the German and English domestic cups. The number of teams has been expanded slightly, from 83 to 126. For the first time since the early 1980s, teams from the Regional Preferente, the fifth level of Spanish football, will gain entry.

The other big changes are that only the four clubs playing the Super Cup will start in the last 32. The other La Liga clubs will start two rounds earlier. Instead of two-legged games, as we've seen up to now, all ties, except the semi-finals, will now be one game only. No replays, just extra time and penalties if needed. Games will be played at the ground of the team that is in a lower division.

If two teams from the same division are drawn against each other, the first team drawn will have home advantage. After preliminary rounds reduce the Regional Preferente teams down to 10, the Regional Preferente and Tercera division teams, along with 4 Segunda B teams, will be drawn at home to the La Liga teams. This round will be regionalised, though how regional we will have to wait and see.

Effects for Valencia are
  • Fewer games. Winning the cup next year would only require playing 6 games rather than 9. If we are not in the Super Cup, it's still 8 games instead of 9. 
  • Shorter first round trips. Valencia have headed to Vigo in the first round in recent times. If we're not in the super cup, we shouldn't have so far to travel.
  • Loss of revenue. Fewer cup games at Mestalla, as lower league teams get home advantage.
  • The cup gets a bit more open. In the past, Barcelona and Real Madrid could lose their first leg against La Liga opposition and win the return: that happened this season with Barcelona losing 0-2 at Sevilla but battering them at Camp Nou. I think it's more likely that clubs outside the big two can win now.
  • Less chance to blood young players. The two-legged format suited La Liga clubs well. We could experiment with the team and include some promising reserve team players in the starting line-up in the first leg, safe in the knowledge that, if we screwed up and lost, we could put out a stronger line-up in the second leg at Mestalla and overturn the loss. That's exactly what happened this season against Gijon. This allowed us to try out players like Gaya, Kang-In and Alcacer in the past. Now, we won't be able to gamble too much with a weaker squad in the first leg.
Overall, the changes are better for the neutral, but mixed for us, especially from the development point of view.


Similar to the Copa del Rey, the Super Cup expands next season to four teams. Instead of the league champions against the cup winners (or runners-up if a team won the double) over two legs it will be the cup finalists and the two highest placed teams in La Liga playing single leg games outside Spain. Saudi Arabia is the likely venue for this. Valencia were very angry about this, arguing that forcing us to play a semi-final, when we had qualified by right for the final, was unfair. The club said it supported the expansion for future seasons, but not for next. The changes have gone ahead anyway. Valencia made noises about legal action but this hasn't happened.

The draw has already been made, Valencia will face Atletico Madrid on 8 January, with Barcelona - Real Madrid the following day and the final on 12 January. There are conflicting stories about the division of revenue. Some sources suggested we would get 1 million, Atletico 2m and the big two 6m each, which sounded blatantly unfair. Later, reported that the losing semi-finalists will get 800,000 each, the runner-up 2m and the winner 2.8m. 

Effects for Valencia

  • More chance of qualifying. 4th in La Liga will probably be there about a third of the time.
  • More money. Foreign cities will pay more to host it.
  • The neutral games often won't be neutral. Barcelona and Real Madrid have far more international fans than we do. Barcelona vs Valencia played in Miami, for example, would be virtually the same as Barcelona playing at home.
  • Less disadvantage in La Liga when playing the Super Cup. Under the old format, we would have had 2 extra games next season while other La Liga clubs have a nice break. This time, we'll be playing at the same time that they play Copa del Rey games. 
So, apart from next season, and assuming that the money will be performance based, these changes are better for us.

In a future post, I'll look at how changes to European competitions could affect us.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Valencia CF need a new striker

Last two matches against Sporting Gijon in the copa and Real Valladolid in the league have shown us just how desperately we need a new striker. In the copa match against Gijon Michy missed an open goal, a sitter and was subsequently subbed at half time and with good reason, with reports suggesting that he is going to leave Valencia CF as VCF are negotiating with Chelsea to end his loan deal. That said in the match against Real Valladolid we had several players miss similar chances. Cheryshev had a great opportunity on goal, Santi Mina also missed an empty open goal as he fumbled with his legs and missed the whole ball, in literally went in between his legs as he missed an open empty goal.

Rodrigo Moreno then had a solid chance as well from open play, he also missed and later on he had opportunity to make it right through a penalty and he shot straight into the goalkeeper. We can't win games when we can't score goals even when we are creating so many chances. There are some games that we don't create many chances, tighter games and that is another issue altogether, but in matches like last one where we create plenty of opportunities, its sad that we barely managed to score one goal. We probably had 5 games like this and I'm being conservative here, we probably drew 5 games that we should have won, and that is 10 more points right now if we'd have won. Again if we'd won 5 matches instead of drawing and we could have won that amount of games if we scored more, we've had the chances and opportunities to score more in at least 5 games, that would have given us 10 more points and we would have had 33 points now and actually be THIRD on the table, sharing the spot with Sevilla.

This is why I think the number one priority of the club is to bring in a good quality striker on loan, and give Marcelino one more month to turn things around. If we can get a solid striker who is in better form and allow Marcelino time to work with that, we can properly assess if the biggest issue is the coach. If he can't make it work even with another good striker that is going to score from these type of good opportunities, then we can think about replacing the coach.

Right now I just don't see anyone that can make a better difference. The best option would be Voro, but that is just so depressing to have him come in as a caretaker so much and so often. And the only person who can turn things around in such a short period is him, every other coach would need more time to figure out the squad and put his stamp on.

So yeah, Valencia CF should be looking to bring in a new quality striker on loan, one who can immediately make a difference, the winter transfer window is always tough to get the best and/or the ones you want, but we can't do worse than what we have now, that is for sure. Then lets give Marcelino a proper month with the new striker to turn things around, only then should he fail to improve things, should we be looking at replacing him. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

The essentials about Valencia's champs league participation

Last season Valencia achieved what most of us doubted last summer: a return to the UEFA Champions league. The draw for the group stage will take place a month from today, though qualifying rounds have already been played for the last five weeks. Compared to when Valencia last played there in 2015-16 several changes have been made. The biggest one has been to have increased numbers of qualifying rounds for the majority of less successful federations, but give the 4th placed team from the top 4 automatic entry to the CL group stage. 

Last time round, VCF had to play a qualifier and despite being seeded, got a tough opponent in Monaco FC, who they edged. Had the old system continued, Valencia would have been unseeded in the last qualifying round and could have faced a tough tie against someone like Liverpool or Roma. That change is good news for us. 

The second change which is good news is that the cash on offer has increased by nearly half, from €1.35 billion to €1.95 billion. Last time out, VCF took home 27m, picking up another 2.1m from the Europa league. We stand to make a lot more this time.

VCF's champs league earnings will come four ways: a participation fee, a 10-year ranking, market pool and performance bonuses.

The first is the easiest to explain. Every team that plays in the group stage gets 15.25 million. 

The 10-year ranking is new for this year. Basically, there are 528 "shares" split between the 32 clubs based on their performances in the previous 10 seasons in European competitions. Each share is worth 1.108 million. The highest ranked team (Real Madrid) gets 32 shares, the second and third teams (Barca and Bayern) 31 and 30 respectively, down to the 32nd team which gets one share. Valencia are provisionally eighteenth in the ranking so will get at least 15 shares for a total of 16.6 million. However, that could increase if either Benfica or Basle (or both) get knocked out in qualifying. In that case Valencia would get 17.7 or 18.8 million. 

The market pool is another way of saying tv revenue. That seems to have been cut in half this season, with the money going instead to the 10-year ranking. UEFA don't release these figures until the October or November after the champions league final, so we don't yet know what teams got last season, but working off previous seasons, it seems like Spanish teams will get 8.8 million for Barca, 6.6 for Atleti, 4.4 million for R.Madrid and 2.2 million for us. Teams will also get about half a million per game they play, so provisionally, about 5.2 million for Valencia for the group stage.

Lastly, there's performance bonus. Each champs league group stage game has prize money of 2.7 million. If a team wins, that's easy, they get all of it. If it's a draw, it gets more complicated. Each team gets 900,000 with the remaining 900,000 put into a pot and split between teams based on the number of games they won. Roughly speaking, that means a win is worth close on 3 million and a draw 900,000.

Getting to the last sixteen earns 9.5 million. Reaching the quarters adds 10.5 million. Those amounts aren't cumulative so VCF would get 20 million in prize money for reaching those two rounds. Semis add 12 million and reaching the final earns 15 million. The winners get 4 million on top of that and qualify for the UEFA Super cup where the winners get 4.5 million and the losers 3.5 million.

So worst case scenario, VCF loses all 6 games we still earn 37 million.
Best case scenario, Basle and Benfica eliminated, VCF wins everything (we might as well think big) we get 116 million.

I think all that shows just how important it is for us to make the CL a regular thing instead of once every 3 or 4 seasons. 

The biggest problem is that 2 years of not qualifying for Europe at all have really hurt Valencia's ranking. Last time round we were ranked 14th and comfortably made it into pot 2. For now, we are 21st, which would be pot 3, but there are a number of teams in qualifying with a higher ranking than us: Benfica, Basel, Dynamo Kyiv and Ajax in the league route, which has 2 qualifying places, and Ludogorets, Salzburg and PSV in the champions route, which has 4 places. To get pot 3, we need to hope that no more than 3 of the 6 qualifiers have a higher ranking than us. Most likely that means seeing Ludogorets, who drew 0-0 at home in the first leg, getting knocked out this week and 1 of PSV or Salzburg failing to make it. Pot 3 would mean our easiest team could be Bruges, Plzen or Galatasaray instead of Liverpool, Roma or Schalke.

A crunch season ahead, hopefully we won't crash and burn like we did last time. 

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?