Outlook: “We’ve hit rock bottom!”

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Outlook: “We’ve hit rock bottom!”

Notapor GranotaDean » Mié Feb 22, 2012 11:10 pm

By Dean Burrier Sanchis (twitter:@BurrierSanchis) {website: DescubriendoADean}

Valencia, Spain

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This week has been a whirlwind of emotions and reactions following Levante’s surprising 3-5 defeat against Rayo Vallecano this past Sunday in Ciutat de València Stadium. Having travelled more than 4,500 miles to Valencia on Thursday, vomiting from motion sickness as many times as goals were scored on Sunday, I felt just as depressed as any of the 4,000 fans who stayed loyally by the side of our Levante through all of the 94 minutes. With that final whistle from Iturralde began the commentaries of fans, trying to make sense of how our club still had not ended its streak of three months without a victory in La Liga. “Hemos tocado fondo ya, seguro” (Surely, we’ve hit rock bottom this time) exclaimed a fan sitting in front of my in Grada Central. “Ojalá“ (I hope) was the response that quickly followed in the minds of everyone within earshot.

Its difficult to analyze the rise and fall of Levante. All Levante fans were conscious of the fact that the “fall” would come. Players, directors and fans humbly carried the flag of leader during several weeks this past fall and never lost sight of the club’s objectives. Club President Quico Catalan made it clear on many occasions that the club’s objective was still the same: avoid relegation. However, the collapse has seemed so sudden that it fans have been left looking for explanations. In today’s post we will analyze some explanations for the drop in form.

Injuries

Juanlu, Barkero, Valdo, Juanfran, Del Horno… while it might seem like a short list, Levante as a team function like a finely-tuned machine. Without even one vital part, the machine does not work. The first three names have been the most important absences: together they compose the line between the midfield and Koné. Without outside midfielders Juanlu and Valdo, no one has been able to spark the team’s offense, as the vast majority of the team’s offensive play runs through their feet. For a counterattacking offense, the absence of the outside middies has been disastrous. Koné has seen the amount of touches he gets on the ball drastically reduced and the amount of real, goal-scoring opportunities equally reduced. In the end, the reasoning is quite simplistic: when the machine does not produce goals, we cannot win. Thankfully, Barkero and Valdo are back on the field and getting back in form and, hopefully, very shortly will help the team’s offensive output that shot the team to a beautiful and historic run of 7 consecutive victories just a few months ago.

The Transfer of Nano

Gustavo Cabral played a fantastic game against Real Madrid, however, it is clear he is still struggling to fill the large boots that Nano left behind on his way to China. This past Sunday, the absence of Nano, pillar alongside Captain Ballesteros, left a gaping hole in the defensive line that Rayo exploited over and over again. If you repeat the goals Rayo scored, it’s as if Nano should have appeared to save the day. It is clear that he carried more of the communication in the defensive line than Ballesteros, traditionally more of a quiet leader. That lack of communication and the vision that Nano brought is most readily seen in the 0-1 goal from Lass, who gladly exploited Javi Venta’s lapse of attention, keeping Lass onside a meter and a half behind the rest of the defense.


The Botehlo Situation

Although the news did not come out until after the 3-5 loss, recently-arrived and too quickly reunited with the nightlife in Madrid, Brazilian left-winger Pedro Botehlo certainly set the club and coaching staff up for an embarrassing situation. After Levante’s dignified and very well-fought 4-2 loss against Real Madrid, players were restricted from leaving the team hotel. Botehlo, recently apprehended when he was still with Rayo Vallecano for crashing his car under the influence of alcohol after a long night of fiesta in Madrid (worse yet: without a driver’s license in Spain), left his hotel room and presumably marched off to a nighttime rondevu with his Madrid pals. The following morning, the rest of the players, coaches, staff and club directors left bound for Valencia after finding Botehlo’s room vacant, save for his open and unpacked suitcase. According to Botehlo, it was all a misunderstanding, as he thought he had permission to “visit the dentist”, an excuse that JIM has categorically denied, as he personally denied Botehlo permission to leave the hotel.

The club kept silent on the subject all week, but it was obvious to me, after meeting all the players as they marched from the dressing room off to the hotel the day of the game, that something was on manager Juan Ignacio Martinez’s mind. He looked stressed, angry and in a rush to board the bus. Shortly thereafter, my godfather and I went naming the players that had already boarded the bus. Everyone expected, except Botehlo. It should have hit us at the time that something was adrift. Botehlo had been picked and started every game since making the move from Rayo to Levante. We asked a club employee where Botehlo was, they downplayed his absence and said he was “inside the dressing room” and that he’d be out “shortly”. It was strange, but I did not expect the bomb shell that would go off in the media shortly after the defeat, later that evening.

The Botehlo situation is a huge public embarrassment for manager JIM. He personally vouched for Botehlo, to whom he had been a father-figure when both coincided in Salamanca and again in Cartagena in the recent past. The fact that JIM publicly spoke on Botehlo’s behalf and personally requested his signing to club directors, has blown up in his face with Botehlo’s latest nightclub appearance. While the club has decided not to tear up Botehlo’s contract, it is clear that he will be fined and almost certainly will not wear a Levante shirt again. His distraction is obviously not helping the team and the dressing room is certainly suffering as a result of his actions.


Next Up: Espanyol

A very formidable opponent, who will not want to relinquish the fourth place spot they just took away from us this past weekend. I will be accompanying the estimated 100 Levante fans who will be making the trip to Barcelona in bus this Saturday afternoon. Levante are a club with a style of play well accustomed to playing as the away side. Let’s hope the defensive line returns to being as attentive and well in-sync as it traditionally is, and that we are not still lamenting Nano’s exit, or Botehlo’s visit to the “dentist”…
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GranotaDean
 
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