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Perfect CDM for Villarreal: Iborra, Coquelin or Santiago Cáseres

Will Santiago Cáseres challenge Iborra and Coquelin in the starting XI?

Club Atletico de Madrid v Villarreal CF - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Club legend Bruno retired leaving a very big gap in the midfield and little protection for the back four. Villarreal replaced the gap of the Centre Defencive Mid with the acquisition of Coquelin. After last season it was clear neither Iborra or Zambo could fulfill the role. But is Coquelin the only option at CDM?

“As a defensive midfielder you must be tactically aware. You’re at the heart of the team so you have to hold everything together and allow other players to express themselves”

Patrick Vieira, Four Four Two, 27/11/2012

Santiago Caseres

Caseres would be my ideal choice for the first team CDM. Once touted as the new Mascherano. For me he has the defencive awareness Villarreal are missing in front of the back 4. At the end of his first season for Villarreal in La Liga. He had one of the highest return for tackles per game at Villarreal and completed 91% of his passes. For me he was one of our best players that’s season especially considering how bad Villarreal was.

Letting him go was Calleja’s biggest mistake especially without a viable replacement. Villarreal attempted to utilize Iborra and Zambo which proved disastrous for our defenders. Since his loan, Caseres looks physically stronger and a better all-round player. The fact that he has never scored a professional goal in his 23 years suggests his first and only priority is to protect that back 4. He has no attacking instinct, (rare for an argentine) which is perfect and exactly what Villarreal need.

It was also worth nothing Atlético Madrid were very keen to sign him as well. Considering their success with CDMS, they can be considered our rivals in recognizing good players.

Francis Coquelin

My biggest concern isn’t that he is injury prone. He seems to have adopted an attacking nature since signing from Valencia. This led him to be completely out of position for the Barcelona match and plenty of times during preseason matches. For a CDM his defensive stats are sound. He is aggressive in the tackle, strong with ball possession and always plays the ball forward. Its concerning that Emery seems to be encouraging this attacking nature. If we are to play 442 then Coquelin needs to be that holding Mid and stay there.

Caseres v Coquelin: Who is the better CDM?

Very similar in ability however I believe Caseres is better. A good example of why is if you observe both players in matches against Barcelona for Villarreal in the 201819 and 202021 season. It’s worth knowing in both games Mario Gaspar and Samu were playing on the right wing


For Coquelin the game ended in 0-4. He was at fault for being out of position for the second goal. He was replaced by Iborra who proved more effective. In Caseres’s case back in 201819 he played the full match. It was a 0-2 loss involving a header and a beautiful curling goal from Messi. Barcelona side were nowhere near as effective through the middle as 2020. The only notable difference was Caseres over Coquelin in what was a similar squad and formation.


Practically identical attacking situation from the games. Those that saw the game felt Coquelin was caught out of position far too often. This does not happen is Caseres case as he remained the whole match just in front of the half way lane. Watching it back this was the only time he was past the halfway line I could see. This may have been Emery’s tactics but for me Coquelin was caught out of position far too many times even after going 2 goals down.

Santiago Caseres v Barca 201819 remained protecting the back 4 throughout

Vicente Iborra

Iborra is a great player but he is not a Centre Defensive Mid. He is a ball carrier and a bit of conundrum. He panics when in a defensive situation or is being hounded. He then plays it backwards to safety rather than shielding it and playing it forward. This often leads to unnecessary pressure on the defence. This point is not to criticize him. Villarreal are forcing him to play in role that he has never played. During his 4 years at Sevilla, he scored more than Sergio Busquets has scored in his entire career for Barcelona. Trying to coach him now as CDM is useless. This video clearly shows Iborra at his best a ball carrying attacking midfielder and his natural position.


Caseres is the better option for CDM for Villarreal. Iborra should be utilized as a ball carrying midfielder challenging Parejo or Manu for a first team place. Coquelin is a good solid CDM and will prove his worth to Villarreal providing he is injury free.