Valencia finished 13th in LaLiga in 2020/21, with Javi Gracia sacked in the closing weeks. How disappointing was last season overall?
The feeling oscillates between the logical disappointment and the fact that plenty of fans expected such a downfall after a terrible transfer summer. Valencia's ownership, Meriton Holdings, with Peter Lim as the majority shareholder and Anil Murthy as the president, obliterated any chance of having a successful season by giving away players for free (Dani Parejo), selling them for peanuts (Francis Coquelin) and selling talent both present (Rodrigo Moreno) and future (Ferran Torres).
Overall, they stripped the team of most of its quality players and didn't bring in any. No signings whatsoever. If you add the transfer of Geoffrey Kondogbia once the season had begun, you can understand that Javi Gracia's job was going to be an impossible task from the get-go. But it could have turned out even worse if the team had not been able to pick up crucial points in the last ten games which helped them to avoid the drop. The looming feeling of anguish and despair, however, was not avoided.
José Bordalás has since taken over as Head Coach - what have you made of his first few months in charge and the pre-season preparations?
He likely has the toughest job in any LaLiga dugout. He has one advantage, though: most of the fans associate his attitude and playing style to what they truly want from Valencia CF. No-nonsense, aggressive, relentless and where the team is much more important than individual flashes of brilliance. The style that Claudio Ranieri brought in, Hector Cuper improved, Rafa Benítez perfected and which made a brief two-season comeback under Marcelino - until Meriton swiftly made it crumble. Bordalás is a vast improvement over Gracia in many ways, but he can't perform miracles every day. He needs tools. He needs more signings.
The only major transfer deal so far has been the loan signing of Omar Alderete from Hertha Berlin. Do you expect the club to bring any more players in before the start of the season?
Bordalás has indeed asked for more players but given Meriton's track record, I highly doubt that all of his requests will be met. There is a cash flow problem, there is a salary problem and there are debts that must be repaid this summer. In order to fulfil all these three, selling players is 100 per cent necessary. Only after those potential transfers are completed VCF will focus on bringing in new players. The clock is ticking and Bordalás is growing a bit impatient, but I expect at least two more signings to be made and plenty of B Team and youngsters to be promoted in order to fill in the gaps in the squad.
Which player is likely to cause Brentford the most problems?
Under any other circumstance, I would say Gonçalo Guedes pictured above). He is the most talented attacker in the team but his future is not set yet and he is bound to make a move to another team in order to improve Valencia's finances, so his performances this pre-season have not been the best. You also have Maxi Gómez as No 9, even though he is still in the early stages of his preparation and hasn't been a differential player in the couple of friendlies he has played.
How would you describe Valencia’s style of play? Which formation are they likely to use in West London?
Solid at the back, happy to leave the ball possession to the opposition, quick transitions and build-ups, along with a heavy reliance on set-pieces. Bordalás has experimented this summer with a few variations of the classic 4-4-2 formation with Maxi as No 9 and Guedes as the second striker, with freedom to wander around the wing to find the space and perform his trademark diagonal runs and long-range shots. He has tried quite a few players in the midfield positions and in goal, with newcomer Giorgi Mamardashvili having put in a few good performances, youngster Cristian Rivero also doing well and veteran Jasper Cillessen as the potential starting ‘keeper. The only area where everything is more or less clear is the back four: Jose Luis Gayà on the left, Thierry Correia on the right, and Gabriel Paulista and Alderete as the centre-backs.
It is always a difficult question to ask but what is your score prediction for the game?
I have plenty of praise for Brentford, as their growth in the last few seasons has been remarkable. I expect a tight game, so I would settle for a 1-1 or even a close 2-1 win for Valencia late in the game!
Tickets for Saturday's visit from Valencia remain on General Sale as we officially open our new home