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The Week That Was: Round 9

I'm starting a new segment on the site. After taking some time to digest the week's matches, let's look back on what happened.

Three winners:

  • Ernesto Valverde. There can't be a bigger winner than the under-fire coach. Not only did we earn 3 points, but we got a wonderful display of his futbol in the second half's opening 10 minutes. Pires from Rossi, Rossi from Bruno, and Llorente from Llorente (sort of a self-pass to round the Tenerife keeper Aragoneses). Just like that, 1-0 became a comfortable 4-0.
  • Joseba Llorente. My man from Hondarribia (also the home of golfer Jose Maria Olazabal and Valencia manager Unai Emery) potted his first two goals in this year's Liga. And his celebrations are unmatched. He kicked the corner flag after scoring the 1:2 goal against Panathinaikos in the UCL, did the same after his 3:3 wonder-goal at the Nou Camp to deny Barcelona's title celebration last year, and kicked the end boards after heading in the 4:0 against Tenerife. Joseba wears his heart on his sleeve and loves the club. More of that, please.
  • The defense. While not a fantastic display, a clean sheet is a welcome sight. That's only the third of the season (1:0 Levski and 0:0 against 10-man Espanyol) in 15 official matches (9 Liga, 5 Europa League, and 1 Copa del Rey). Diego Lopez also looked more assured against the islanders, and I think he has settled down after the Xerez horror show.

Three losers:

  • Sebastian Eguren at center back. Even though he didn't play the position on Sunday, he was a menace to Diego Lopez. Conceded one of Tenerife's best chances to Nino by pussyfooting with the ball in the area. As a central midfielder, he's very solid. Ernesto, leave him there; Fuentes and Kiko are available for cover.
  • Marcos Senna. Like any Villarreal fan, I love our leader; he has put the team on the map in Spain and Europe. But a combination of poor health, age, too many games (extensive international duty at Euro 2008 and in World Cup 2010 qualifiers), and confusion in Valverde's system have caused a significant drop-off in his form. His place in the lineup may be safe (although Ibagaza has fit in nicely), but his influence on the squad may be waning. Is it just a coincidence that Sunday's 5:0 thrashing came with a more width-oriented attack (Cani and Pires) and two defensive central midfielders (Bruno and Eguren)? For his sake, let's hope so.
  • Valverde's prior lineup experiments. Hopefully this is the end of Eguren in central defense, playing David Fuster as a second striker, and the Rossi/Pereira pairing up front. I've already touched on the first point, but I can't fathom why Fuster continues to play the punta (support striker). He may have succeeded there at Elche (15 goals last year), but that's in the Segunda. And without Llorente in the lineup (and Nilmar to a lesser extent), there is no aerial presence on the front line. It's nice to score beautiful goals, but we need some ugly ones too.

Honorable mention:

  • Robert Pires. Turned 36, scored the only goal against Puertollano, and knocked in the 2:0 to open the floodgates against Tenerife. And his one-two goal with Llorente against Xerez was a classic. He may have lost a step, but he makes up for it with guile. Ernesto, please start him on a regular basis.