There is no dismissing that sense of deja vu. Valencia will kick off a third consecutive season with a new head coach at the helm – that is, if you don’t count Albert Celades’ appointment a month into the 2019/20 season – this weekend.
Gennaro Gattuso brings his fiery brand and aggressive football to Mestalla in the hopes of rousing a sleeping giant mired in mid-table since the 2019 Copa del Rey win.
Signings have been sparse, with wingers Samu Castillejo and Samuel Lino the only new additions so far as purse strings remain tightened. Meanwhile, the exit of last season’s outstanding performer Goncalo Guedes to Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers leaves a gaping hole.
The academy, however, is a bright spot that continues to shine as players like Jesus Vazquez and Cristhian Mosquera are ready to cement their places in the first team, with more to come. What can Valencianistas expect this season?
Let’s get in formation
Gattuso has experimented with a few formations in pre-season. We’ve seen him deploy 4-4-1-1, 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 to varying effects. Three wins out of 6 pre-season games clearly indicates work needs to be done.
The rich attacking options at the former AC Milan man’s disposal means that he will tinker till he succeeds. What’s more, players like Castillejo and Hugo Duro are adept at excelling in multiple positions, with the freedom to interchange during games. We could see more fluid tactical movement, and more of Carlos Soler’s pinpoint passing in midfield.
Fans who are excited to move away from the traditional 4-4-2 may be extra invested to see how Valencia line up this Sunday and beyond.
Need for speed
Recruiting wide players with pace to burn could be a sign Gattuso wants to stretch opposing defences. At Napoli, he had Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens carve open backlines.
Those newly opened pockets of spaces will be tantalising for a speedster like Yunus Musah, who sometimes played in the middle during pre-season. Full-backs Jose Gaya and Thierry Correia are equally capable of turning on the afterburners. Add the mobile Duro up front, and Valencia could have a mean-looking attack.
With Los Che’s defence yet to receive any reinforcements, perhaps attack will be the best form of defence. And we know that the Bats’ forwards have goals in them.
Closer relationship with fans
The social media blackout that lasted more than a year has finally ended. This is a chance for Valencia to reconnect with fans in a stronger way as the new management faces an acid test to bring the club back to its glory days.
No doubt there will be highs and lows throughout the season, but resuming communication with the fanbase may just provide the spark for a charge towards the European spots.
The Copa final loss left a severely bitter taste – can Valencia go one step further to show proof of progress? If the past few seasons are any indication, we’ll be in for another rollercoaster ride. Time to buckle up.