The white handkerchiefs came out at Mestalla last Sunday as Valencia slumped to defeat against lowly Sporting Gijon. Eight games into Gary Neville’s Primera Liga initiation and Los Che have yet to register a win under the former Manchester United defender.
Neville insisted after the defeat to Sporting that his men should have won “4-0 or 5-0” but in truth it was another instance of woeful under-achievement by Valencia after what Neville described as “our best performance but worst result of the season.”
A comfortable win over Granada in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey was a welcome distraction for the new Coach and a further victory, albeit a narrow one against Las Palmas saw Los Che into the semi-finals. Any hopes of further progression, however, were dashed on Wednesday night with a 7-0 thrashing by Barcelona, for whom Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi ran riot.
The first 45 minutes alone were nothing short of a nightmare for Valencia, who trailed 3-0 at half-time in the first leg at Camp Nou and were reduced to 10 men when defender Shkrodan Mustafi was shown a straight red card for a violent challenge on Messi. Valencis’s first clear chance came only minutes before the break when Daniel Parejo headed over from a corner.
The generous amount of goodwill in evidence when Neville unexpectedly succeeded Nuno Espirito Santo as Coach at Mestalla in early December has quickly evaporated and, after three defeats and five draws in his first eight League games, the Old Trafford legend is facing increasing criticism from the Press as well as the fans.
The turning point appeared to be a 1-1 draw at Deportivo La Coruna on January 24. Trailing to a 27th-minute Lucas Perez goal despite a bright start, Valencia were only rescued by Alvaro Negredo’s 93rd-minute equaliser. Writing in Valencia Plaza, sports journalist Vicent Molins was scathing.
“If the game demonstrates anything it’s that Valencia are a complete mess whose Coach, sometimes through inaction and other times action, hasn’t brought anything more than a few doses of confusion,” Molins wrote after the Depor draw.
El Mundo also weighed in: “Neville doesn’t want to be judged even though he has been in the job for two months and continues without a win. The draw against Deportivo was more than he deserved,” it claimed in reference to Neville’s earlier insistence that four weeks was too short a period in which to be assessed.
Neville has inherited a squad that seriously failed to deliver under the previous Coach and has yet to ignite under new leadership. Players of the calibre of Negredo, Parejo, Andre Gomes and Paco Alcacer are undoubtedly talented but have yet to show they are capable of winning, even against modest opponents, although a double fightback against Real Madrid on January 3 earned Valencia a well-deserved 2-2 draw.
Modest dealings ahead of the transfer window closing last Monday saw Valencia bolster their squad, but not significantly. Real Madrid winger Denis Cheryshev signed on loan until the end of the season and left-back Guilherme Siqueira arrived from Atletico Madrid on an 18-month loan, with Lucas Orban joining neighbours Levante for the rest of the current campaign.
Neville, whose appointment is also until the end of the season, remains adamant that he won’t be leaving ahead of time, despite the string of poor results. “Valencia fans have a clear way of telling you to leave, and I haven’t seen that yet,” he said after last Sunday’s loss against Sporting. Maybe he hasn’t spotted those white handkerchiefs yet.