Many predicted big things for Nuno Santo and his youthful Valencia side after last season’s fourth-place finish, yet things rarely work out as planned.
A run of just one win in five has prompted Nuno’s premature departure from the club. Despite their poor form, however, his resignation is puzzling – especially that he did so on the morning of the match against Sevilla.
There is an element of defeatism about his approach to the match. In Nuno’s head, it didn’t matter if they won or lost, but given his pre-emptive resignation, he more than likely assumed the latter.
The players seemed as beaten as he did. They provided little to no threat to Sevilla, picking up two silly red cards and failing to register a single effort on goal. In truth, such lethargic and uninspiring performances have been a feature of Nuno’s Valencia this season. Yet, for every such display, they impress in another, and their 5-1 thrashing of Celta Vigo earlier this month is evidence of this.
Results have been less than favourable, but it is hardly relegation form. Los Che are only two points behind a Europa League spot and five behind fourth. At this early stage in the season, the situation is more than salvageable. Peter Lim certainly thought so as he pleaded with Nuno to stay, not ready to kick the struggling trainer to the curb just yet.
Lim has pumped a lot of cash into this team, though while most the money was spent in the summer, the squad did not actually change significantly from last season. With the added rigours of Champions League football, replicating last season’s form was always going to prove a herculean task.
Nuno’s decisions will be heavily scrutinised now he has departed, in particular his choice to omit €27m man Alvaro Negredo from the squad for so long. The powerful striker was ostracised from the first team for questioning the Coach’s tactics and hasn’t played for the club in two months. How deep the issue goes, only the pair know, but players have got away with far worse and continued playing.
It seemed the Portuguese’s lack of experience caught up with him in 2015-16, and maybe he knew it. Yet, just last week, he refused to entertain the idea of leaving the club. So what was the trigger for the 41-year-old to pick up the phone and resign on the morning of such a huge fixture?
Perhaps it was the midweek loss to Zenit St Petersburg and Valencia’s generally disappointing performances in the Champions League. The Mestalla outfit are on the brink of an exit after all. Or maybe it was the chastisement from the fans which sent the former Rio Ave boss over the edge. But football fans are stereotypically fickle, and those same supporters were singing his praises only six months ago.
The overwhelming feeling surrounding his departure is that he didn’t have the bottle to deal with a few poor results. The moment danger reared its head, he was off to the hills. In that case, maybe Nuno leaving was the best thing for the club.