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Villarreal season in review: the back four

A key part of Villarreal's success was our defense, and that's reflected in the generally high marks here.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

A guest post from Villarreal fan and sports journalist Thomas McIlroy.  Take it away, Thomas!

Villarreal in 2015/16 used nine defenders, Mario, Antonio Rukavina, Mateo Musacchio, Eric Bailly, Daniele Bonera, Víctor Ruiz, Jaume Costa, Adrían Marín and Bojan Jokic (who left on loan in January).
I’m pretty sure that every one of those defenders got injured in the season, with obviously more notable absences for longer periods – like Musacchio.
If you look at minutes played in the league, the back four with the most minutes is Mario (2874 minutes), Bailly (2019), Ruiz (2991) and Costa (1538).   I’m not 100% sure if that was the back four combination that played the most games, but with Musacchio’s injury, it definitely felt like it.
Unsurprisingly, Jokic played the least minutes – only playing 125 minutes in two games – and after that disaster of a performance that culminated in him getting sent off at the 1-0 loss to Levante, that wasn’t really a surprise.

If you look at tackles made per game, interestingly the only defenders in the team to make an average of 2 or more tackles per match are full-backs, which to me doesn´t necessarily feel like a surprise as I feel like a lot of teams attack down the wings against the Yellow Submarine.

Full run down:

Marín 3.8

Costa 3.1

Mario 2.5

Jokic 2

Bailly 1.8

Rukavina 1.6

Musacchio 1.3

Bonera 0.7

Ruiz 0.6

While Ruiz didn’t make a lot of tackles each match, he was very successful at interceptions – making the most per match (3.2) of any Villarreal player last season.

Full run down:

Ruiz 3.2

Musacchio 2.9

Costa 2.7

Bailly 2.6

Mario 2.6

Marín 2.5

Bonera 2.1

Jokic 2

Rukavina 1.9

Ruíz was also near the top of average shot blocks per game (0.5), just behind Eric Bailly (0.6).

Full run down:

Bailly 0.6

Ruiz 0.5

Musacchio 0.5

Jokic 0.5

Bonera 0.5

Marín 0.2

Mario 0.2

Costa 0.2

Rukavina 0.1

Perhaps unsurprisingly, whereas the centre backs dominated the shots blocked per games, the full backs were blocking more crosses.

Full run down:

Jokic 2.5

Costa 1.3

Marín 1.1

Rukavina 0.8

Mario 0.6

Ruiz 0.5

Bailly 0.1

Musacchio 0.1

Bonera 0.1

The final statistic I looked at was fouls per game, where Costa gave away the most.

Full run down:

Costa 1.4

Marín 1.4

Bailly 1.4

Bonera 1.1

Jokic 1

Musacchio 1

Ruiz 0.9

Rukavina 0.9

Mario 0.8

If you see which players are in the top three in each category (for fouls I looked at lowest fouls committed), there are five players who appear more than once – Costa and Ruiz three times and Mario, Musacchio and Marín three times (Bonera doesn’t appear at all). That would suggest that although Bailly has gone to Manchester United for a ridiculous amount of money, the back four that could start next season – Mario, Musacchio, Ruiz and Costa – was the strongest for Villarreal last year.


Mario: One of the best right backs in the league A+

Rukavina: A useful versatile player B-

Musacchio: Still one of the best defenders around when fit A-

Ruiz: Kept on impressing from last season A

Bailly: A great first full season at Villarreal, but the odd mistake A-

Bonera: A decent back up option: B

Costa: Solid but sometimes a bit rash: A-

Marín: Impressive when deputising and could challenge Costa next year: B+

Jokic: Looked a liability at times, his departure wasn’t a surprise: C