Understanding Valencia's Tactics: a brief guide for the perplexed

Decoding Emery's Tactics

The key to understanding Emery's Valencia is that it is built spinally, rather than from back to front. By "spinally", I mean that the interactions between the players who are deployed along the y-axis drawn from goal to goal are what characterize Valencia's current style of play. The usual way of considering a team, as a conglomeration of back line-midfield-strikers, is unhelpful when understanding certain continental teams such as Valencia CF or Bielsa's Athletic Bilbao. Valencia, like Athletic or Arsenal, is built "vertically." Flank play is important, and in fact many of Valencia's attacks start on the left, but the fundamental principle of Valencia's game is that play happens and proceeds from the center. Whenever the ball goes wide to Jordi Alba or Pablo, I almost always expect it to go back to the middle again.

Other Characteristics of Valencia's Game

1) Possession: the ball will be played to feet for as long as possible. Promising moves will start, break down, and be redone for stretches of minutes. This is not necessarily a good thing: against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Valencia was getting 60% of possession without creating much threat.

2) High back line: this has been a feature of Emery's team from the start. The pressure will be on Villarreal's back line rather than the midfield. Again, this has its drawbacks. A combative squad (like Leverkusen or Schalke) will be able to impose itself in midfield. A team with creative, dynamic midfielders (Bielsa's Athletic or Pellegrini's Malaga) will be able to create danger for Valencia.

3) Attacking Football: Emery only thinks about defending or neutralizing the opponent's key men when Valencia is up against a big team like Barcelona. Against a weaker team in distress he tends to set the team for attack. At best, we will see Los Che play relentless, inventive attacking football from start to finish. In actual practice, though, Emery's men are rarely able to sustain high-tempo attacking football for more than 30 minutes. Recent examples include the game away at Leverkusen and the recent Copa del Rey match against Sevilla, in which there was a noticeable drop after a scintillating first half in which Valencia could have gotten more than the one goal they inevitably settled for. In Emery's defense, these lags may have more to do with the unavailability of certain players that fit the style of play, but it has been a noticeable and regular weakness since he took charge.

other interesting tactical bits:

1) the false 9: that would be Jonas.

2) the inside out wingers: Feghouli or Pablo Hernandez playing on the left instead of the right.

3) the midfield organizer: Banega.

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