VERY bad news today on the Villarreal medical front, as Vicente Iborra has been found to have torn knee ligaments and will be lost for the remainder of the season, one expects.
Iborra has been pretty much irreplaceable in the center of the pitch, and offers height to dispute aerial challenges that we will definitely miss. And since Francis Coquelin makes Eden Hazard look like a pinnacle of fitness, we can’t count on much help there.
So, what does Villarreal do now? Much interest this morning in this topic. obviously: one possibility would be to repurpose Ramiro Funes Mori or perhaps Juan Foyth as a defensive midfielder. Funes has more height, but—how to put this gently—his performances with Villarreal (and Everton before that) don’t exactly suggest he would be the calming, steady influence in the middle of the pitch that Iborra has been.
Foyth might be a better fit temperamentally—it’s hard to know for sure since he hasn’t played a great deal yet—but that almost makes him more valuable as a third central defender behind Albiol and Pau, I’d argue.
The interesting wild-card is Santy Cáseres, whose loan spell in Mexico officially ends on December 31st. He’s not particularly tall (though similar to Foyth) but he is at least a defensive midfielder to start with and would probably offer more insightful ball distribution than a converted defender like Funes Mori. Before Iborra’s injury, the scuttlebutt was we were willing to move Santy on. Now, I’m not so sure, though it has to be remembered that Emery has not seen him play at all.
Interestingly, Santy would take up one of our ‘extracomunitario’ places, and I am not exactly sure how many of those we’re now using. Transfermarkt has Funes Mori, Bacca, and Kubo as occupying our three places, though I would have thought Bacca, by now, wouldn’t count.
But if he does, then the only way to bring Santy back would be to sell one of the other two (unlikely), or, agree with Real Madrid to cancel Kubo’s loan and let him go elsewhere. This would save some salary and loan fee, and would also end the whole falderol from Madridistas about why he’s playing more, blah blah blah. Watch this space.