An article in today's EPM (the local/regional newspaper in the Vila-real area) by Sr. José Luis Lizarraga may give some insight into how people at the club are viewing our recent drop in form. Then again, it may be just the author's opinion. Be that as it may, he correctly notes that the keys to Villarreal's success over the last four years have been (a) defensive solidity and (b) solidity as a team. Both of these attributes have been missing of late.
Mateo Musacchio may have had the most visible mistakes--he didn't close down Deyverson for the first goal, and completely misplayed a high ball that created Alaves's second goal--but as Lizarraga points out, virtually everyone in yellow yesterday played with the same lack of intensity and passion. It's hard to beat anyone by just showing up.
Lizarraga states, "it is true that there are now many players performing below their individual level, but what bothers me most is the decomposition of the team I am observing". Clearly, that problem is the coach's to solve.
He also has several specific criticisms:
(1) We have a deep squad, sure, but making so many changes from one game to the next (5,6,7 of the XI) appears to be counterproductive. Especially when Bruno Soriano, whom you might figure would get more rest than anyone, has played virtually every minute so far. (I am also alarmed at the poor form of Victor Ruiz of late, and wonder how much of it is due to not having a stable partner--though to be fair, Musacchio and Bailly alternated last year).
(2) The "scandalous lack of defensive intensity" of some players. I did not see the match against Alavés, but I understand Roberto Soriano was withdrawn at the break precisely because of this--Alavés were attacking at will down his side.
I did see the matches at San Mamés and in Zurich, and was appalled at our inability to close down midfield. Another symptom of this lack of intensity could be seen in Zurich, when time after time one of our back line would simply clear the ball to just beyond the top of the penalty box, in the middle of the pitch. This simply hands the ball back to the other team in an attacking position. It's a lazy, thoughtless play, and we've had too much of that lately.
(3) Our failures in front of goal....yes, sometimes we are guilty of playing too flat (or passes tend to be short and/or horizontal, rather than the more direct through-ball approach we've employed in the past) but we are creating chances and shots on goal, more than under Marcelino.
Lizarraga concludes by stating "The only non-negotiable thing in Villarreal is the effort, the sacrifice, the collective solidarity and the team. Anyone who does not understand this should realize the winter market opens in a month and the exit door will be open. Let's not be too negative, because all teams have ups and downs through the year. But, the well-to-do (i.e. comfortable ones) have no place in Villarreal.
If you'd like to read the original, it's here.