On the 1st of February this year, Barcelona suffered their first home defeat in La Liga since April 2012 at the hands of Valencia CF. While this of course, was over two weeks ago, awarding them the unsung hero award for this week would be inappropriate. In fact, it is their manager, Juan Antonio Pizzi who has earned the title this week. Resurgence has begun at Valencia football club these past weeks thanks to their new manager, earning him the honour of our Unsung Hero of the Week, writes Eoin Lyons.
February 1st saw Valencia’s most remarkable win in many years as they overcame the Spanish giants, Barcelona, in Barcelona’s own ground, with a fantastic display of football. This win shot Valencia into the front pages, resulting in them gaining much respect and backing in this year’s La Liga. However, the new and improved run of form at Valencia CF has been evident both before and after this massive win. Since Juan Antonio Pizzi took over as manager on the 26th of December, Valencia have only lost one game in La Liga. This of course, is no coincidence.
When the Argentinian took over from Miroslav Djukic on Stephen’s Day last year, Valencia were languishing in mid-table, barely avoiding the teams in the relegation zone, and with a measly 20 points from 17 games. Valencia were in need of a change, and coupled with the new investment into the club by Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim, the appointment of a new head coach seems to have worked wonders for the Spanish side.
Since Pizzi took over, Valencia CF has managed to gain 11 points from the 6 games they have played in La Liga under his management. While they have only managed to jump to 7th from 11th position at the time of Pizzi’s appointment, the manner in which they have done so is something to be proud of. They have jumped ahead of their 4 main rivals Sevilla, Levante, RCD Espanyol and Celta de Vigo, who had been in bitter competition in the middle of the league table. They are now only one position off the Europa League spaces and with their next game coming against Sevilla who are one position below them, a win would see them in serious contention to join in the battle for the European football positions.
Taking the past 5 La Liga games as a marker, Valencia’s form is one of the best in the League, and his been on a steep incline due to the results gained from their two most recent games. Undoubtedly, the win against Barcelona was a huge victory for Pizzi’s side. However, it was the following game against Real Betis which maintained and built upon the respect gained from the Barca win. Valencia put on a top quality show against Real Betis, hammering them 5 – 0 in front of the home crowd at the Mestalla stadium. Although Real Betis are propping up the rest of the table in La Liga, a win of 5 – 0 against any side should not be ignored. In the hope of silencing any critics who may have seen their performance against Barcelona to be a flash in the pan, Juan Antonio Pizzi instilled extra motivation in to his side to tear apart their subsequent opponents, Real Betis.
Of course, doubters of the Argentinian coach may say that this sudden change in form at Valencia CF may be down to a number of factors with new investment and new arrivals at the club. The key to the change however, runs much lower, and has been signalled at by Valencia’s frontman Pablo Piatti. The Argentinian striker, speaking in a press conference this week, hinted at a change in mentality being the key to Valencia’s current successes. The frontman, who has been seeing an improvement in his own personal form, was quick to thank his new manager for the improvement in the clubs fortunes.
The striker stated that their aim now was to achieve consistency, as opposed to simply having a burst of quality in a short run of games. It has become clear that Valencia CF are not only picking up wins, but they are having fun in the meantime. Piatti hinted at a very excited and happy squad since the arrival of the new Argentinian head coach.
With their next clash coming this Sunday against Sevilla, who lie only one position below them in the table, Juan Antonio Pizzi will be keen to keep this run of form going toward the end of the season. Although Pizzi is this week’s unsung hero due to his team openly singing his praises in the past few days, time may yet show that he could be Valencia CF’s unsung hero of the season. Watch this space.
Pundit Arena, Eoin Lyons.