Valencia have started the season in miserable form and manager Marcelino is already taking flak. He needs to find some answers fast.
This time last season, Valencia were among the most exciting teams in Spain. Through the attacking brilliance of Goncalo Guedes and Rodrigo Moreno, paired with the creativity and vision of Geoffory Kondogbia and Dani Parejo in midfield, Valencia were Barcelona’s main challengers for the opening 13 weeks of the season, a run that included a 4-0 hammering of Sevilla, a thrilling 6-3 victory away to Real Betis and a heated draw at home to Barcelona.
The Valencia of 2017 were exciting and entertaining finishing the first half of the 2017-18 season, with the second best attacking record in La Liga. 2018 has been almost the exact opposite. Valencia eventually finished fourth last season after a disappointing end to their campaign, but many felt that Marcelino’s side would rekindle their form this season, especially after a promising summer window.
Instead Los Che have opened the new season in miserable form, and are still waiting on their first win of league campaign. They’re winless in their first six games in all competitions, the club’s worst start to a season since 1957. Pressure is already starting to weigh on the shoulders of Marcelino to turn around this poor run of from.
Trying to pinpoint exactly what has gone wrong for Valencia so far is difficult, but looking at their form across the calendar year, it seems Valencia’s attack has struggled since last Christmas. Valencia scored 36 goals in their first 17 league fixtures last season, but only scored 29 goals in their remaining 21.
On paper, the signings of Daniel Wass and Michy Bathshuayi seemed like the perfect remedy to Valencia’s attacking problems. Wass has been a versatile and productive player for Celta Vigo over the last three seasons and was a particular joy to watch last year, dictating tempo from midfield and chipping in with the odd goal. Bathshuayi seemed to have provided Los Che with another solid finisher alongside Rodrigo, something they lacked last season. The Belgian scored nine goals in 13 starts for Borussia Dortmund last season and showed flashes of his quality in his brief time at Chelsea. Alongside the arrival of Geoffrey Kondogbia, one of Valencia’s best players last season, and the promising Guedes on permanent deals from Inter Milan and PSG respectively, it seemed Valencia had had their strongest summer in years.
Instead of looking rejuvenated, however, they have looked just as flat and blunt as they did at the end of last season. They’ve scored just three goals in their first six games and and haven’t scored in the last 328 minutes they’ve played. Wass has looked a far cry from the player we saw at Celta Vigo, while Bathshuayi has hardly featured. Alongside the new signings, many of last season’s regulars, such as Dani Parejo, who had one of the best seasons of his career last year, and Rodrigo Moreno, who finished last season as the club’s top goalscorer, have also struggled to find form.
The chief culprit in this mess is the manager, Marcelino. His tactics have been conservative and left Valenica flat and toothless in possession. He loaned out Simeone Zaza despite the Italian finishing last season as the club’s second highest scorer and has made some strange selections in opening matches. A strangely prolific starter for Valencia so far has been ex-Atletico Madrid striker Kevin Gameiro. The Frenchmen was believed to have been brought in as a backup striker, but has so far started three times and featured off the bench in the other two fixtures. He’s looked short of confidence in front of goal so far this season, something reflected in his stats. Gameiro has averaged nearly three shots per 90 minutes, but has only managed an xG of 1.82 and is still waiting for his first league goal of the season. Despite his clear lack of confidence and a plethora of other options on the bench, Marcelino has so far persisted with Gameiro. With Santi Mina injured, that seems unlikely to change soon.
Marcelino has a lot to do if he wants to turn Los Che‘s season around. Judging by the sheer quantity of his predecessors, he won’t have a whole lot of time to do it. The 53-year-old is Valencia’s 13th manager in five years. Since 2012, only one Valencia manager has taken charge of the team in over 40 games. The fans and board of the club are among the most demanding in Spain and won’t wait around for Marcelino to fix Valencia’s issues. There’s a slither of light through all of this; Valencia have the fifth best xG in the league so far. If Marcelino can uncover the lethal, clinical Valencia from this time last season, it might be enough to save his job. However, it being nearly a year since we saw that Valencia team, the clock is ticking for Marcelino.