La Liga 2021/22 preview: Valencia

Valencia have a new manager in charge at Mestella for the 2021/22 season. José Bordalás will face his former club Getafe in an intriguing La Liga season opener on August 13.

Summer Transfer Business

Predictably, there’s been next to no transfer activity at Valencia so far this summer, with just the one loan arrival, that of Paraguayan centre-back Omar Alderete, coming in to flesh out what looks to be a relatively slim squad. And, with rumours of owner Peter Lim blocking the signing of Marcos André, despite the deal having already being closed by the club’s board, it doesn’t look as if they’ll be dipping into the market for much more before the window shuts, either.

Still, the fact that Valencia have managed to keep hold of most of their star assets so far – including the likes of José Gayà, Uroš Račić, Carlos Soler and Gonçalo Guedes – means that things could certainly have looked a lot worse ahead of their Friday night curtain-raiser to kick off the La Liga season. There’s still general pessimism around the club that a mass exodus is still yet to come, but with the current crop of players, Valencia will be relatively happy that they have what it takes to remain comfortably in the division.

The Manager

Despite the lack of players arriving at Mestalla, though, it would be fair to say that Valencia’s best bit of business this summer is on the managerial front, where the appointment of José Bordalás is allowing fans to be optimistic that solid foundations can be built, as Los Che look for some stability while the board-room chaos rages on.

A man who took Getafe from 21st in the Segunda División to 8th in La Liga in just over a year – and then up to 5th and to a Europa League quarter-final the season after – Bordalás has repeatedly proven himself as a manager who can construct something from very little. Turning the Madrid side into an incredibly tough side to beat with his controversial high-intensity, high-aggression, direct style of football, Valencia fans should certainly be expecting to see a few yellow cards this season. That being said, though, I’m sure they won’t mind making some new enemies throughout the season – as Bordalás sides invariably do – as long as their beloved club can find its way back into the top half of the table.

Key Player

As mentioned earlier, there’s certainly a core group of players who Valencia can’t afford to lose. And, while Guedes, on his day, can be one of the most devastating attacking players in all of La Liga, it’s the captain, José Gayà, who is the one player that Los Che simply could not do without.

While it remains to be seen how Bordalás’ combative tactics will affect the attacking output of the diminutive left back, Gayà’s loyalty to Valencia, the club that he joined when he was just 11 years old, is especially striking, given the ample opportunity that he’s had to escape what, at times, has looked like a sinking ship.

Very similar to Jordi Alba, the 26-year-old is arguably one of the best attacking full-backs in the division. But it’s his commitment to the club, his Valencian blood, that is helping to keep many fans connected to a team whose local roots continue to be dug up by reckless ownership.

One for the Future

The first American to ever play for the club, 18-year-old Yunus Musah is certainly Valencia’s brightest young talent. Strong, quick, and with a refreshing appetite to receive the ball at every opportunity, the winger is looking set to play a huge role for Bordalás, even at such a tender age.

Musah’s versatility and defensive tenacity, along with his exceptional athleticism and physicality, means that the former Arsenal youth product can play as a box-to-box midfielder as well as an attacking winger. And, as we saw through the roles of Marc Cucurella and Allan Nyom at Bordalás’ former club, the new Valencia boss places great emphasis on covering wide areas with defensive solidity.

Musah’s unique blend, then, of attacking pace and power, along with positional intelligence and energy, means that the young American should fit into Valencia’s new system seamlessly. He and Bordalás could potentially be a match made in heaven.

Final Position

With all that’s happened to leave Valencia in this position, it really becomes quite difficult to predict where they’ll end up this season. The more optimistic will point to Getafe’s meteoric rise under the new boss, but given the quality above them last season, with the likes of Osasuna, Athletic Club and Celta Vigo looking solid just outside the European spots, I think it would be a great start to Bordalás’ reign if Valencia could squeeze into the top half.

Thom Harris

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