Inside Spanish Football’s Edward Stratmann takes another look at one of La Liga’s finest talents. This time it’s Valencia’s Álvaro Negredo under the spotlight; who despite not hitting the scoring heights initially expected, is offering much more in other areas to Los Che’s cause.
While it hasn’t been the best season for Alvaro Negredo at Valencia, with injuries and inconsistency plaguing his campaign, there’s no denying the talent within the Manchester City loanee.
It’s no secret Valencia’s manager, Nuno Espírito Santo, sets very high standards for his team in terms of effort and performance. Speaking recently about Negredo, his comments suggested he wants more from his hulking forward.
“He brings a lot to the team. He knows that he can reproduce his good form at home and he is an important player for us,” he said. “To be part of a compact team, everyone needs to keep improving.”
The multifaceted striker is up there with the best on his day, but unfortunately he’s struggled to hit those heights at Valencia. With an important home run, and Los Che moving into third last weekend, Negredo’s display against Deportivo la Coruña demonstrated just how crucial a player he could be in their race to secure the final automatic Champions League qualification spot. Moreover, there were also signs of him returning to a level that resembled his best.
The 29-year-old’s aerial prowess was undoubtedly the most dominant aspect of his game. Deportivo’s centre-back pairing of Sidnei and Alberto Lopo just couldn’t match him in this regard. Negredo’s strength and power, as well as his abilities to both position himself and judge the ball’s flight path, all parlayed to see him become an unmanageable proposition. He had a hatful of headed shots on target, but couldn’t manage to beat Fabricio in goal, who put in a great shift for the away side.
In addition, Diego Alves would regularly use him as a target for his goal kicks. When he did so, it was intriguing to note that Valencia’s speedster Pablo Piatti would dash in behind in search of a flick on. On the occasions the tactic worked, it was brilliant. It created a fast, direct route to goal, giving Depor no time to reset defensively, and catching many of their players out ball-watching in the process.
Another dimension the former Sevilla star adds to his side is his wonderful ability to link play, which, in turn, culminates in bringing his teammates into the game. Sidnei, his direct opponent for the most part, simply couldn’t match his mobility and strength when he’d opt to drop deep and get involved in Valencia’s attacking phases. There were multiple passages where Negredo dropped deep and opened up Depor courtesy of a sublime one touch pass. And when he was required to hold up play while waiting for a colleague, he showcased his strength to effectively see off the opposition’s attempts to intervene.
The aforementioned work was vital for his side’s attacking setup, for it successfully created spaces in behind for him and his teammates to exploit, as Depor’s defensive structure persistently opened up due to Negredo venturing upfield and bringing defenders along with him.
All things considered, the mobile big man really did lead the line in an intelligent, accomplished fashion, illustrating just why he’s such an integral part of The Bats’ setup. Unquestionable endeavour and a strong work ethic were at the heart of his efforts on the night, and, despite not finding the net, the fans still gave him an appreciative applause upon his substitution. They knew he gave everything.
A nasty knee twist just prior to his exit ended his positive night on a sour note, which has left him in doubt for Valencia’s clash with Elche.
Paco Alcácer, Valencia’s other notable option upfront, who’s more of a poacher, has managed to score far more freely than Negredo this campaign, but his all-round game isn’t anywhere near the standard of the experienced hitman. Ultimately, Nuno is often faced with a tough decision regarding who to play, and one that has to be dealt with as per their opponents and setup on a match-to-match basis. It’s not such a bad problem to have though – both possess different qualities and can be used in a variety of situations.
It was pleasant to see the high regard Alcácer has for Negredo, something that was highlighted aptly after the Deportivo match. This was made all the more admirable when considering Alcácer replaced him and scored instantly, and showed the youngster clearly respects his fellow frontman.
“I think Alvaro had a good game, even though the ball wouldn’t go in for him amidst the various chances. He’s capable of scoring plenty of goals and does a lot of work for the team, so we also should value that too,” he said.
It would be great to think that some of the majesterial form he exhibited at Sevilla, Manchester City and even at times for the Spanish national team will be on the horizon in the not too distant future. Valencia will certainly be hoping so, for it would appear certain that he’ll be at the Mestalla next season, with reports suggesting Valencia have a contractual obligation to pay Man City £25 million for him in the summer.
With Valencia on the verge of qualifying for Champions League football next season, having the experience and presence of their top class forward would definitely be invaluable. A creative, technically gifted and forceful target man who can pretty much do everything is rare in football these days, and Valencia should feel blessed to have the appropriately nicknamed “Beast of Vallecas” amongst their wildly and vastly talented squad.
This content was originally published here.