By Rodney Ballantine
Valencia booked Champions league football two weekends ago with a nil all draw against city neighbours Levante in a somewhat disappointing but predictable game, with both teams needing a point to ensure big time football again for next season at the Mestalla and also Primera Liga survival for Levante, but more importantly giving just rewards for a Valencia team that has played consistently top drawer football throughout the season.
This season Valencia has lived up to expectations. They have finished third in the league, having not looked like losing this place all season, with the team having the distinction of not falling below sixth place at all from August right through to September. Valencia is a team that has always been known to be able to score goals, and this season has not been an exception, with the team able to knock in sixty four goals in thirty eight matches. A good record but when compared to the top two in terms of scoring and position in the league, it is a statistic that doesn’t even come near, although the difference between Barcelona, Madrid and the rest of the league is an entirely different subject in itself.
The truth is that there are only four teams for me that play football that is easy on the eye (well, in the Spanish league anyways). They are Barcelona (obviously), Madrid (there’s no doubt that when Mourinho takes the shackles of and lets them play football then they are among the best in Europe in this aspect), Villareal and Valencia. The difference with these teams is the ability to do it consistently with quality over the season, and this is something that lacks the last two teams and which the first two seem to have in abundance.
As I discussed in one of my previous articles, the team has been in a transitional period, with old players leaving and others coming in. The manager has played a huge part and has demonstrated that he is tactically astute as well as being able to get good results, of which football is primarily judged without forgetting to please the punters in the process.
He has kept to the style that Valencia has been known for, pretty attacking football, by buying players that have performed well for him this season, and will no doubt continue to do so in the future. Players such as Saldado, Ricardo Costa, Ruben Baraja, Aduriz have added to the experience of some of the veterans who weren’t sold on, such as Albelda, Joaquin and have proved that the mix has functioned well this season and with it has come a style of football that for me, is one of the best to watch anywhere in the world these days. Valencia will also be happy to know that the orchestrator of this, Emery, has just signed a one year extension to his contract as a reward for guiding the team into the Champions league positions this season, so it looks like the team will be given time to find consistency, continuity and to improve.
So with this season over, all eyes now look towards next season, with the idea to improve upon what was achieved the year before. Taking into account the current status of the big two in the league, Barcelona and Madrid, it looks very difficult for the others to be able to come near these two, as no doubt both teams will be strengthening there already luxurious squads more during the summer. Unless both teams have nightmare seasons, and the chances of that are very unlikely, then the opportunity that Valencia pushes them are slim. There are areas where they will need to improve, and making your home stadium a fortress goes a long way in football to helping you achieve success. Some signings by Emery to strengthen their squad, with some obvious reinforcements needed in defence, will go a long way to doing this, as well, another midfielder and striker to add more variety and spontaneity to the team, and give them a plan B, especially away from home.
If these things are sorted out then Valencia, no doubt, will be consolidating Champion’s League football for seasons to come, although, the ultimate objective of winning the league or Champions League, seems a long way off, although, for me, they are in good hands, in the shape of a very intelligent and tactically adept manager. I hope he is given the resources to further expand his ability and help Valencia push on, on all fronts, at home and in Europe.