It's safe to say that last season's success wasn't exactly based on free-scoring football. In fact, with only 44 goals scored in the league all season, Villarreal are actually one of the lowest scoring Spanish clubs to secure Champions League qualification. Like most good sides, Villarreal have built from the back, with a compact organisation and defensive solidity that made them one of the hardest teams to break down. On the flip side, this also meant that the Submarine often struggled to create chances, in which case you better have a clinical finisher up front.
Step forward Cedric Bakambu.
Villarreal's scouting department has done it again, picking up their latest star from under the radar of so-called bigger clubs. After only one season at Turkish club Bursaspor, Bakambu scored 29 goals in all competitions, which was enough to convince Villarreal to pay €7m for his services. The French-born Congolese striker was an instant hit at El Madrigal, scoring a brace on his home debut against Espanyol and continuing on a rich vein of form that would see him mentioned in the same breath as Diego Forlan and Giuseppe Rossi. Playing on the shoulder of the last man, Bakambu's intelligent off-the-ball movement and predatory instincts gave a cutting-edge to Marcelino's new-look side. And his goalscoring exploits weren't limited to domestic competitions, as he finished second highest scorer in the Europa League behind Athletic Club's Aritz Aduriz.
The same cannot quite be said for Villarreal's marquee signing that summer. When Villarreal rescued Roberto Soldado from his nightmare in England for a fee of €16m, they must have been hoping he could rediscover the goal-scoring touch that had deserted him at White Hart Lane. Unfortunately, the former Valencia striker seems to have left his shooting boots somewhere in the Mestalla as he once again struggled in front of goal. Soldado has had to adapt his game, dropping deeper to receive the ball and link-up play. As a result, he was Villarreal's biggest provider last season, racking up an impressive 10 assists in all. Nevertheless, surely Marcelino and Bobby himself will be expecting him to weigh in with his fair share of goals next season.
Finally, we come to Villarreal's other two strikers, Leo Baptistao and Adrian Lopez. Although the on-loan duo showed their talent in patches, a combination of inconsistency and injuries meant they were unable to dislodge Marcelino's preferred pairing of Soldado and Bakambu. It will come as little surprise that Villarreal have turned down the chance to make their deals permanent this summer.
Mins played: 1861
Mins played: 2256
Mins played: 793
Mins played: 1259