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Villarreal Roundtable: In the Homestretch - Pt. 1

I still miss you, Diego Forlán.
I still miss you, Diego Forlán.

A six-pack of questions about the life and times of Villarreal for our esteemed panelists. First up, Allen.

Q1: Players, coaches, or management: who is most at fault for this season's shortcomings?

Allen: About 40% management, 30% coaches, 30% players. I really think we did a horrible job this summer, and I can't tell how much of that came from Juan Carlos Garrido and how much from management.

Q2: Bright spots: the most unexpected pleasant surprises of the season.

Allen: Two things: first, the "fountain of youth" Marcos Senna has found. He has been excellent. Second, the acquisition of Alejandro Martinuccio. Seeing him with Peñarol (Uruguay) last season in the Copa Libertadores, I thought he might be a good fit in Vila-real. I'd like to see him start, though (ed's note: you're getting your wish). Plus sign him permanently, please.

Q3: Promotion from within: is it really the Villarreal model? Consider la cantera, managers, and our past success in rehabilitating veterans.

Allen: Well, Bernd Schuster was wrong about a lot [in his recent comments], but he did make one good point. We talk about developing youngsters, but in practice we haven't done much. Bruno Soriano has been the exception, not the rule.

Manuel Pellegrini played veterans; I think Garrido was the first coach willing to go with players who came up from the 'B' team. We have done better with rehabbing experienced players than working in youngsters. We just don't seem to know how to do it, and the two players who saw the most action last year-- José Manuel Catalá (ed's note: albeit injured) and Mario Gaspar-- have not played a lot this season.

Q4: Thoughts on new manager Miguel Ángel Lotina-- team attitude, tactics, and fan sentiment.

Allen: Before the Real Madrid match, the fan reaction was definitely negative, but El Madrigal was behind the team and certainly celebrated the point. I think Lotina impressed a lot of people, including maybe the players, by presenting some calm authority. Tactically, his decisions were excellent-- we kept Madrid from counterattacking and forced them to pass the ball around, which they don't like to do, while still creating danger going forward. The only problem: we tired in the last half-hour.

Q5: Will Lotina be the manager in 2012-13, assuming the team stays up? What else does the off-season promise?

Allen: I think it will be up to Lotina, and it might also depend on what other candidates are available. But if we win a number of games and stay up relatively comfortably, then yes, he stays.

Regardless, the off-season will be really busy. Nilmar will almost certainly leave; we will probably get decent offers for some, if not all, of Borja Valero, Bruno, Diego López, and of course Giuseppe Rossi. I think we will be in rebuilding mode for a couple of years unless the Spanish economy suddenly improves, we catch "lightning in a bottle" with transfers a la Diego Forlán, or both.

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?

Allen: Before the Madrid match, I would have said we were going down, but we managed to increase our lead despite winnable home games for Racing Santander and Sporting. If we can win 3 of our next 4 home games (Espanyol, Málaga, Racing, Osasuna), we will probably be fine, especially if we beat Racing (ed's note: and reverse the 1-0 first leg tiebreak). That would put us on 40 points, and I expect we can pick up another couple in the other 5 matches to get to 42, which should be enough. I feel we can do that, especially if Rossi returns for the last month or so.