The Villarreal Vintage website has some interesting facts about this season. Here are a few.
(1) Villarreal’s record when opponents score first versus when we do.
This has happened 17 times so far—10 times at home, and 7 on the road. At home, our record in these matches is 1-4-5. The only team we came from behind to defeat was Rayo, 3-1 in jornada 28, though we did come behind to draw with Alaves before losing 1-2 in jornada 26 and we took a lead against Barcelona before a 4-4 draw. So I guess we could say we got a bit better at coming from behind.
It is also interesting that we were shut out at home only twice—Girona in week 3 and Valladolid in week 7 both defeated us 1-0.
On the road, the story was not good. We went behind seven times; we won none, drew one (Huesca, where we actually led 2-1 until the very end) and lost six. We were shut out three times in losses, by Barcelona, Atleti and Valencia, and drew 0-0 at Sevilla, Eibar, and Valladolid.
Overall, then, we were 1-5-11 when the opponents scored first. That’s really poor.
In matches where we scored first (also 17 matches) our record is better, 9-5-3. The three losses were to Real Sociedad in week 1, Alaves away in week 10 (where their winning goal came right at the end) and Celta in week 29, where we blew a two-goal lead.
(2) Villarreal’s penalty record this year—and in past years
You might be wondering how Villarreal’s penalty record compares to past years, with the introduction of VAR. Well, the answer is, we’ve had six penalties awarded to us this season, which is reasonably comparable to past years (five in 2017-18). Our biggest ‘penalty years’ were 2007-08 (awarded 11, scored 10) and 2011-12 (awarded 10, scored 6). The three we have missed are the most we have missed in any season since 2011-12.
And our smallest penalty year was 2009-10, when we were awarded none!
What is interesting, and where one might argue VAR is playing a role, is that we have seen more penalties in the last 10 minutes of matches. Prior to this season, Villarreal had been awarded nine penalties in these decisive minutes over 19 Primera seasons, and eight awarded against them. This season, we have had three awarded to us (unfortunately, we failed to convert any of them, with three different players missing) and one called against us, which was converted.
(3) Penalties against Villarreal.
So far this year we have had four awarded against us; we usually have had 4-6 a year. 8 in 2017-18 was rather more than the usual.
You might be interested to note that our all-time best penalty stopper was Sebastian Viera; opponents scored on only 4 of 12 penalties taken against him. Of our current keepers, Sergio Asenjo’s record is quite good—13 goals in 21 attempts. Andres Fernandez has faced five shooters and has not saved any, and Mario Barbosa has the same record.
(4) Yellow cards.
In 2017-18, Villarreal had two players in the top five for cards—Battling Jaume Costa and Alvaro Gonzalez had 14 yellows and one red each. Victor Ruiz and Manu Trigueros had 10 yellows and a red.
In 2016-17, Battling JC was our only player in the top 15 (13 yellows and a red, 5th in the league. We didn’t have anyone in the top 15 in the three years before that!
This year, we have two of the “top three” for indiscipline—Alvaro and Mario Gaspar—and Funes Mori is eighth. Victor Ruiz and Santy Caseres both have 10 yellows.
It’s particularly noticeable in Mario’s case because his top year for yellow cards before this was 2015-16, with eight. Never speedy, maybe he has lost a step and so is getting caught out of position more? Alvaro has always been a yellow card magnet; Funes Mori’s total could be affected by the difference between La Liga and EPL referees, or rustiness after he missed a year with a knee injury at Everton. But it is highly unusual for us to have this number of yellow cards.
(5) The “Calleja effect”?
One last article discussed whether or not we benefited from Calleja’s departure and return. Which is a fair point. Looking just at the results under Luis Garcia Plaza, you have to think we might have done a bit better under Calleja—at leas the would have had Santi take the last-second penalty against Getafe—but maybe we sacrificed 1 to 3 points by the coaching change versus if Calleja had been in charge for the whole season, at most? On the other hand, maybe having him away from the game and with time to ‘reflect’ (his words) enabled us to do better when he came back than otherwise.
Villarreal Vintage looked at the FiveThirtyEight website, which projects odds for La Liga teams throughout the season. On December 12 (after we had lost to Celta and Calleja had left) we had a 30% chance of being relegated, and we were projected to pick up 42 points.
When Calleja returned (after the Valencia defeat) 538 now had us on target to pick up 39 points, with a 46% chance of relegation (Rayo were on 31%; Girona, only 20%).
So effectively, the coaching change cost us two points in their model, similar to what we would have figured looking at each result. And having returned, Calleja guided us to 43 points with a match left. So, a pickup of four over the model. Not bad considering we threw away the two points against Barca. (By the way, they think we will draw against Getafe and Valencia will cop the final CL spot).