Yesterday's win over Malaga was Marcelino Garcia Toral's 100th Primera match in charge of Villarreal.
The Submarine has a record in that period of 47-26-27 (167 points in 100 matches). That would translate to 63.5 points over a 38 game season. That record is actually better than Manuel Pellegrini's (41-31-28) though Pellegrini's overall record at Villarreal is slightly better (1.7 points per game).
And yet, it seems there are Villarreal supporters who don't seem to give Marcelino his due. Why is this? Is the shadow of Pellegrini still too much to overcome? I can think of several reasons, none of which are really fair to Marce:
(1) Lack of a "signature event". The Pellegrini years included the 2005-06 run to the semifinals of the Champions League. And there was the 2007-08 season, where we finished second in the league (and maybe the 2004-05 season where we finished third, as well).
However, there were downs along with those ups. In 2005-06, our European adventure definitely affected our league form; we only finished seventh, and were knocked out by Maribor in the first round of next season's Intertoto Cup. And we were hardly a factor in the Copa del Rey under Pellegrini, never making it past the round of 16.
And, not to take anything away from Pellegrini, but he came to a club which had made it to the semifinals of the UEFA Cup the season before, and finished eighth in the league. Marcelino took over a team in the Segunda Division, out of the playoff places with half a season remaining, and led them to promotion!!
But, it's true- we haven't had a dramatic moment under Marcelino as a Primera club supporters can point to, unless it has been leading the league for a time earlier this year. Our European adventures haven't worked out so well; finishing second in our group has landed us with tough draws in the knockout rounds. We defeated Red Bull Salzburg, but then went out to Sevilla, the eventual winners. This year, we are drawn against Napoli in the round of 32, possibly the toughest opponent we could have drawn at this stage.
We made it to the semis of the Copa del Rey for the first time, but then went out to Barcelona fairly meekly, so nothing much to remember there. Until we make it to the final, it's hard to expect that competition will be remembered by Villarreal fans years hence.
(2) Marcelino is a prisoner of expectations
The narrative some Villarreal fans construct is that our return to the Primera, and our return to the European places the following year, were simply what should be expected given Villarreal's history. That hardly fits the facts.
The distribution of wealth in La Liga is of course far from even. I went to transfermarkt, which has records of market value of clubs in La Liga for the last 10 seasons, and compared Villarreal's final league position to where the club ranked in terms of value of players. (To some degree, value of players and league position ought to correlate simply because if a team does well, its players will be valued higher, but there is also the assumption--largely justified--that the clubs in La Liga with the most money tend to do best).
The results are interesting. Typically, Villarreal's "team value" has been just below the top five, typically sixth, and Villarreal's league finish has closely tracked (to within one place) that value:
SEASON TEAM VALUE TEAM FINISH
2005-06 8 7
2006-07 5 5
2007-08 7 2
2008-09 6 5
2009-10 6 7
2010-11 6 4
2011-12 5 18
2013-14 12 6
2014-15 8 6
2015-16 6 ??
During the Pellegrini years, the team performed at or slightly better than would be predicted, except for the marvelous 2007-08 season when we finished second. After he left, the 2009-10 season was the first time when we finished below where we should have (Valverde was fired with the team in midtable, Garrido brought them to seventh) and Garrido then took the next season's squad to fourth place. Of course, the terrible 2011-12 season stands out in all its horror....
Marcelino's first Primera team barely had more value in its squad than Elche or Espanyol, according to transfermarkt, but nonetheless qualified for Europe, finishing only four points behind Sevilla in fifth. A remarkable achievement!
It's true Real Madrid and Barcelona, #1 and #2 in squad value, supporters, budget, everything, generally finish in the top two places in the league. But that is far as it goes!
For the last nine years, except for the one season when Villarreal was #5, the top five teams in squad value have been Barca, Madrid, Atleti, Valencia, and Sevilla. Have they finished in the top five consistently? Except for Barca and Madrid, no.
Valencia have finished 10th and 8th during that time (and will happy to finish around there this season); Atleti, until Diego Simeone's arrival, had a number of mid-table finishes as well as 4th place; Sevilla has finished 9th twice during that period and hasn't cracked the top three.
Conclusion? It's not easy to crack the top three, for sure, but it's also not easy to qualify for Europe every year, much less be in the running for the Champions League. Pellegrini's fine record might have made Villarreal finishing in the European places seem easier than it is!
(3) We lack a "marquee player" like Riquelme. Pellegrini had some marquee players to call on, for years at a time. Juan Román Riquelme played for Villarreal from 2003 to 2007; Diego Forlán, 2004 to 2007; Marcos Senna, from 2002 on; Cani, from 2005 on; Santi Cazorla, from 2007 on; Robert Pirés, 2006-2010; Joan Capdevila, 2007-2011.
In the 2013-16 period, Villarreal has had a few constants: Bruno Soriano, Mateo Musacchio, and Mario Gaspar-- but the main story has been the changing cast of characters.
Gio, Luciano Vietto, Cani, Senna, Cheryshev....Marcelino has had them all for short spaces of time, but none have stayed here long enough to become "marquee players". Which has meant that Marcelino has had to chop and change and adopt his strategies to the players on hand. We may not be as interesting a team to watch as Villarreal was when Riquelme was pulling the strings, but that shouldn't diminish Marcelino's accomplishments--if anything, quite the opposite.
Let's be delighted with how Marcelino is doing, and how the front office has been managing the club as well in the past few difficult years. Endavant Villarreal!!