Season in review: Welcome to Valencia and the Ruben Baraja apology tour

Position: 9th – 49 points

Grade: A

Record: 13-10-15
Goals Scored: 40
Goals Conceded: 45

Top Scorer: Hugo Duro – 14

Top Assister: Diego Lopez – 6

Story of the season

Valencia looked as if they were in for a very tough season this year, after narrowly avoiding the drop, but ended up with a European challenge. They continued to build on a hard-working side and incorporated the youngsters in a big way, with Javi Guerra impressing early on.

It wasn’t the easiest start to the season, but a 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid bought them some time to work, and gradually, Valencia became a side that didn’t gift much to opposition, despite their youth, and fought hard to nick goals where they could.

Coming into the middle of the season, with neither of Real Betis or Real Sociedad looking particularly consistent, they became the outside challengers for the Conference League spot. They fell short in the end, perhaps lacking a little bit more in the final third.

Grade Explanation

We owe Ruben Baraja an apology. The lack of faith in Baraja in general was part of the reason for the low expectations, but having lost quality again last summer, and lacking investment, it was hard not to think that a side who survived on the last day were set for a tough year.

Yet they showed a steel and organisation that was too their credit. Diego Lopez, Javi Guerra and Fran Perez showed no fear going after experienced La Liga opponents, and at the back they were miserly, chippy and competitive. It’s not easy to get a team moving forward in a situation like Los Che are in, but Baraja managed it.

Valencia have relied on the academy consistently, but this season it came to the fore most in recent years. There’s a strong team spirit, and for the first time in a while, Valencia have ended the season without drama.

Standout moment: 2-2 draw with Real Madrid. Not many teams have given Real Madrid problems this season, and Valencia really gave them a run for their money. It might be remembered for the late non-goal, but Peter Federico should have scored seconds earlier too.

Key player: Pepelu – the ex-Levante midfielder came in and immediately started organising things around him. A constant balancing factor for Baraja, Pepelu is the jenga piece for Valencia.

Surprise of the season: Cristhian Mosquera – the only downside of his season is that he was so good they might lose him. A physically gifted centre-back, Mosquera backed it up with a competitive spirit and a sensible attitude to defending.

Glass half full

Baraja has brought a stability that has not belonged to Valencia for a while. They are a solid team, and while there are some key players there, you get the sense there is a team of hungry players that fight for each other. Those youngsters will continue to improve, and Valencia might lose players again this summer, but they got more attractive to players this year – particularly if you’re a talented youngster.

Glass half empty

Who goes and who stays? Giorgi Mamardashvili is a likely and large loss, Mosquera has been attracting admiring glances, and if a big side needs a holding midfielder, not many did better than Pepelu. The latter is probably the least valuable of the lot on the market, but perhaps the hardest to replace. The summer has been a traumatic time for Valencia in recent years, and fans will be hoping for damage limitation.

The post Season in review: Welcome to Valencia and the Ruben Baraja apology tour appeared first on Football España.

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