2021/22 review: Better under Bordalas, but best is still some way off


And so the first full season under Jose Bordalas concludes. It was a campaign that burned bright at the start with Los Che topping the table and nearly ended in fireworks with a Copa del Rey win. In between, however, were periods of dullness.

Here are Batzine’s ratings for our defence, midfield and attack. Caution: You may not agree with everything.

Defence: Penetrable fort

At times, our defence had looked watertight – at one point, we kept 3 clean sheets in a row in April. But too often, we have let our guard down, especially in the dying embers of the game. We had lost the most points in LaLiga in the final 10 minutes of the game – 13 points.

In goal, the precocious Giorgi Mamardashvili has edged out Jasper Cillessen as No.1 after the latter’s injury woes. With a full first-team pre-season ahead, our big Georgian should become an abler marshal of the defence.

Ahead of him, Omar Alderete looked every bit like a castle guard. The 1.88m Paraguayan is statuesque, but was caught flat-footed one time too many, resulting in a division-high 15 yellow cards for our summer signing. Still, he was a reliable anchor in the absence of the stricken Gabriel Paulista. Hopefully, Paulista’s fitness holds up next season for the two to form a reliable rearguard.

Rating: C+

Midfield: Masterful but in need of muscle

As Bordalas switched from a 4-man to 3-man midfield through the season, the demands on the trio increased. In Carlos Soler and Hugo Guillamon, there was no shortage of technical quality. Everyone knows about Soler’s striking ability – he is the club’s first central midfielder since Gaizka Mendieta to hit double figures in consecutive seasons.

But Guillamon has quietly evolved from elegant defender to metronomic lynchpin, completing the most passes in the team this season.

Yet at times, it seems like our midfield was overrun. Guillamon was prone to the odd late challenge and sending off. Our midfield muscle was missing. Uros Racic out injured, Ilaix Moriba stuttering and sparkling in equal effect, Koba Koindredi still too raw.

Bordalas may still be looking for that physical presence in the centre of the park. Let’s hope the summer unearths one.

Rating: B-

Attack: Bludgeoning but blunt

“Death by Goncalo Guedes.” That has been the inscription atop the gravestone of many LaLiga defences this season, as our irrepressible attacker battered his way to 11 goals and 6 assists this season. But stop Guedes, and you likely suffocate the Valencia attack too, unless Hugo Duro heroics come to the fore.

Our forward forays have fallen flat with Maxi Gomez and Marcos Andre, who have combined for a measly 6 LaLiga goals. We still need a sharper focal point.

But thanks to the exploits of Guedes and Duro, our forwards have scored a respectable enough rating.

Rating: B

Overall, 2021/22 may just have provided enough highs to avoid it becoming a dampener. An improvement of 4 league positions and 5 points represents slight progress, but was ultimately not enough for the European positions, which would have boosted profits and the club’s ability to attract players.

We are some way behind – 11 points behind the last spot for the Europa Conference League, and 22 short of the Holy Grail of Champions League. It didn’t feel too long ago that we were contesting the knockout games against the continent’s crème de la crème.

But set against the backdrop of a new coaching regime, off-field distractions like the pandemic and the integration of new signings and youth players, the season has not been the washout that some may feel.

Season rating: B

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