Before Valencia's Europa League tie with Swansea, Ever Banega spoke of the team's need to show ‘huevos’ – meaning balls but translating literally as eggs. After a 3-0 defeat though, one which former player Mario Kempes condemned as ‘disrespectful to an institution like Valencia’, Superdeporte's front cover featured an ironic reference to Banega's comments on Friday morning – two actual eggs. It was quite fitting.
It was Los Che's fourth defeat in a row, a low they'd not previously hit for 14 years, it was also their fourth consecutive game conceding three goals. “It's impossible to compete if you're conceding three goals a game,” said manager Mirolsav Djukic. So where has it all gone wrong for the side that, until recently, were considered La Liga's perennial third-placers?
The story rings similar to last season's start. Djukic's former defensive colleague at Mestalla, Mauricio Pellegrino, was the new man in charge then but after a stuttering start he was eventually replaced by Ernesto Valverde. Valverde steadied the ship and, in guiding Valencia to a fifth place finish, was unlucky to miss out on a Champions League spot to Real Sociedad. He opted to head north to Athletic Bilbao in the summer but, considering his excellent work at Real Valladolid, the Serbian Djukic seemed a good candidate to build on the foundations Valverde had laid.
But with 2,000 fans gathered outside the ground on Thursday night to call the players out in anger, it was evident that Djukic has not yet built on those foundations. “I'm the most responsible at the club,” said the 47-year-old. “I understand the fans, they're not happy. I can't ask for support as we don't deserve it.”
Admittedly the club lost their figure head, Roberto Soldado, this summer, but that's hardly an unfamiliar story in these parts – see Jordi Alba, Juan Mata, David Silva and David Villa. They did well to milk some money from the sales of Nelson Valdez and Tino Costa though, while the arrivals of Javi Fuego and Dorlan Pabon looked shrewd if not groundbreaking.
While Djukic has been responsible for tinkering with his line-up – he's tried three different combinations as his midfield pivot now, with Banega the latest to be tried there – the players must share the burden for showing a lack of fight and a lack of discipline. While it is true they can't be expected to compete with Real Madrid or Barcelona, or even Swansea financially, it is not true that they should be getting turned over at Espanyol and Real Betis.
Banega speaks of courage but has shown little more than glimpses so far this season, while players like Adil Rami and Jeremy Mathieu seem to think they're doing the club a favour by staying with them. They're not. Despite what Osasuna may tell you though, September is no time to be sacking your Coach. Rome wasn't built in a day and Djukic's project, to use the buzz word, was never going to be a five minute one.
However, the longer this cloud looms over Mestalla, the more his job will come under scrutiny. Some journalists in Valencia are already touting the possible return of Quique Sanchez Flores. Unai Emery, the man who left the club after three successive third place finishes in 2012, returns with his enthusiastic-looking Sevilla this weekend and it will heap the pressure on Djukic should he return to Andalusia with three points – watch out for those white flags.