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Villarreal-Betis: six takeways

Spain U21 v Italy U21
my MoM, Pablo Fornals
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

(1) Villarreal’s success, or lack thereof, will be dictated primarily by its midfield.

Unimpressive the first two matches of the season, against Betis Villarreal’s midfielders were dominant. Fornals was my man of the match, Castillejo next best; Rodri and Trigueros were very good as well. (Maybe it was the number 8 on Fornals’ back, but he seemed to have a bit of that Jona dos Santos swagger and calm control about him).

(2) The defense is still too “loose”, though—needs work.

Betis are a far more interesting team to watch than last season’s version, and on the occasions where Betis were able to control the ball in midfield and get it to their front three of Joaquin-Léon (later Sanabria)-Tello, our center backs were struggling to keep up. This was certainly true on Betis’s goal—Joaquin was played onside by Alvaro, who then didn’t pick up the streaking Léon. Joaquin’s cross was perfect, but it was all too easy. And we were caught flatfooted on the pass that set Tello free early in the second half—he blew past Rukavina from behind the center line, and Barbosa came up big to stop him.

(3) Betis’s keeper Adan doesn’t like to be put under pressure, and I suspect we scouted that.

From the very beginning, we put pressure on Adan whenever he had the ball. He was very tentative in his distribution, took a long time to put the ball in play, and our pressure directly led to the first goal. It did seem as though that was a weakness we were aware of going into the match.

(4) Villarreal played with a plan, but individual skill brought the victory.

I read a comment on twitter to the effect that we didn’t play well as a team, but individual skill brought the win. I don’t agree, or at least don’t agree with the first part of that comment. Unlike in the preseason, we played with tempo and mostly good connections between midfield and attack. The Bacca-Baka partnership was clearly new, but we created chances. Our play in the last ten minutes of the first half was particularly impressive—Rodri hit a post, we had a couple of other good chances, and overall we bossed the match.

(5) Enes Ünal clearly is young and will have to adapt to La Liga’s style of play ,

His uniform number (15) could almost be his age, he’s so young-looking, and he clearly is going to have to get used to the more technical play in la Liga (he’s going to be far more closely marked in Spain than he was in Holland) but his goal showed his talent. Not just the shot, but the first touch. Alvaro sees he’s got the inside shoulder of the defender, makes a lovely pass, but how often do you see a striker try to half-volley that pass, or take a heavy first touch and the ball runs away from him? Ünal’s first touch was perfect—that’ll be on the end-of-year highlight film for sure.

(6) The fans weren’t always as supportive as you’d like.

I didn’t notice it so much after Betis’s goal, to be honest, but there were some whistles and jeers after Tello’s near-goal. Fortunately we took the lead shortly afterward and by the time we scored the third goal fans were celebrating, but....

The club used to have a section set aside for the Colectivo Aldeano to cheer on the team, but that was discontinued a couple of years ago. Sr. Roig has always wanted the atmosphere at our ground be very friendly, not rowdy at all, but without the young, louder fans cheering us on in an organized way, the atmosphere in the stadium is sometimes less supportive—or maybe it’s that you can hear the few who are whistling or jeering. I’m not sure.

And finally.....

(7) Did Escribá and Quique Setien get together before the game and decide on a dress code?

I mean, really. Two guys in their 50’s, both wearing dress shirts (no tie) with the sleeves rolled up, and almost the same shade of blue. I thought I was seeing double every time the sideline camera showed the bench area.

Oh well, if that’s all I can find to complain about it must’ve been a pretty good match!