When Villarreal plays like it did on Sunday against a Valladolid team that traditionally causes us problems, it makes my job that much easier. And more pleasant :) .
- Nilmar. Good thing I stuck with him when the goals weren't flowing, because now I can gloat :) . Simply put, Nilmar was fantastic. He's the only striker on our team who could have scored the first goal, and his hustle on the second reminded me of Llorente. Add in the Brazilian flair to score on his initial header, as opposed to Llorente against Tenerife, and you have a real crack. And I love how excited he is to be here. Smiling is contagious.
- Damian Escudero. Instinctively I had Nilmar as the top winner, but Escudero was very impressive as well. The Argentine midfielder was absolutely everywhere against his former team. He was brilliant on the left, such as the cross to set up Nilmar's goal, and he also wreaked havoc in the middle of the field and on the right. No wonder Pires was so high on him in the preseason. Even with Cazorla on the mend, Escudero deserves more chances to prove his worth.
- Ernesto Valverde. If you wanted a full display of his coaching philosophy, you got it on Sunday. Pressure high up the field, quick counterattacks, and lots of pace in the lineup. Notice that every older/slower player was paired with a younger counterpart who ran his socks off. For example, Senna was matched with Bruno in central midfield, Pires with Escudero on the wings, etc. This may be the way for Villarreal to play both a possession and high pressure system...or maybe that's too much to conclude from a home win against Valladolid. Either way, this was the best tactical game of his reign.
- Ivan Marcano. And he was so close to making the three winners segment. His first half was great, featuring a few last-ditch tackles to bail out his central defensive partner Godin. However, the gaffe that led to Valladolid's only goal was atrocious. A back pass to Diego Lopez that was miles off target provided Diego Costa with an empty net to score the 3:1. What's worse, he nearly let Valladolid back into the game with another poor back pass, this time headed, that forced Lopez into a smart save on the Angolan striker Manucho (like Rossi, ex-Manchester United property). You can't make those sorts of mistakes in La Liga and get away with them.
- Marcos Senna. I may draw further ire, but Senna had little impact on the match. In fact, and this may be the only time I'll ever say this, Bruno played better than him. Senna drew a few fouls, but he was not on the ball, did not win back possession, and generally looked less than 100% physically. With Cani, Eguren, Fuster, and Ibagaza also in contention for a central midfield role, Senna needs to find his form quickly. Not to mention that the Spanish midfield normally has Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas on the bench.
- Joan Capdevila. I'm splitting hairs a bit after a great team performance, but Capdevila did not look his usual self. Pedro Leon and Nauzet Aleman drove down the left flank a bit too easily, and Capdevila was caught out of place a few times on the counterattack. Luckily the omnipresent Escudero covered for him, but a better attacking side will exploit that tendency. However, despite his niggle this week, I'm hoping that Capdevila can play against Sporting, as he is the best left back we have (and the Spanish national team seems to agree).
- Giuseppe Rossi. Nice to see Rossi score a beautiful goal again. The 3:0 goal was the kind that he scored with regularity last season, so let's hope his form is back. I thought he and Nilmar played off each other well, if a bit too fancily, so let's hope for a long and fruitful partnership. Or at least his full buyout clause of 40 million Euros.