I visit Jeff's homeland for a few days, and all of Vila-real is abuzz.
Three thoughts on my return from La Mitad del Mundo. That managerial search didn’t take long…
- Continuity is paramount. After promoting a manager and nine players from the filial two years ago, Sr. Roig did not want to take a step back in the cantera project. So rather than consider the Spanish coaches abroad and on television, he chose the next logical candidate in the pipeline. Obviously concerns about José Molina’s performance with the B team—survival last season, just above the drop zone this year—were less important than his positive coaching philosophy and player management abilities.
- Money is scarce. Sr. Roig could justify the Molina hiring on a few grounds, including his loyalty and personnel knowledge, but the timing raises a few eyebrows. Why not kick the tires for a few more days on the experienced Juande Ramos and Gregorio Manzano, among others? One possibility: the club could not afford their compensation, particularly in light of a Juan Carlos Garrido buyout. Precarious financial times in Vila-real.
- The club did not plan to fire Garrido. The showing and result against Mirandés combined to dispatch Garrido; one or the other may not have been enough. To fire Garrido immediately after the match—in an apropos business-like manner—and not even meet with the bigger-name candidates suggests the abruptness of the change. We knew about Garrido’s ties to the club, but we may have underestimated their depth.
Three insights from my observations of Molina with the B team:
- Garrido’s doghouse will be emptied. Molina has shown a knack for rotations and the ability to utilize his squad depth. Players have shuffled in and out, along with up and down divisions, and the results have been relatively uniform. Lucas Porcar is a recent example: he went missing for a few weeks, and then popped up with a brace in our 3-1 home win over Xerez. On the flip side, Chiqui Guerrero wants to return to Ecuador in search of playing time, but Molina seems to have quarantined any negative vibes.
- The interiores will return. They never quite went away, but Molina has relied on wide players to play in teasing crosses and create chances in bunches. Hernán Pérez stands to gain from Molina’s ascension, along with recent C team player Joselu Moreno, as the Paraguayan’s desborde should reign free. But who will play on the opposite wing—Rubén Cani, Borja Valero, Javier Camuñas, or even the out-of-favor Wakaso Mubarak?
- The defense will be on its own. Though injuries and call-ups shoulder some of the blame, the filial has struggled mightily to keep the ball out of its own net. So the back line of Ángel López, Cristián Zapata, Mateo Musacchio, and Joan Oriol should not expect tactical miracles. Molina was a Spanish international goalkeeper just a decade ago, but I expect his Serbian assistant Igor Tasevski will be in charge of the defense.
Hiring José Molina as Villarreal’s new manager is a high-risk, high-reward move. I would have preferred a more experienced hand to ensure survival in La Liga, but Sr. Roig is thinking more long-term—just like a successful businessman. I hope Molina is a smart investment. Suerte.