One would imagine it difficult for Valencia to have a worse week than the several winless ones they endured during their painful 2015-16 campaign.
Yet just a fortnight into a new La Liga season, one at first brimming with hope of redemption, Pako Ayestaran’s side find themselves bottom of the pile and stripped of more key players.
Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Eibar marked the first time Valencia had lost their first two League matches since 1999, having also lost 4-2 at Las Palmas on the opening day.
More negativity burdened the shoulders of valencianistas following the news that the exits of Paco Alcacer and Shkodran Mustafi to Barcelona and Arsenal respectively were a formality.
It happens. Sometimes you don’t start well and need a few games to get into the groove, especially under new management.
But to fans of Los Che, this will feel less like a stumble and more like the beginnings of another bleak season, should they fail to get their act together soon.
Last season was a case of severe underachievement. A squad full of quality but devoid of form and confidence. But stripped of key players in defence, midfield and attack this season, it can be questioned whether they still have the squad necessary to compete.
Is the centre-back pairing of Aymen Abdennour and Aderlan Santos as resolute as the Mustafi-Nicolas Otamendi combo that saw them secure a Champions League place in 2015?
Can potential loanee Munir El Haddadi replace Alcacer’s goals or Watford reject Mario Suarez fill the gap left by €55m man Andre Gomes?
It must have been especially infuriating for Valencia fans to watch the team flounder in their lacklustre pursuit of an equaliser against Eibar with a fit Alcacer perched in the stands.
Talk of the Spain striker is tedious at this point but pertinent considering Valencia’s continued struggles. “To play for Valencia, you have to have your body and soul in Valencia,” was Pako’s response to leaving him out, suggesting he was no longer committed to the club. A bitter pill for his fellow Valencians to swallow.
Unfortunately Valencia are in no position to tempt players away from the bright lights of Barcelona, especially given the toxic atmosphere around the club.
After a poor previous campaign, it’s difficult to say that this year’s squad is any better than its predecessor. Good players have seen other good players leave, and with them their prospects of silverware, which turns their head.
Fans have been vociferous in their chastisement of what they perceive to be poor management upstairs, which has seen four different Coaches take the reins and key players depart in the past year.
This poor start is a culmination of all these factors. Perhaps it serves as a needed wake-up call because, though it may only be two games in, Valencia have been in freefall for some time – a freefall that will continue unless something is done in the near future.