Cristián Zapata: resurgent under new management.
Q1: Players, coaches, or management: who is most at fault for this season's shortcomings?
Maddi: For me, it comes down to coaches on two fronts. Villarreal was on the back foot early with the difficult Champions League draw (seriously, we were in the CL this year!), and then the players' strike forced the Yellow Submarine to begin the season at Camp Nou against Barcelona. If the season were to be salvaged (and perhaps we should have realized that the season was already in salvation mode), it would depend on the coach's ability to get the most out of the players. The skill was there. But first Juan Carlos Garrido, and then José Francisco Molina, was unable to inspire much. From the opening credits this season, Villarreal has been mired in embarrassment. Teams rely on their coaches, and we were found lacking.
The second front has to do with our trainers. Villarreal has been unable to stay healthy this year-- and going back to the second half of last season. If the trainers are not physically preparing a player, and he finds himself on a stretcher, there isn't much he can do to change the outcome of a match.
Q2: Bright spots: the most unexpected pleasant surprises of the season.
Maddi: The home draws against Barcelona and Real Madrid. Those were two matches that Villarreal easily could have blown off, but the team fought to scrape together two points that could well save us from relegation.Q3: Promotion from within: is it really the Villarreal model? Consider la cantera, managers, and our past success in rehabilitating veterans.
Maddi: I would like to think it is, and it still could be. Villarreal has its second team playing-- at times very well-- in the Segunda A. All of the players there are gaining tremendous experience on a day in, day out basis. Villarreal has nurtured a number of players through the cantera that have seen significant playing time (in addition to Bruno Soriano), but under very different circumstances from this season's. By no means will our cantera ever rival La Masia, but it has its role. The key is to incorporate players early in the summer, get them comfortable, and support them through inevitable tough spots without sending them straight to the doghouse.
Q4: Thoughts on new manager Miguel Ángel Lotina-- team attitude, tactics, and fan sentiment.
Maddi: The focus had to be on the defense. Lotina realized that we lack the offensive firepower to blow teams away, so he took the most thoughtful approach-- fix the defense so that we don't have to score as much. The team has appreciated Lotina's lunch pail, blue-collar approach, it seems, based on their recent efforts. It is not a spotless record-- a home draw against Real Madrid, ugly win away to Rayo Vallecano, and a mixed-bag-but-all-around-ugly home draw against Espanyol. But so far, the fans seem to be happy with the results. No one wants to see the team go down, so if Lotina can keep Villarreal afloat, he will be a hero.
Q5: Will Lotina be the manager in 2012-13, assuming the team stays up? What else does the off-season promise?
Maddi: Villarreal desperately needs some stability at the helm, and Lotina could provide it. The club needs next year to be a more typical one: aim for spots 5-7 in the league table and work our way back into Europe. But the primary objective is to secure safety in La Liga; do not burn out on the Copa del Rey.
Q6: Will Villarreal CF play first-division football next season? Will we end up like Zaragoza-- too talented to go down; from European qualification to relegation? Or will we finish the season strongly-- like traditional Villarreal sides?
Maddi: It won't be pretty, but the club will be no worse than 17th at the end of the season. Especially if Giuseppe Rossi comes back. Villarreal should pick up a couple of key wins over the next few weeks and secure its spot in the Primera in 2012-13.