Coming off an impressive preseason and an even stronger Europa debut, I was envisioning Villarreal's sublime attack force simply draping the Osasuna goal in yellow, despite Osasuna's notorious defensive stinginess. However, in a predictable result that I did not want to admit was obvious prior to the match, Villarreal struggled to a 1-1 draw in Pamplona, as is usually the case. While perhaps Villarreal were the better side through much of the game, the team spent a lot of time looking largely disjointed, like they were aiming for a mid-table season.
It's not that we were the only team to struggle out of the gate - Atletico were whacked by three goals against Malaga, and powerful Sevilla were held goalless, losing by two to (gulp) Valencia - but surely our draw felt as bad as any other team's result.
As a number of people pointed out, Valverde made some interesting decisions leading up to and during the match. For one, he only brought two defensive midfielders. Perhaps this would be an acceptable strategy if he was going to only start one, but he didn't go that route. After putting Eguren and Senna both on the pitch from the whistle, Valverde must have been asking himself some serious questions when Marcos Senna limped off the pitch 25 minutes in, as there wasn't a substitute in sight that could keep up with the gameplan.
Also, Valverde started the inexperienced Kiko in front of Fabricio Fuentes, a quality central defender whose foremost strength is perhaps his experience. This created some discomfort in the back line that made waves felt throughout the squad.
Another valid question is the use of substitutes - or, more precisely, his leaving of Llorente on the bench. Joseba Llorente has always been a threat, and has not failed at the end of the match (anyone remember last year's last gasp draw against Barcelona, as Llorente made Puyol look amateur in preventing Barcelona's title celebration at the Camp Nou). Yet on Sunday, he spent his time on the bench, while Pires came on and missed two excellent chances.
Of course, this is only day one of a 38 match season. There will be many, many opportunities to make up for any mistakes. Plus, Valverde is not Pellegrini, no matter how much some of us miss our Chilean hero. Obviously Valverde will make different choices than some of us will wish at particular moments, but up until this point, he has shown himself to be quite capable, bringing a verve to our game that has not been seen in a while.
So, match one is in the books, and we dropped two points in the process. Hopefully our next match will begin to turn the submarine around.