Season in review: Marcelino saves sinking Villarreal submarine – plain sailing ahead?

Position: 8th – 53 points
 
Grade: C-
 
Record: 14-11-13
Goals Scored: 65
Goals Conceded: 65

Top Scorer: Alexander Sorloth – 26

Top Assister: Alex Baena – 18

Story of the season

This Villarreal season actually fits the bill for a rollercoaster season. It started off with high hopes, but it took all of four games for tensions with Quique Setien to come to a head. He took on the dressing room leaders and lost.

Pacheta was the surprise appointment to take over, hoping to add more a people person and a less dogmatic plan, so as not to clash with the players too much. While their games were full of goals, they struggled to win games all the same. On they meandered, and it didn’t take long for drastic action to be taken.

Marcelino Garcia Toral was back for a third spell, with possibily his hardest task yet. He too is dictatorial, but in a way that the players like. Commanding the respect of the veterans, he managed to put something in place in the second half of the season, with the Yellow Submarine playing exciting, forward-thinking football again.

Slightly unfortunate not to complete a famous comeback against Olympique Marseille in the Conference League, they also left themselves too much ground to make up in La Liga to qualify for Europe again.

The form of Alex Baena and Alexander Sorloth was one of the most exciting things to watch in Spain through the spring though, and the mood at La Ceramica is as good as it has been since Unai Emery’s penultimate season.

Grade Explanation

While this perhaps should be a D, because Villarreal should be aiming to qualify for Europe all things considered, the positivity and the sense of something being built for next season works in their favour.

Marcelino has started getting the most out Villarreal players again, and next season looks bright. Given where they were at Christmas, and the fact they only narrowly missed out o Europe means we’ll give Marcelino a pass. Finally, it feels like they are on the right track again.

Standout moment: 5-3 win over Barcelona at Montjuic. It will be remembered as the game that caused Xavi Hernandez to resign, but it was also the game Marcelino finally beat Barcelona away after about a thousand attempts. Crazy game, with a euphoric ending for Villarreal.

Key player: Alex Baena – nobody in Europe got more assists domestically than Baena. He took it up a level, and has all of the technical ability and talent you could want. A joy to watch.

Surprise of the season: With respect to Sorloth, we didn’t know if he had it in him in a big league. The big Norwegian has always been a good forward that managers like, but he was unplayable at times, and showed the clinical edge that he didn’t at Real Sociedad.

Glass half full

Marcelino is back, long live Marcelino. His track record is hard to argue against, he makes good football teams for a living. Who they can hang onto is a big question, but there is a decent chance Sorloth stays, and having someone who can score that many goals – and Gerard Moreno – is quite the combination. Yeremy Pino will be back next season, Ilias Akhomach showed promise and so did Jorge Cuenca. There are pieces there, they just need to give Marcelino a few more pieces at the back to stem the flow of goals.

Glass half empty

If Baena does move, he will be a major loss. Same goes for Sorloth, neither would be easy to replace. In addition, Villarreal played better and won more games in the second half of the season, but you could hardly say they became sturdy at the back. Until they show signs of being able to fix their defensive record, they will find it tough to get back into Europe. Equally, Dani Parejo continues to age, but remains so crucial, and everything around him has to be set better for him to suceed, or there will be a tough conversation on the horizon.

The post Season in review: Marcelino saves sinking Villarreal submarine – plain sailing ahead? appeared first on Football España.

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