El Centrocampista

Pellegrino targets La Liga duopoly as Valencia continue to spend

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In his first lone press conference since becoming Valencia manager, the question of objectives was posed to Mauricio Pellegrino, the overriding message was what many wanted to hear; to compete with Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Despite Valencia reaching two semi-finals last season they were 30 points behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, the biggest gap during Unai Emery’s four year tenure, and the biggest this century. While it is certainly valid to bring up the farcical financial imbalance between La Liga’s top two and the rest of the league when discussing the distance between third and second place, Emery’s record from winning positions is perhaps a bigger factor when explaining the jump in points this season.

Valencia lost 29 points from winning positions last season, nearly the same number they finished off second place, while you wouldn’t expect a team to win every single game they lead in, the lack of control was clear for all to see and it’s something new coach Manuel Pellegrino will have to focus on.

The issue would arise with a one goal lead, on occasion Valencia would find the second and run away with a three or four nil win, but more often than not, panic would set in, the consistent 4-2-3-1 would collapse with most players finding themselves in and around the area, leaving Roberto Soldado by himself up front, feeding off of scraps.

The Rami-Ruiz partnership that saw Valencia maintain one of the best defensive records in the league through the first half of the season was disrupted by injury and never truly recovered due in part to the lack of support for the two center halves. Their colleges at fullback and in midfield were too direct, unable to retain possession, those who were, namely Ever Banega and Sergio Canales, also spent extended periods on the treatment table, the pair only managed 24 league games between them.

A deal for Portuguese right back Joao Pereira was tied up quickly for a handsome fee of €3.7 million solving a long running issue for Valencia; Miguel, Bruno and Barragan each played around a third of games, but only Miguel offered genuine cover in his last season. At 28, Pereira comes with the ability to slot straight into the back four becoming a constant on the team sheet, contributing at both ends of the pitch.

A replacement for the outgoing Jordi Alba looks to have been found in Granada’s Guilherme Siqueira, a player who appeared in many La Liga team of the season.

Negotiations continue over a fee but it looks like the Brazilian will soon be wearing the white shirt and much like Pereira, contributing and both ends of the field.

Depth has been added further forward as Mexican Andres Guardado was picked up on a free from Deportivo La Coruna, a player who can play either side of midfield or off a striker will bring competition to the wings where only Sofiane Feghouli exceled in his breakout season.

In midfield Pellegrino looks to be moving from the rigidity of a 4-2-3-1 to a more fluid three man ball playing midfield. The money raised from the surprising sale of Mehmet Topal to Fenerbache for €4.5 million has been invested in Fernando Gago, increasing the number of Argentine Valencians.

Seen as a better value alternative to Villarreal’s Bruno Soriano, Gago brings in a great deal of experience for a 26 year old, failing to settle since his €20 million move to Real Madrid from Boca Juniors, the midfielder spent a year on loan at Roma where he became a constant, and found his way into Sabella’s Argentina where he has featured in their last five games, playing 90 minutes on three occasions.

Gago’s arrival also coincides with another capture from Real Madrid, that of Sergio Canales who spent last season on loan at the Mestalla. The 21-year-old did enough to prompt a reported €8m payment from Valencia, despite enduring a torrid time through injury.

Valencia’s pursuit of an out and out defensive midfielder also continues with enquiries for Gary Medel and Walter Gargano. The shift seems to be towards a system where one defensive midfielder will protect the back four and allow others to play, a central midfielder like Ever Banega will recycle the ball and begin attacks, while the likes of Sergio Canales, will be joining in with the forwards producing goals and assists. Jonathan Viera who joined from Las Palmas for €2.5 million will deputise for Canales if and when his injury problems re occur.

The signing of Gago and Canales has taken Valencia’s summer spending to almost €20m and with the sales of Alba, Topal, Moya and Aduriz, Pellegrino still has funds left at his disposal. It’s extremely unlikely there will be any further sales at this stage and with interest remaining in the likes of Gargano and Medel, along with PSG striker Kevin Gamerio, this could be the first summer for a while that Valencia spend more than they sell in Mauricio Pellegrino’s pursuit to close the gap on the top two.




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  1. Pingback: Valencia sign Fernando Gago from Real Madrid – bettor.com (blog)

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