Valencia CF: has the sleeping giant awoken at last?January 13, 2018
Sitting in third place, five points clear of last season’s Liga and Champions League winners Real Madrid, it is fair to say that Los Che are in a very promising position.
However, it is easy to forget the fact that not long ago, the six-time Spanish Champions were teetering on the brink of relegation and the threat of a drop to the Segunda Division was looming over them like Peter Crouch in a room full of jockeys.
This time last year Gary Neville was one month into his reign at Els Taronges, after taking over from Nuno Espirito Santo, who resigned after a poor start to the season.
But the former Manchester United player never really got to grips with the language and the Spanish game and as a result of a miserable three wins in 16 games, plus a humiliating 7-0 defeat to Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey, Neville’s reign ended prematurely.
Fast forward to the present day and the view is an awful lot prettier now. Not only are Valencia back in contention for an automatic Champions League place, they boast the second best home record in the league and are enjoying one of their best campaigns since the days of Rafa Benitez and Unai Emery.
But what has been the key to their dramatic recovery?
Valencia CF started extremely well and went thirteen games unbeaten. This included an impressive eight-game winning streak and draws against Real Madrid, Atletico, and Barcelona.
At the start of last year, Valencia struggled to get results and even relied on stoppage time equalisers to rescue them. This evidently hampered their confidence, self-belief and enthusiasm.
They did endure a rough patch towards the end of the first half of the season; however last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Girona FC at the Mestalla will surely give them confidence in their next games.
If Valencia can start the New Year like they started the season in August, a Champions League place will surely be certain.
A certain Italian
If you told any West Ham fan last year that Simone Zaza would leave West Ham and go on to score more league goals than Cristiano Ronaldo by at the beginning of the 2017-18 season you would have been laughed out of London.
Former West Ham manager Slaven Bilic must be wondering why he could not get the best out of the Italian; after all his loan spell from Juventus was cut short as he failed to score a single goal for the Hammers.
Zaza, who has scored 10 goals in 14 league appearances this season (one behind Luis Suarez) has made his loan move from the Italian champions permanent, signing for £14.4 million.
The former Juventus man has flourished in Valencia’s 4-4-2 formation and is one of the main men behind Valencia’s sudden resurrection.
Shrewd summer signings
Valencia were shrewd in the summer transfer market and bought wisely without spending astronomical amounts of money.
The decision to bring Gabriel Paulista back toSpain has proven to be very wise as the Brazilian, who arrived from Arsenal for £9.9 million, has formed a strong partnership with Ezequiel Garay.
Valencia have also now brought in Francis Coquelin from Arsenal for £12.6 million, to increase competition in the central midfield area.
The 26-year-old holding man from France was in and out of the Arsenal first team since he made his debut in a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Manchester United in 2011; however, with the 2018 World Cup on the horizon, he will surely look to force his way into Valencia’s midfield.
In addition to this Geoffrey Kondogbia is only on loan from Inter Milan; therefore the Frenchman is a good alternative should Valencia fail to make Kondogbia’s loan move from Inter Milan permanent.
Solidity at the Mestalla
With 23 points out of a maximum of 30 points, Valencia boast the second best home record in La Liga.
The key to any good season is to be as solid at home as possible and Valencia have certainly done that.
Valencia’s only defeat at home this season came against Villarreal just before the winter break, where Carlos Bacca’s 24th-minute goal was enough to beat them.
Marcelino Garcia has enjoyed a very good start to his managerial career at Valencia, as he has managed to put the club in contention for a Champions League place.
It is an incredible transformation, considering the diabolical situation they were in last year and it is almost as if that calamity never happened.
With Real Madrid struggling this season, this is surely Valencia’s biggest chance to get into the Champions League and to possibly finish above last season’s champions.
Valencia travel to Deportivo La Coruna tonight.