Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Villarreal Impressing on La Liga Return

 Villarreal where once a force to be reckoned with in Spain and across Europe, reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2005/06 and finishing second in La Liga in 2007/08. I think the majority of English fans would have been surprised to learn of their relegation given their pedigree. They bounced back following that set back achieving promotion at the first attempt and mad their La Liga return this season.

Whilst fellow promoted clubs Elche and Almeria sit in 15th and 16th places respectively, hovering dangerously above the relegation zone, Villarreal have adapted much more successfully to life in the top division. They sit in 5th place, just 3 points behind Athletic Bilbao, and are definitely in contention for that Champions League play off place. Their achievements this season have exceeded most people’s expectations, most had expected a mid-table finish.

Of their 22 games Villarreal have won 12, drawn 4 and lost 6, scoring 42 goals and conceding just 23 in the process, those results have included 6 clean sheets. Villarreal’s style is not as possession based as some of the Spanish sides, they have just 48.5% possession on average per game and an average passing accuracy of 78.4%. That, along with the fact that Most of the time they have employed a 4-4-2 system, might suggest they play a more direct, long ball style of football. That is not the case, Villarreal win on average 14.4 headers per game (3rd lowest in La Liga), they play short passes but in a more direct attacking manner.

The majority of the Yellow Submarine’s goals have come from Ikechukwu Uche, the 30 year old forward has scored 12 in 13 starts, including a hat-trick against Rayo Vallecano, making him the 6th highest scorer in La Liga. However, he has scored just 29% of Villarreal’s goals and they are more than just a one man attack. Jérémy Perbet has scored 7 in 4 starts and 10 substitiute appearances, whilst former Spurs player Giovani dos Santos has scored 8 in 16 starts.

dos Santos has supplied the most assists in the Villarreal team with 7 and has been averaging 2.3 shots per game, the most in the squad. Perbet has also provided 3 assists, which a good return given that he has mainly featured as substitute.

The experienced Cani has provided 6 assists from central midfield, although he is also good at the defensive side of the game, making 2.7 tackles and 1.6 interceptions per game. His partnership with Bruno in the centre of the pitch has been vital to Villarreal’s success this season. Bruno has been made 1175 passes so far this season (58.8 each game on average), the most in the squad by some considerable way.

Defensively they have been very solid too. Right back Mario has been averaging 3 tackles per game and making on average 2 interceptions. If the 23 year old has a weakness it’s that he has been conceding on 1.3 fouls per game. That is less than left back Costa, (1.8) who has been booked 8 times, although he too boasts impressive defensive statistics, with 2.9 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per game. Both players have also provided 1 assist so far this season and getting forward to support attacks is part of their game.

Musacchio has been a key figure at the heart of the defence, appearing 21 times, missing just one game. He has won the most headers in the team, 2.6 per game on average. The 23 year old Argentinian has been impressive so far this season and many have called for him to be included in the World Cup squad for Brazil. He has made 3.5 interceptions per game, the most of any player to have played more than 10 games, this suggests a maturity beyond his years and that he is adept at reading the game, something that will stand him I good stead in years to come.

The Villarreal team is one where the sum of the parts is greater than the sum of the individuals, they have a real team spirit. Their performances this season have been impressive and they have a good balance between attack and defence. If they continue to play this way they will push Bilbao to the end for the Champions League spot and it wouldn’t be undeserved if it was achieved. The Yellow Submarine is buoyant once more.

Statistics courtesy of whoscored.com 

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