El Madrigal continues to be Fortress Amarillo, and the match against Granada was the most comprehensive win at home to date. Some lessons from this one:
Villarreal haven't forgotten the possession game. For just the second time all season (Valladolid being the first) the Submarine won the possession battle. And as one would expect, they were fouled more often than the opponent, too. But although Granada might have wanted to defend en masse, from the beginning Villarreal were busy creating chances, beginning with a Pina shot over the bar in the first minute. And once the Granada goal was finally breached, quick passing in possession opened up more opportunities.
Cani and Bruno are both deserving of international callups. Most of the discussion has been about Bruno, of course, and for good reason; he has been outstanding. Plus, he's younger and there's less competition for his role in the national squad. But Cani has been superlative as well, playing perhaps the best football of his time with Villarreal. His ability to make the incisive run, or make the "slide-rule" pass (as if anyone remembers what a slide rule even is) has been phenomenal. Vicente del Bosque's inability to look beyond teams playing in Barcelona or Madrid for national team callups continues to disappoint.
Teams that aren't physical against us had better have a good (or lucky) goalkeeper. Celta picked up a point at their place because of some outstanding play from Yoel in goal--both coaches agreed we should have won that game. Granada weren't as lucky. Without applying lots of pressure, and unable to break up our attacks with continued fouling as Betis did, they were at the mercy of our speed, especially Gio and Jony.
Even Real Madrid, with a starting XI far more expensive and talented than ours, considered themselves lucky to get a point in El Madrigal--Diego López being the hero of the day for them. In that match, Madrid attacked in waves and used their speed and strength in the offensive zone, but they also allowed us to come back at them--and that produced two goals and a raft of chances.
The rotations worked--again. A week after showing some nerves in his La Liga debut, Bojan Jokic was excellent at left back in place of Jaume Costa. He may not have offered quite as much as Costa going forward, but he offered more in defense and made several important interventions. I also believe it was his winning the ball and getting it to Cani that began the play for our second goal.
As for Tomas Pina, his inclusion at the expense of Manu Trigueros worked out well. Not only did he score a goal late on, but he made a number of key interceptions, worked well with Bruno in the doble pivote, and in general had his best game in yellow by far.
Moi Gomez played about 30 minutes--his debut in the Primera--and looked pretty good. He needs to develop confidence in taking on defenders at this level, but he has positional intelligence that makes up for his lack of speed compared to Aquino (Moi can be shifty, can be quick, but is not fast).
We rebounded nicely from the loss at Betis. Many of us were surprised at the way the club played up the referee polemic on the official website, but the reality was, we didn't play that badly against Betis, so it really was a robbery, no less than Elche suffered versus Madrid. But the good news on Friday was all that was forgotten. Villarreal concentrated on the task at hand--there was one early penalty shout from each side (accidental handball against Jokic--I think--in the area, and Musacchio held back in a tussle in our box on one of our corner kicks) but nothing was given on either one. No histrionics, and no complaints afterward.
Who's hot? Pretty much everyone. Cani, Bruno, Pina, Gio certainly. Aquino had a poor game against Betis, rebounded a bit on this one, but this was definitely the Cani show. Back line all looked good, especially Musacchio.
Keep the pedal to the metal. Hard to find much to complain about, other than so many good buildups being wasted in the first half with the last pass just going astray. Apart from shots that were wide, we had several chances where no shot came. Other than that, we did have a period after each goal where we let Granada into the game a bit--no real harm done, but especially after the second goal we seemed to concede possession a lot more than we needed to on this day.
Keep expectations under control. This applies to fans and club alike--we have made a fine start, better than any of us could reasonably have expected, and the 'image' on the field has been excellent. But we've only played two teams in the top half of the table (RM and Espanyol), compared to six of the bottom ten. Our next two matches will be against teams in the top half, Athletic Club and Valencia--those will provide another good test for us. We have another string of four matches in quick succession--let's see how we are placed after those.
Meanwhile, let's enjoy where we are! Endavant Villarreal!!