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Liga Of Its Own

Attack also shapes our defence

In the first of a monthly series, Valencia Club de Futbol, the Spanish La Liga side owned by Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim, are letting their coaches and players share their thoughts on life at the club, La Liga and talking points in the sport. Today, head coach Pako Ayestaran will kick things off

Valencia did not get off to the best of starts in this new Spanish La Liga season, as we lost to Las Palmas and Eibar in our first two games. Still, I am excited about the rest of the campaign.

I know the club's fans expect a lot but I can assure them that the staff and the players are hopeful that this season will go well.

For one thing, I've told the players not to be scared on the pitch, to be proactive, be one-minded and to take risks.

So during pre-season, we worked a lot on creating a style of play that is attacking and possession-based.

After all, most teams now play by creating combinations all over the pitch, keeping the lines close together as they move the ball forward.

Valencia coach Pako Ayestaran says despite losing their two opening games, the club will adhere to a style of play that is attacking and based around possession.
Valencia coach Pako Ayestaran says despite losing their two opening games, the club will adhere to a style of play that is attacking and based around possession. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

I've told the players not to be scared on the pitch, to be proactive, be one-minded and to take risks. So during pre-season, we worked a lot on creating a style of play that is attacking and possession-based.

It is also important to pay attention to details, something I gleaned from Rafa Benitez, whom I previously worked with at Valencia and Liverpool.

If you look at a successful club or athlete, you realise it is not the big things that make a difference, but the large number of small details that they look after on a daily basis.

So for example, we look at how to support the player who has the ball with our positioning, because when you are in the right position to support the player on the ball, normally you are also in the right place to defend if there is a counter-attack.

It is tough thinking about defending when you don't have the ball, so you need to start earlier. You can say we are trying to defend by attacking better.

The club's signings are another reason for my optimism this transfer window. We have bought a good mix of experienced players and talented youngsters.

For example, we have signed playmaker Alvaro Medran (from Real Madrid), who is going to be a great prospect in the future.

We also bought Mario Suarez (from Atletico Madrid) and Martin Montoya (from Barcelona) and they are good players who will add value to the team.

Of course, everyone will talk about Nani. First of all, he is very experienced, having played in different leagues around Europe.

But the biggest quality he brings to the club is that he's a winner. He has great habits at the training ground and strengthens important values like work ethic, ambition and professionalism.

Football-wise, he has great quality in the last third of the pitch and gives us options as he can play anywhere across the front three.

For now, it is still early to talk about targets. I prefer to talk about targets in March and April.

But we definitely want to do better than last season, when we finished 12th. For a club like Valencia, it is disappointing to not be playing in Europe.

At the moment we are at a good level and I am excited about what the new season will bring.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2016, with the headline 'Attack also shapes our defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe