Five things that went wrong at Valencia
Gary Neville’s first managerial spell lasted just under four months after the former England and Manchester United defender was sacked by Valencia.
The 41-year-old struggled to make an impression at the Mestalla after replacing Nuno Espirito Santo in early December and was let go after winning 10 of his 28 games in charge.
Here, we look at five things that went wrong during Neville’s reign.
On several occasions Neville highlighted his side’s habit of conceding possession deep inside their own half – something Barcelona took full advantage of as they hammered Valencia 7-0 at the start of February in the Copa del Rey.
Surrendering possession is unhelpful at any time, but disastrous when taking on Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. The errors left Los Che seriously exposed and undermanned in defence and it is a problem they never really resolved.
Starting and finishing games
In 15 of Neville’s 16 league games at the helm Valencia conceded the first goal, leaving them with an uphill task. Letting in late goals was also an issue, and they often came in clusters.
In what proved to be Neville’s final game in charge, Valencia lost 2-0 at home to Celta Vigo, who scored both their goals after the 80th minute. A 3-0 home loss to Atletico Bilbao also came after the game was goalless with 72 minutes on the clock.
Getting the best from the beast
One of the first things Neville did following his appointment in December was bring former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo – nicknamed ‘the Beast’ – into the starting XI. However, barring a Copa del Rey hat-trick against Granada, the 30-year-old flattered to deceive and was guilty of a string of glaring misses.
He did score three times in the league for Neville but was not reliable enough in front of goal, evidenced by a number of wasted chances in the 1-0 loss against Sporting Gijon.
Failure to decide on a settled formation
As is the norm when a team has been struggling for consistency, there was plenty of chopping and changing in Neville’s tactics.
In fact, he used five different formations in his first eight league games, trying out 4-3-3, 5-3-2, 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1. Perhaps his dawdling over a preferred method, particularly early on, cost him his job.
Not having his best players fit and firing
Much of Neville’s shuffling of his pack was due to injuries to key players. Goalkeeper Diego Alves has been out with a serious knee problem while Enzo Perez also suffered fitness issues.
With Jose Gaya and Sofiane Feghouli also in the early stages of a return to the starting XI in recent weeks, Neville was robbed of some of his better performers.