Sunday, August 20, 2023

Sergi Canós official, Mir next?

So finally, Valencia have officially confirmed the signing of Sergi Canós, who joins for 250,000 on a 4-year contract with a release clause of 100 million. He was ready to join 2 months ago and had turned down better offers from multiple clubs to wait for Valencia, but the club's penny pinching meant it took until now to get the deal done. It's really embarrassing that, after spending 117m in his first year as owner (equivalent to 155 million today) on just 4 players (Negredo, Rodrigo, Enzo Perez and Abdennour), Lim is now resorting to scrooging and arguing over pennies on the dollar. 

Anyway, as I said in a previous post he will bring a decent amount to the table for a mid-table club (I don't think he'd have seen many games in any of Marcelino's teams.) Experience, ability to play in multiple positions and a love for the club. If there's a small worry, it's that he missed 13 games last season due to injuries, though that seems a one-off as he was available for all games the 3 seasons before that.

Valencia's attentions now turn to Rafa Mir. He gets on well with Baraja due to working together at youth level and wants to come back. I'm not hugely excited about him but he at least would be an experienced target man, we badly need an extra body up front and if he could get to double figures in goals that would help. The sticking point for now is, as ever, money. Valencia have agreed to cover his 3.4m annual salary. Sevilla have put a buy option of 8-9 million in which Valencia have agreed to. (It's a reasonable reduction from the 14m originally suggested.) The big point of disagreement is that Sevilla want Valencia to cover  2m amortisation costs to help their financial fair play. Valencia have refused. Sevilla are allegedly offering a reduction in the buy option to 6-7 million in exchange. The clubs don't seem that far apart so with all parties wanting the deal to happen it most probably will, though Valencia are looking at other options as well with Elche's Lucas Boyé said to be next choice. 

Another option that has emerged is Iván Jaime. He's mainly a left winger, but also plays attacking midfield and right wing. He's a Malaga youth product who's played the last 3 seasons in Portugal with Famalicao. Last season was a breakout for him, emerging as the club's top scorer and being named as Young Player of the Year in the Portuguese League. He sounds like he could be a good addition though it would probably be as usual on loan to begin with.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Valencia 1-0 Las Palmas match thread

This week has produced nothing except rumour on the transfer front. None of the rumoured signings like Canós have materialised yet. After a winning start it's crucial that we keep the momentum going and get as many points as possible while the team is still fresh.

Today's opponents are Las Palmas, back in La Liga after 5 seasons in Segunda and of all teams, they are the one I most didn't want to see again as they were nothing other than a pain in the a$$ for us in their previous 3-season stint. They got a draw against us in Mestalla in Nuno's last game in charge there (a sacking that never should have happened) and the return leg the same season was Pako Ayestaran's first in charge. It started well with Rodrigo scoring in the 3rd minute, but a penalty and then the most comical own goal you'll ever see, with Aderllan Santos (who else) trying to clear but the ball bouncing off the back of Mustafi and in for the winner (enjoy it here!). We played them the 1st game of the 2016-17 season and it was a devastating start which showed how the season was going to go as they beat us 4-2 at Mestalla. Though we beat them in Marcelino's first game, their jinx struck again in the return fixture with them coming from behind to beat us 2-1, helped in big part by Vezo and Paulista getting sent off. 1-1-4 against them and interestingly, ex-Valencia player Jonathan Viera scored in 5 of those 6. He's one of the only survivors from that era, back in Las Palmas for the 3rd time after a spell in China. He scored their equaliser last week so remains a threat.

For Valencia, it's the same line-up as last week. I guess if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Las Palmas also have ex-Valencia loanee Munir.

Cooling break. We started well and created a couple of good chances with Duro having the best one. We've been a bit sloppy in possession and Mamardashvili's clearances have put is in trouble couple of times. We've had a slight edge but that counts for nothing unless we score.

Second half. Guerra comes on for Almeida and looks very good, clearly the best next talent from the academy. We almost score when he puts Lopez through but the ricochet goes just wide. They have a couple of good chances for Viera and Munir but waste them. We got a penalty when their player carelessly handles, Pepelu sends it right down the middle for 1-0!

FULL-TIME: not the prettiest or most exciting of wins but I'll take it. The team, despite the odd sloppiness and misplaced pass, looks more comfortable and composed on the ball. The defence largely functions and shuts down danger. The biggest problem remains up front. Duro works hard, but he isn't a target man and the team badly needs more bite there. Osasuna at home next.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Sergi Canós close to joining; Račić close to leaving

Various reliable sources are reporting that Sergi Canós is close to a done deal, with Lim finally giving the ok and the clubs exchanging documentation.

Canós grew up just up the road from Valencia in the south of Castellon province in a Valencia-supporting family, has supported Valencia all his life and names David Villa as his idol. That's all positive since he's well motivated to come. Valencia were interested in adding him to the academy when he was 12, but he joined Barcelona instead before switching to Liverpool's academy.

 He's good experience with most of his career spent in England and a couple of seasons in the top flight for Brentford, making over 200 appearances for them in the top two levels and scoring their first ever Premier League goal. He is predominantly a winger, mainly on the right but has also been used as left winger, attacking midfield, right wing back and second striker. A useful utility player in other words. Baraja had targetted him since the early summer but it's only now that Lim has given the ok, with Valencia due to pay 250k.

What has helped unlock the deal is that Račić seems gone. He was spotted in Valencia airport today apparently on his way to sign for Sassuolo in Italy for a fee which various sources put between 1 million and 3 million. 

He joined us from Belgrade in 2018 for 2.2 million, but with the midfield then including Parejo, Kondogbia, Coquelin, Soler and Wass, his chances were limited. It was only after Lim gutted the midfield in 2020 that he finally got his chance, playing nearly 60 league games over the next two seasons under Gracia and Bordalas, with his only league goal a memorable one against Atletico. However, he's spent most of his 5 years with us on loan and various coaches just don't seem to rate him for reasons that aren't clear. (Performances in training? Attitude? We will never know.)

Hopefully Valencia can get the Canós deal closed then the next in line are Selim Amallah in midfield and Rafa Mir up front. We badly need to expand the squad and get in experienced players.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Sevilla 1-2 Valencia

 Well, I didn't expect that. I expected to lose by a couple and my best hope was that we could somehow park the bus and get a dour draw. The line-up looked like a 5-3-2, but that was deceptive as Diakhaby was actually in midfield and the set-up was more like a 4-3-1-2 with Almeida more advanced. The team started well though on the front foot but were not able to capitalise on a couple of half chances for Diego Lopez and Duro. Sevilla grew more into it and had a few better chances, but few on target. They looked off the pace a bit, surprising for a team that just won a European trophy. The closest we came was a backheel flick by Lopez which nearly deceived Bono.

In the second half Valencia took the lead through Diakhaby, even though it looked like he may have mishit it. Either way, we led and Diakhaby was actually having a great game in his new position. 

Sevilla equalised 10 minutes later when En Nesyri got ahead of Cenk to head home a cross. Where we going to throw this away? No, as it turned out. Sevilla had a player sent off and then a Sevilla player made a mess of clearing and was closed down by Duro, who made up for earlier misses by squaring for Guerra, who finished well inside the near post. 

This makes up somewhat for the painful game in Seville last season when Gaya missed an injury time penalty and ends a miserable run of 3 draws and 6 defeats against them, with the last win coming in March 2019. I am still not optimistic about this season as the squad, despite some promising youth, looks threadbare and the inevitable injuries will kill us if we don't have reinforcements. My main worry from this result is that Meriton will draw the wrong conclusion and decide we don't need additions. For now, I'm still expecting a tough season, but it's 3 points gained, 40 more needed. If the club would see sense and bring in reinforcements, at least a striker, midfielder and winger as minimum, I'd be a bit more confident of the season.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Valencia are sinking and the captain has abandoned ship

The 2022-2023 season was a disaster. Things started well with Gattuso, but as so often happens, it was just false hope and his inexperience meant he couldn't turn things around when results started dropping. The world cup break also didn't help, with players like Cavani poor afterwards and Gattuso quitting, admitting he was clueless to turn things around. The jury is still very much out on Baraja. The club escaped relegation by the skin of its teeth. Literally an injury time goal is all that separates us from planning our first season in the Segunda since the mid-80s. And don't listen to our fans who weirdly think relegation would be a magic solution, forcing Lim out. He'd probably stay and whether he went or not, a financial hole would become the Mariana Trench.

The problems are obvious: a squad with weaknesses all over, now made worse by the disappearance of the players who were here on loan. Ok, Moriba was meh, but Nico, after alienating fans with an ill-advised interview, improved in the last few games. The biggest losses are Kluivert and Lino. Kluivert would have been a good prospect to add, but instead the club whistled in the wind while he went to Bournemouth for 8 million. Lino occasionally gets linked with a return but allegedly the player has said he doesn't want to come back and who can blame him? The transfer window started ok. The club signed Cenk permanently. I got no problem with that, since he looks like a player who can grow. Pepelu was also picked up from Levante for 5m with Canos reported to be imminent, but that was a month ago and things have frozen since then. Our first game against Sevilla away is only 17 days from now and we have a squad worse than the one that just about stayed up. Any thoughts that relegation would be a wake-up call for Lim and co have been smashed.

Right now, with Lim refusing to spend anything, the club needs departures. Cavani, Castillejo, Marcos Andre and Racic are top of the list to go. I'd keep Racic, but Baraja doesn't seem to rate him. Cavani would likely be for free. Valencia are also looking to sell Musah. Milan have offered 18 million but Lim is refusing and asking for 25 million. On the one hand I like that the club are finally not gifting players, but on the other where was this attitude with people like Parejo and Kondogbia etc? Mamardashvili's future is also up in the air and Paulista, as one of the highest earners is either expected to go or take a wage cut. None of the rest seem certain either, Thierry has been linked with the exit as well. The club probably needs about 7 signings including 3 wingers, a midfielder and 2 forwards, probably a defender too. These should have been added earlier, to have them train with the team, get used to the playing style etc, but as usual that's too much like common sense for Meriton.

Apart from Canos, the names mostly strongly linked are Rafa Mir and Selim Amallah. The 2nd wouldn't cost much as Valladolid got relegated, probably a loan to start with buy option and both he and Canos would improve the squad. Rafa Mir is the most head scratching one, since the club are pleading poverty but talking about paying around 14 million all in for him. Baraja likes him from working with him at youth level but after being ruined by Nuno when he pushed him into the team too quickly his career has been meh. He's struggled to get 10 goals a season and seems more like the profile of people like Maxi Gomez or Cavani, players who struggled here and didn't get service. Paying that much when we're hard up seems like a huge risk to me. The issue with him is the same as in 2015: we seem to be doing this as a favour to Mendes, his agent, rather than what's best for the club. (Cyle Larin is going for 8m, why not spend that on him instead?) Overall, there's also the issue that all three want to come but like Kluivert, will not wait around forever while Valencia dawdle.

With an ownership that clearly don't care, it's really hard to get any enthusiasm for the team right now. Usually I'd be looking forward to the season and seeing how new players work out but not this time. I'm expecting another hard season. We deserve better.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Valencia finish 16th

 So, the season ends with Valencia safe. As always we didn't make it easy for ourselves, conceding a stupid goal in the first minute, but luckily Betis had nothing to play for and were more interested in giving Joaquin a well-deserved send off than turning the screw on us. We had a lengthy wait for a penalty which wasn't given but after that Diego Lopez's goal put us level. That's his 3rd goal in 4 games. Baraja's faith in the youngsters really paid off with people like Mari and Guerra scoring crucial goals. Indeed, if it hadn't been for Guerra's 93rd minute winner against Valladolid, we'd be going down instead of them.

The fact still remains, this was an awful season, especially after the World Cup break. The failure to bring anyone in during the winter transfer window really hurt. 16th is our worst league position since 1987, when we returned to the top flight. From 1988 until Lim took over, we'd never been lower than 10th, now we've managed two 12th-places, one 13th and now this. Unless things change, this is a temporary reprieve under this ownership.

Soon we'll start the usual summer turmoil where we'll be linked with everyone only to see them signed for rival clubs. I expect Musah to go. After a bright start he's regressed in the last 2 seasons and the stupid red card tonight summed up his season. Sadly Mamardashvili will probably be out the door and I'd be surprised if Cavani stayed at this horror show. Ultimately, I'd like to keep Thierry, Almeida, Gaya and some of the canteros who've shown their worth.

Baraja will probably stay too. Saving us adds to his legend status. In normal circumstances, we could do better but which decent or ambitious manager would come to Valencia, where we've had FOUR people in charge in the last year? I'm not optimistic about us under Baraja, but in the end I expect whoever is in charge in August to be sacked during the season. A pessimist is never disappointed.

So for now, let's enjoy the fact we live to fight another day.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

The final day permutations, almost safe, but...!

 Valencia nearly screwed it up against Espanyol. Despite dominating the first half hour, Valencia as usual were unable to put away good chances and the game went like so many others this season. Eventually, the other team got some half chances and scored.

The English commentator reckoned we were safe. By my calculation we're not. We survive next week in any of the following situations:

1 we get a point
2 Cadiz don't LOSE (away to Elche, there's a very unlikely scenario where Cadiz could still relegate)
3 Valladolid don't win (they are at home to Getafe, who are not safe)
4 Almeria lose (they are away to already relegated Espanyol)
5 Celta don't win (they're at home to Barcelona.)

If we lose and Valladolid win, then there's the possibility of a messy tie on 41 points, which is broken by head-to-head points, then head-to-head goal difference between *ALL* the teams in question. The all is important since, although we win a head-to-head against Getafe, the inclusion of other teams could screw us up.

Here are all the possible head-to-heads involving us and Getafe:

Almeria 16, Cadiz 13, Valencia 10, Getafe 9, Celta 5

Cadiz 11, Valencia 9, Getafe 9, Celta 4
Almeria 14, Valencia 10, Getafe 7, Celta 2
Almeria 12, Cadiz 10, Getafe 5, Valencia 4***

Almeria 10, Valencia 4, Getafe 3
Valencia 9, Getafe 7, Celta 1
Cadiz 8, Getafe 5, Valencia 3***

Valencia 3-3 Getafe (Valencia wins 5-2 on head-to-head goals scored.)

Only the ones with the asterixes relegate us. Oddly, since both of them involve Cadiz, that means we need Cadiz to get a draw or win at Elche. If Cadiz get at least a point, we're guaranteed safety.

It's really frustrating that we have spent so many months surviving not through our own efforts, but more hoping that other teams will be worse than us and throwing away points in crunch games against virtually every relegation rival. (Celta the only exception since the world cup!) 

So while it's 99% sure we'll survive this season, the prospects for next do not look so good. Mamardashvili has saved us on a number of occasions this season, the mistake tonight aside. With our own attacking players so often toothless, we've relied on the goals of Lino and Kluivert to dig us out of trouble. The continuity of all those 3 at Mestalla is in serious doubt. Losing Guedes and Soler last summer removed our 2 biggest threats and although Almeida looks a solid prospect, he's a season away from fully filling Soler's boots. Apart from him, Gaya, Mamardashvili, Kluivert, Lino and some of the promising canteranos, there are very few guys in this squad I'd shed tears over if they left.

Sadly, I expect another relegation struggle next season even if we do survive on the last day.