Valencia summer transfers must address key squad deficiencies
8th April 2016. By Karl Matchett.
A huge spending spree two seasons ago gave rise to the hope for fans of Valencia that their team was on the cusp of a rebirth, an ability to once again challenge the top three sides and push their way back amongst Spain’s elite in La Liga.
Under Nuno, a top-four finish in 2014-15 seemed to be proof of that; Los Che were strong defensively and had promising young talent in attack—but over the summer, worrying signs began to emerge. Valencia didn’t add to their squad so much as solidify what they already had, concluding permanent deals for the likes of Joao Cancelo and Andre Gomes as well as overpaying heavily for striker Alvaro Negredo, not a goal threat last term but an obligated purchase after Champions League qualification was assured.
It was a poor summer for their transfer work and the upcoming off-season has to not only rectify the mistakes already made, but ensure that new ones aren’t made to further set back Valencia’s progress.
Young additions last summer included Santi Mina, Zakaria Bakkali and Mat Ryan, but none were of established Champions League quality who would help the side push on. For sure, the loss of Nicolas Otamendi didn’t help matters, but almost from the start of the season the fans turned against the manager and it wasn’t too long before he was sacked, replaced by rookie boss Gary Neville.
Of course, the Englishman has since also been ejected from Mestalla, racking up only three wins in La Liga and failing to find a consistent blend from his squad which is technically impressive, but mentally fragile.
The defeat to Celta Vigo, Neville’s last match in charge, gave an overview of Valencia’s problems.
The home side dominated for a good 40 minutes of the encounter, after an open first half-hour or so, and created lots of workable openings. There were chances to score which were failed to be capitalised on and, when Celta went up the other end and took the lead with a brilliantly worked goal with 10 minutes to play, Valencia collapsed completely. The fragility which undermines the squad and prevents any semblance of consistency in their performances or results came into play, and the eventual 2-0 scoreline was an escape for Valencia, who could easily have lost by five.
In defence, there is the ragged insecurity of Aderlan Santos, always 10 seconds away from a mistake or a rash challenge no matter how assured the rest of his game has been. In midfield, Danilo has impressed but Enzo Perez has become a non-entity and Dani Parejo has utterly failed in a deeper role. As for the front line, Denis Cheryshev is only on loan, Negredo is extremely hit-or-miss and even captain Paco Alcacer is an unreliable source of goals, good only for perhaps a dozen or 15 a season.
Alcacer is much more suited to playing in a pairing or with plenty of runners beyond him if he plays alone, rather than as a focal point.
The issues in the side are varied in their positions on the pitch, but common with the core of the problem: Valencia need to bring in at least two, perhaps more, who have an aggressive and committed approach, who are resilient in their mindset and can lead the more talented, technical players around them when times are difficult.
Tactical direction from the coach is one thing, but ensuring those instructions are carried out on the pitch when the game is stretched and tense, or a goal is conceded, requires a particular type of player. Pako Ayesteran, now the third manager the first team has had this season, may not even be in place come the start of 2016-17, making building from now an impossible task. All the remainder of this campaign can serve is to survive, finish in the top half if possible and start afresh next season, having already drawn up a list of needs to fill both in the dugout and in the dressing room.
Valencia lack leadership on the field and continuity off it—this summer has to rectify both issues, without spending the vast sums of the past 18 months on players who don’t fit both the short and long-term requirements of the team.