Boy I wish we were coming into this match healthy. Gerard Moreno, easily our best player so far this season, is out for most of the rest of October, so is Pervis Estupinan, who already has taken over the left back role and revolutionized it for the club. Francis Coquelin is just getting back from injury and probably won’t have full match fitness, and yet despite these issues, we still come into our derbi match with Valencia with things going our way.
Boy, Valencia are a hot mess. After the fire sale from this past summer (that I had been assured was not really a fire sale by a certain Valencia supporter), the club made no signings whatsoever after promising their manager they would do so. Apparently, he was not the only one the ownership lied to as Geoffery Kondogbia declared this week that they were ‘destroying’ the once promising project at the club. Counting all competitions, 16,075 minutes of play walked out the door from last season, with 4,134 of them being La Liga legend Dani Parejo. In addition to these permanent losses, Carlos Soler, Eliaquim Mangala, and Gabriel Paulista are all listed as injured on Transfermarkt (which is usually pretty accurate but not perfect).
It’s worth noting, though, that this side is not wholly without talent. Jose Gaya is a wonderful left back, Kondogbia is still there, and Maxi Gomez is a proven player. Kang-in Lee and Hugo Guillamon are interesting young players, and manager Javi Gracia has squeezed water from a stone so far with this group. This match will not be easy.
The injury to Gerard puts everything on its head for us tactically. With all the media fuss about Kubo in the last two or three weeks, it wouldn’t shock me to see him step in to fill that role as we stick with the three man midfield setup we’ve used in recent matches. The key for Kubo in that role will be to keep possession of the football. Last season with Mallorca a little more than 11% of his touches of the football ended in a loss of possession, numbers that have continued this season. That’s unacceptable. He needs to pinch inside so Mario can get forward, play solid defense, and take care of the ball.
Here’s how I think Unai Emery will adjust to our injury issues:
Could just as easily be Samu above Mario instead of Kubo. I’m not actually sure which I prefer. Kubo will probably be a little more active in buildup and will come inside more so if he can just not give the ball to the other team seven or eight times I think that’s the better reflection of what Gerard does in this system? Who knows.
We are better than Valencia, but we are banged up. I think we are missing at least three of our first choice starters, including both fullbacks. Derbies are funny things, but I think we will be particularly motivated for this one, while Valencia’s players seem frustrated at the club and don’t necessarily want to be there. I think we win 1-0.