After a hugely disrupted season which ended with two managerial changes, an eighth place finish in La Liga, missing out on European football and losing key players in the summer transfer window, no one had really expected Valencia to achieve much this season.
Despite all this, the club currently sit 2nd in the Primera Division winning five of their seven league games and have yet to taste defeat. Last seasons’ struggles, both on and off the field, seem a thing of the past after Peter Lim bought a 70% stake in Los Che in August. New manager Nuno Espirito Santo came in relatively unknown to Spanish football, but after a successful recruitment drive saw the key players who left replaced, there is a belief amongst many that Valencia could have a genuine of chance of competing against Spain’s ‘top 3’.
But before the appointment of ‘Nuno’ this all seemed light years away. The club lost defensive stalwart Jeremy Mathieu to Barcelona whilst promising young full back Juan Bernat was sold to Bayern Munich. Los Che’s fans were unhappy that yet another promising youngster who had come through the club’s fantastic academy system was sold.
When Nuno arrived, straight away he set about changing the club’s style of play from last season. A youngful, vibrant side who like to play a passing game when in possession, they have the ability to work hard in a pressing style very similar to that of last season’s Liga champions Atletico Madrid when they lose the ball.
Impressive signings have been mixed with youth players that Nuno has put faith in. German centre half Shkodran Mustafi, already a World Cup winner at 22 years of age, was signed from Sampadoria. Spaniards Rodrigo and Alvaro Negredo were both brought in on loan with the view to permanent deals, whilst Carles Gil was recalled following two solid seasons on loan at Elche.
Youngster Jose Gaya was promoted from Valencia B and from the evidence so far this season, Gaya looks more than capable of filling in Bernat’s shoes at left back. Striker Pablo Alcacer, also made the step up to the Valencia first team.
Spearheaded by captain Daniel Parejo, Andre Gomes and Javi Fuego in the centre of midfield, Valencia have shown they have the ability to play attractive football, and when the ball is moved wide they are very dangerous. Rodrigo can cut in from the right onto his favoured left foot with devastating effect, whilst Argentinian Pablo Piatti on the left hand side has the ability to glide past players and supply accurate crosses for young Spanish forward Alcacer.
At 21, he has already made his mark on the international scene. Alcacer is widely regarded as the future number 9 for the national team.
Los Che also possess strength in depth in attacking positions. Sofiane Feghouli, who was a prominent figure in Valencia’s line up last season and also enjoyed an impressive summer with Algeria at the World Cup, has rarely featured in the starting team so far. On loan Manchester City striker Negredo has not featured so far due to injury, whilst Gil has mainly been used as an impact substitute under Nuno.
So far, so good for Valencia this season. Whether they will genuinely challenge for the title come May remains to be seen, but what fans of Los Che should expect over the coming months is plenty of exciting, attacking football on show at the Mestalla.