Change in module sparked City Published on: 09-10-2018

Mario Fontanella believes that a change in tactics has been the key factor behind Valletta’s renaissance in the BOV Premier League as the Malta champions maintained their recent hot-scoring form when they brushed aside Balzan 4-1 at the National Stadium on Friday.

Against Balzan, Fontanella enjoyed one of his most impressive performances in a Valletta shirt since his close season move from Floriana as the Italian striker helped himself to a brace that not only moved him at the top of the goalscorers list with seven goals but more importantly steered his team to third place in the standings, three points adrift of early pace-setters Gżira United.

That is some turnaround for both Fontanella and Valletta who up to a month ago looked in somewhat a spot of bother when suffering back-to-back defeats to Sliema Wanderers and Hibernians with the Naples-born forward struggling to adapt in the main striking role at the club.

But that all changed when the Citizens decided to bring in a pure target man in Kaljevic as that enabled Fontanella to switch back to his normal role of secondary striker and the results were impressive to say the least.

With Kaljevic and Fontanella leading their attacking line, Valletta bagged four wins in a row, scoring 18 goals and conceding just two.

“The coach’s decision to change our tactical module has been a key factor behind the team’s change in fortunes,” Fontanella told the Times of Malta.

“When I arrived at Valletta in the summer I took little time to settle down. At first, the coach decided to put me as the team’s lone striker and I have to admit that I found the going tough as I’m not used to that role.

“My strength has always been to play just behind the main striker as I enjoy make the most of the space he creates with his movement. When Kaljevic arrived things changed as our coach switched to a 4-4-2 formation and I could play just behind him.

“That put the team in a stronger position as we are simply getting better and better with every game that we play.

“Bojan, Matteo Piciollo and I are enjoying much more our football as we are creating a lot chances and scoring a lot of goals.

“I never doubted the strength of the team. We just needed to find our ideal tactical game plan and it looks like we have found it.”

Valletta’s dominant performance against Balzan, who are one of the major contenders for the league title this season, surely sent shockwaves among the other Premier League clubs but still Fontanella believes that Valletta are far from a finished product.

“We are not getting too carried away with our victory over Balzan,” Fontanella said.

“Surely we have many other areas that we need to work on. We may have beaten Balzan 4-1 but it was far more difficult that the scoreline suggests. At 2-1, Balzan had two clear-cut scoring opportunities and had it not been for our goalkeeper Henry Bonello things could have been different.

“So it’s important to keep our feet firmly rooted to the ground and work harder. But surely we have a very strong base to start from and hopefully the team can get stronger and stronger so we can fulfil our season objectives.”

The first round may have reached its halfway stage but Fontanella has a clear idea on who are Valletta’s main rivals for the coveted league crown.

“This season the title race will be tougher,” the 29-year-old said.

“Gżira United are one of our main challengers. They cannot be seen as a revelation anymore given their sound investment in their squad over the last two seasons. Balzan remain formidable opponents while for me Birkirkara too are in the race.

“The Stripes may be passing through a lean spell but I have no doubt that when the title race enters a decisive stage, round February, I’m sure that they will be in with a shout.”

Dubai investment

These are promising times at Valletta FC after a fortnight ago the Malta champions struck an agreement with a group of Dubai investors who bought a major stake in the club and are promising to help the team reach the group stages of the Champions League.

Fontanella admitted that arrival of the Dubai investors had left a bit of apprehension among the Valletta players but says that any investment that will benefit the club is always welcome.

“To be sincere, when the news broke of the arrival of the Dubai investors there was a bit of apprehension among the players as you never know what effect it could have on our future,” Fontanella said.

“But the fact that you have president Victor Sciriha, and vice-president Alexander Fenech who are still at the club gives us a sense of tranquility as they are a point of reference for us even though that they no longer have so much power as they had before.

“However, I still think that this investment is good news for the club as it’s clear that the new owners want the club to be successful and any financial backing aimed at helping us win trophies will always be welcome.

“I just hope that I will have the chance to give my contribution in what looks like a golden future for Valletta FC.”

Source - Times of Malta