The club have announced that Francis Coquelin has been medically discharged from his hamstring injury. See as how this is a Friday before a match on Sunday, I very much doubt that this will lead to him starting against Valencia, but it is certainly a welcome boost as we get ready for mid week matches in the Europa League this month.
In the time Coquelin has been absent, the team has seen a shift in midfield philosophy. The 4-4-2 has been replaced by a three man midfield that has gone a long way in both bolstering our right flank- by giving Mario Gaspar help in defense- and also solidified us in transition in general because of the positioning of Vincente Iborra. As Coquelin comes back, I expect we will see a bit of the 4-4-2 again, especially in Europe. Frankly, until Santi Caseres gets back we are just a touch light in terms of defensive midfielders to run a three man midfield every match, but an important part of that working will be significant improvement in Coquelin’s positioning from what we saw before his injury.
To this point, VIllarreal has more or less held serve against a mixed bag of opening fixtures. In the next two month, we will really define the outlook of our season. Opening salvos against Sivasspor, Qarabag, and Maccabi Tel Aviv (two of those matches being at home) will be essential for us to ease our way into the Europa League knockouts, and the league matches against Valencia, Cadiz, Valladolid, and Getafe will need to yield another 8-10 points as well. If all of this can happen, we’ll head into our next international break in pretty good standing.
The struggle will be doing this largely without Pervis Estupinan and Gerard Moreno, both victims of the last international break. Injuries are part of football, and it is certainly good to have Coquelin back, but the next thirty days or so will be a real test of nerve for our side.