You can blame the pitch. You can blame the injuries – keeping Léo Baptistão out of the lineup and Bruno Soriano, Cédric Bakambu, and Roberto Soldado out of form. You can blame the new manager effect – and Quique Setién’s tactical nous against Villarreal now on three occasions.
But you can’t sugarcoat an egg. I gave the Yellow Submarine a pass for the Levante debacle based on the impressive start to the season – and Jokic’s silly sending-off. The Celta match was always going to be tough, and Bailly’s silly sending-off compounded things. No excuses this time against Villarreal’s yellow brethren – again the colista controlled the match.
Three takeaways from another dour away day:
(1) Front four is still under construction. Marcelino García Toral has some work to do. Against a physical back four including La Liga veterans Aythami and Bigas, Marce chose to play Bakambu, Denis, Nahuel, and Samu. Four very similar players – admittedly Soldado fell out of the XI at the last minute. And the coordination was lacking from the get-go. Denis was very active, but the others were poor – Samu only lasted 90 minutes because of Bonera’s late knock. Not sure we know the best unit.
(2) Doble pivote needs balance. Bruno understandably was off-key after a long injury layoff and the disappointment of missing out on a long-awaited La Roja recall. Jona has played well this season but failed to impose himself on the island. Pina has played a lot of minutes early on this season, and his omission went with Marce’s light lineup up front. And Manu is officially option #4. Not sure we know the best unit.
(3) Value in numbers at center back. Daniele Bonera stepped in impressively after a poor Villarreal debut in Vienna in the Europa League. With Bailly suspended and Musacchio on the mend, the Italian’s presence allowed Mario to remain at right back -- until Bonera went off late with a knock. Las Palmas had a few half-chances, and Araujo forced one sharp save from Alphonse Areola, but Bonera and Víctor Ruiz did just about enough to earn the clean sheet. Very tough to stay sharp without playing, so kudos to Bonera and the coaching and training staffs.
Back to El Madrigal and our bogeyman – Sevilla comes to town next Saturday. Marce will need to win the tactical battle with Unai Emery to put the Yellow Submarine back on track. Lots of work to do in the week ahead.