As the first round of the BOV Premier League comes to a close with the end of the calendar year, top-flight clubs will be evaluating their squads as well as their direction ahead of the second half of the 2022-23 season.
Twenty-five-times Malta champions Valletta have ended their first-round matches with a 2-1 victory over Marsaxlokk, a comeback which showed resilience when considering that the Citizens achieved this result with ten players on the pitch. However, the side coached by Thane Micallef will be aiming for a more consistent run in the second round.
“The match against Marsa-xlokk was difficult, they are a team that does not allow you to impose your game very easily,” Micallef told the Times of Malta.
“In the first half, we didn’t manage to interpret the game in the best way, and in fact, we conceded and failed to create many goalscoring opportunities.”
“In the second half, I think the players rose to the occasion and the attitude we showed on the pitch helped us because we were more determined and ready to fight. This led to us finding the equaliser but more importantly when we ended up playing with ten players for a period of time, we not only managed to gain a point but we also managed to score the winning goal in the 90th minute.”
Valletta finished the round with four wins in their last five matches. However, the Lillywhites, usually among the league challengers, stand in eighth spot on 18 points, a point below rivals Floriana and 16 below leaders Hamrun Spartans.
Asked if this is concerning, the former Gudja United coach attributed this to the team still getting used to each other.
“We have a completely new team including the technical staff and so we still haven’t completely found consistency,” he said.
“I believe there are patches, even during the 90 minutes, where we are not being consistent, and I attribute this partly to the substantial changes that took place within the team.
“This is something we need to grow out of and make sure that our identity and style of play are pushed forward both during the matches, as well as the run of games.”
The capital club finds itself in the same position in the standings as it finished the 2021-22 season. As a result, Micallef is faced with the difficult task of improving on that.
“The first round has given us a clear picture of how things are.
“We know that our objective is to go up as high as we can in the table,” he said.
“We know it will be a challenge as there are a number of teams who are well-equipped and who also have continuity from last season. Our job is obviously to climb as high as we can with a stronger second round than the first.”
With the transfer market reopening in January, the Valletta coach assures that while pinpointing a specific position in need of improvement is difficult, they will be on the lookout for players who can ensure a stronger side.
“I think we have enough evaluation after 13 matches to know what areas we need to improve and we are looking at certain players who can help us be more competitive,” Micallef said.
“Obviously, I’m happy with the performance of most of my players even though I believe we can be better. We will be vigilant to see what opportunities we have from the transfer market in January to strengthen our squad.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint a position because I tend to look at football as phases, so apart from different positions, one must look at what he can find on the market.”
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