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Villarreal 0-2 Alavés: highlights and discussion

Comments from Escriba’s press conference. This is starting to seem like 2009 all over again.

Before proceeding farther, here are the highlights:

Lest you think our 20 shots at the net signified dominance and we were simply unlucky to lose, WhoScored’s ratings of the match show the top seven players of the match were Alaves players (led by keeper Pacheco, with an amazing 9.32, but still). The team ratings—7.27 to 6.44—are as one-sided as I’ve seen in a long time.

Manu Trigueros (by all accounts our best player on the day) was interviewed pitchside after the match: “We are not playing with intensity in the league or in Europe, we lack ambition”. “We’re lacking the intensity a Primera team needs to have”.

Escriba’s press conference after the match was understandably subdued: he said “we didn’t start the game well (didn’t show up for the first 15 minutes) and weren’t clinical enough up front”. He said the obvious: “the team has to pick itself up and analyze things after two losses, every game is a different opportunity and all the players are good enough to participate....our mistakes are clear, we left their players free, we have to work harder defensively”, etc.

So, let’s analyze things. The two biggest problems were both mentioned after this match: a lack of intensity, evident everywhere, and loose defending. in both cases, the trajectory is troubling—we are getting worse with every match, not better.

I have no idea what Escribá’s practice schemes and training regimen is like—it is certainly less controlling than Marcelino’s was. Perhaps that is part of the problem. And perhaps too, Escribá is used to coaching Primera sides where survival was the goal—he got a lot out of a limited roster at Elche, he got a lot less out of a similar roster in Getafe. But he’s never had the reins of a team with our budget or alleged quality of players.

What is troubling is to see the regression of Ruiz and Musacchio, and in recent matches Roberto Soriano as well. Sure, we are going through a tough patch as far as scoring is concerned, but even had we come back to draw this match 2-2, we’d still be asking the same questions.

I’m starting to see a comparison to the 2009-2010 season here: after Pellegrini’s departure, Sr. Roig hired Ernesto Valverde (a bigger name than Escriba; he had just led Olympiakos to the Greek league and cup double, and had led Espanyol to the UEFA Cup final before that). But, just as with Escribá, he was given a one-year deal.

Results were middling, and Valverde’s coaching style didn’t sit well with the fans. Sr. Roig pulled the plug on Valverde in January after a 2-0 home loss to Osasuna; at that point, we were ninth in the league (20 matches, 26 points, 31 goals scored, 29 allowed). We were 8 points out of the European places, and 9 above the relegation zone. (Ultimately, we finished seventh that season, picking up 30 points in 18 matches under new coach Garrido. An improvement in style, perhaps, rather more than form.)

Like Valverde, Escribá is an outsider hired on a one-year deal. Sr. Roig can’t be happy seeing a full Madrigal essentially empty by the end of the match, the way it was today by all accounts. The Toledo and Leganés matches are not critical (though another poor performance against another newly promoted side would turn the fanbase against Escribá even more) but the real key is Steaua Bucharest at home on December 8. If we fail to qualify for the EL round of 32 (which would be the first time that’s happened), I believe Sr. Escribá will be on a very short leash. And with our next two home matches against Atleti and Barca....

What do you think?