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Analyzing Kubo’s Performances Against Real Madrid, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Real Sociedad

The man on loan from Real Madrid had trouble getting going this week.

Real Sociedad v Villarreal CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

So, after a lengthy international break, we’re back on the Kubo development tracker. As we all know, even though Take Kubo played well against Maccabi Tel Aviv before the break, he wouldn’t expect Unai Emery to start him against his parent club, Real Madrid. That’s what happened. Emery went for a a 4-3-3 with Gerard Moreno on the right flank, Moi Gomez on the left, and spearheaded by Carlos Bacca, who was filling in for the injured goal-scoring maniac named Paco Alcacer.

Emery decided to bring on Kubo for the last few minutes, in an attempt to get some fresh legs to do the trick against the reigning champions. If Kubo actually pulled off a remontada for his current team, against his parent club, he may move up in the pecking order, and his chances of starting the next La Liga game — although it was against league leaders Real Sociedad — may somewhat increase. As we all know, by now, that wasn’t the case. Kubo didn’t see the ball enough to be able to make an impact. Well, he had one great chance, but that’s it. He had the ball in Real’s penalty area, and could’ve been in a position to shoot, but ultimately decided to square it to Chuckwueze. Nacho Fernandez was there to block that pass. His movement with the ball prevented the angle from being good enough to shoot from. Thibaut Courtois positioned himself in a way that closed down his angle as well, but he could’ve scored if he had cut inside. That was his only major involvement. Scoring that goal would’ve resulted in a huge boost of confidence for the Japanese, but it wasn’t meant to be:

Other than that, he tried to start an attack at the final few seconds of the game, but was fouled by Toni Kroos. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Looking at the reverse fixture against Maccabi Tel Aviv, they were a team Villarreal had played against two weeks ago, and it was a game in which Kubo performed admirably. He would’ve loved to have a performance like that against them again, to be in contention for the Sociedad game, or, if that felt too far-fetched, then at least Elche, the following weekend.

That wasn’t quite the case.

In what was probably his worst start in the Europa League match so far, Kubo really didn’t do much to make a case for a starting spot. He only had 33 touches in 62 minutes. He completed 17 of his 25 passes, he had one shot creating action, he had zeroes across the board (key passes, passes into the attacking third, etc.) He was a bystander, and this performance was very much reminiscent of his only start in the league for the Yellow Submarine — the stalemate vs Cadiz.

In the match, he usually was positioned well, he stayed in his lane at all times and pressed systematically, and like in some of the previous Europa League games, he didn’t cause chaos in Villarreal’s pressing scheme. (There was one instance at the 40th minute, where he moved centrally, and there wasn’t anyone who was covering for him. The space could’ve been exploited, but fortunately, wasn’t.) He was in his position, except for when he had to take corners on the other flank. So, when that happened, Samuel Chuckwueze was seen moving to the left in place of Kubo to keep the press going.

Some key pointers from this game:

  • In terms of positioning when Villarreal had the ball, He was seen out wide in the flank, but moved into the half-space when Pedraza provided overloads.
  • Kubo was not great at all. For that, we also have to give credit to Tel Aviv’s defense, something which was clearly much better than in the reverse fixture.
  • Kubo’s movement was also noteworthy; in the reverse fixture, he was moving around in his flank, looking for open spaces to get the ball. There wasn’t much of that this time around.
  • On the 44th minute, Baena scored the goal for Villarreal, where I noticed Kubo being positioned alongside Chuckwueze on the right, rather than being on the left, which was weird to see.
  • Kubo wasn’t better or worse in the second half. He kept his position and was subbed off for Gerard Moreno on the 62nd minute.

As expected, Takefusa Kubo was back on the bench vs Real Sociedad. The match was the most important in the calendar so far for Villarreal, as they would’ve been only a point off the top spot had they won. Takefusa Kubo came on at the 74th minute, replacing Alfonso Pedraza, slotting into the left flank.

Kubo was a bit all over the place at the start, quite literally. On paper, he was supposed to be on the left flank, as I said, but he moved to the right side and Chuckwueze was also present there. This resulted in no width or coverage on the left side except for whatever Estupinian provided. He tried to make something happen on that side but failed to do anything productive.

Then he moved back to the left, but occasionally looked like he’s a second striker. He didn’t receive the ball that much, since the play generally went on through the right. He had ten touches in total, and made three out of seven passes. That’s about it.

It was a less-than-impressive week for Takefusa Kubo, with one start and two substitute appearances, none of which he had a big impact in. Attention now turns to the encounter against Sivasspor, a game which Kubo would be more than looking forward to, given how well he played in the first fixture, at least offensively.