Nuno Espirito Santo was perhaps a touch unfortunate to miss out on the much-coveted La Liga manager of the season award last term, losing out to Luis Enrique who guided Barcelona to yet another league title.
Santo earned 20 per cent of the vote, finishing second behind Enrique who romped home claiming half of the overall vote. A measure of the Valencia boss’ achievement was that he became the first Los Che’s manager to be in the top three since Rafael Benitez, who guided the Spaniards to two La Liga titles, most recently in 2004.
Having clinched fourth-place in his very first campaign with Valencia, Santo will be expected to build on that performance. That is not suggesting that he will be expected to challenge Barcelona, Real Madrid or the free-spending Atletico Madrid, but he will be tasked with bolstering his side’s hold on fourth as well as a respectable European campaign.
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Despite this pressure, Santo will unlikely deviate from his preferred system which suited his squad so well last season. In fact, with the money that has been spent so far this summer, it will be expected that he will develop an improvement on his current 4-3-3 formula.
Valencia have had a busy transfer window this year in terms of both ins and outs. In fact, Los Che’s have spent the second highest amount of money so far in La Liga with €79 million splashed out on new players.
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Among those brought in are highly-rated Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan, Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo and fellow Spaniard Santi Mina. Joining those at the Mestalla are Danilo, Zakaria Bakkali, Andre Gomes, Joao Cancelo and Yoel Rodriguez.
Five have so far departed The Mestalla, most notably highly-regarded central defender Nicolas Otamendi, who has joined Premier League big-spenders Manchester City. With such a huge turnover of players, Santo must integrate his new signings into the squad as quickly as possible if Valencia are to be taken seriously as La Liga contenders.
A return to the Champions League is long overdue, so the extra pressure that the competition will bring is certainly something Santo will have to contend with if Los Che’s are to continue their domestic and European improvement under his leadership.
Realistically, though, Valencia are a long-way short of sustaining a serious title challenge and any improvements on last season will be made in European competition. Firming their hold on fourth-place will be high on the agenda for Santo and making sure that their re-emergence in the Champions League is not just a flash in the pan.