Fans on a wet day in Bremen saw the good and bad of Villarreal on full display. The bad was a Victor Ruiz giveaway that Kevin Kruse turned into a goal, and a weak Álvaro defense of a cross that Yoya Osako headed home.
The good was a Villarreal side that was the better in the first half, with Gerard Moreno missing a sitter and another good header chance and Toko Ekambi having a good shot saved, not to mention a Castillejo one-on-one which somehow got fluffed.
That half was played with a 4-4-2, and the weak links were Ramiro Guerra in midfield and the Alvaro-Ruiz pairing, and Pablo Fornals was making uncharacteristic passing mistakes as well. The second half started with Villarreal in the diamond midfield, Santi Cazorla and Santy Caceres having come on for Ramiro and Castillejo. Within 20 minutes Ekambi had scored two goals and chipped another shot off the far post with the keeper beaten, and Gerard had one shot saved and put another in the stands.
Villarreal went back to a 4-4-2 with about 15 minutes left, Pedraza at left back again. Santi Cazorla made a couple of casually stupendous passes that unfortunately didn’t lead to goals; Dani Raba returned to the pitch and looked good, and Funes Mori remided everyone why we just need two of him at the back and we’d be fine.
Unfortunately Alvaro’s matador defense allowed Bremen to equalize with a minute left, but then Villarreal scored off the last kick of the match, Manu Morlanes, at the top of the box, finishing off a pass from Nahuel to allow us to end preseason on a winning note.
Best: Ekambi, Gerard, Caceres, Santi, Funes Mori, Layún. (All of our signings this summer!!). And Fornals redeemed himself in the diamond setup.
Worst: Álvaro and Ruiz. (Ramiro Guerra had a tough half, but I figure he will mostly be a B-teamer this season; it was good experience for him).
Middling: Most everyone else, but Castillejo, for sure. Didn’t help that the referee overlooked a couple of obvious fouls on him, but he was mostly in dangerous run but no real end product mode today.
Reading the tea leaves.....
Strikers: I think we will loan Unal out somewhere; Sansone stays unless there is interest from somewhere we don’t know about yet. Nahuel we see enough promise in to loan out somewhere too, and I think we do end up working some sort of deal for Bacca.
Midfielders: Atalanta seems interested in Roberto Soriano and I expect we will work out a deal, especially if they get to the Europa League. But that may take until the end of the transfer window to do.
I sense we would be OK selling either Cheryshev or Castillejo for the right money, but now the EPL window is shut prices should be more realistic for the next few weeks. I’d expect Chery is more likely to stay simply because RM still owns some of his rights, while we would get all the money from a Casti sale.
The club seems to be more optimistic of late about Bruno returning eventually, so if he and Trigueros both return, I doubt we sign a CDM this window now, unless it’s on loan with an option to buy.
Defenders: Alvaro and Ruiz are playing their way out of jobs, Alvaro especially. Funes Mori will be an everyday starter; I would try desperately to pick up another CB before the end of August (I really wanted Joris Gnagnon from Rennes, but Sevilla got him for €15m). Otherwise, I almost wonder if our best partner for Funes Mori is Mario Gaspar. Don’t forget Ruiz’s contract is up this year so we have to make a decision about him anyway. Unfortunately I doubt either he or Alvaro have much sales value.
Keepers: We’re fine.
Assuming Soriano, Casti, and one CB departs and we sign another CB, we would have:
Funes Mori/Ruiz or Alvaro/Bonera/new CB/Mario/Miguelon/Layun/Jaume Costa/Pedraza/Caceres/Morlanes/Javi Fuego/Bruno/Trigueros/Santi/Fornals/Cheryshev/Raba/Sansone/Moreno/Ekambi/Bacca.
That is 25, including a couple who are out for the first few matches of the season at least.