It’s not even the opening weekend of the league season yet, and already mutterings are starting about Fran Escribá’s performance as Villarreal coach.
Today’s match at Inter Milan was poorly refereed, certainly—Escribá got sent off for complaining about a linesman who had called everything in favor of Inter all night long—and yes, the Inter goals came about partly or largely because of poor play by Submarine players who aren’t likely to see a great deal of action this season.
BUT. Whether it was a 4-2-3-1 as in the first half, or a 4-4-2 as in the second, the Yellow Submarine just didn’t do much of anything to trouble the opposition’s defense. It doesn’t seem to matter who is playing, or where they are playing: Villarreal’s movement is too slow and horizontal, depending too much on getting the ball wide to players who then either can’t cross well, or simply can’t find any passing lanes.
If this were our first or second preseason match, it would be less worrying, but the season starts in two weeks, and we have made essentially no progress in addressing the lack of offense.
The defense is suffering right now because we’re using a third-choice left back, to be blunt about it. Antonio Rukavina doesn’t have the physical skills of an Adrian Marin or the battling intensity of a Jaume Costa, and his lack of speed and difficulties in supporting the attack were exposed today. However, one corollary of the problems in attack is that there is less room for error. And again, regardless of who has been out there, errors have been coming.
Today’s second half was good evidence of that—Villarreal actually controlled play for most of it but Inter took advantage of a couple of defensive errors to score twice while we never forced the opposition keeper into a save.
The injury list grew today with Mario Gaspar’s injury—looked as though he pulled up chasing a ball late on, hard to tell how serious but if it’s a hamstring pull that’s not good.
Enes Ünal did get on for the last 20 minutes or so, scooped one shot over the top, would have won a dangerous free kick if the foul had been called (this was the play where Escribá finally lost his patience with the officials).
Apart from Samu Castillejo, Manu Trigueros, and Roberto Soldado, none of the front six is playing with any confidence. Sansone doesn’t seem to have a lot, Roberto Soriano (who came on for the last 20 minutes or so) doesn’t, and Pablo Fornals doesn’t seem to feel comfortable yet—he was essentially anonymous today.
Right now, we look a lot closer to a mediocre mid-table team than a team challenging for third or fourth in La Liga. And, with our first match in 15 days, that is worrying.