Takefusa Kubo, after his bunch of not-so-impressive performances last week, would’ve been looking forward to meeting Sivasspor again. The reverse fixture was the first start for Kubo in a yellow shirt, and it didn’t lack offensively, scoring a goal and assisting two more. He had his issues tactically, but he was a joy to watch on the ball.
This wasn’t a performance of that caliber, in all honesty. In fact, it was nowhere near the level of offensive brilliance that Take showed a month ago. By the looks of it, the slump seemed to had continued for the Japanese. This performance was, again, very similar to his previous start against Maccabi Tel Aviv, where, he didn’t really have much to do. He had a few good passes here and there, but was largely ineffective. He had only one shot creating action, and then had zeroes across the board. He did have his highest dribbles completed in a game for Villarreal against in the game, though, with four out of six. But, all of that doesn’t really matter when you’re not really involved with anything else. It’s weird, because he is an immensely talented player, but he is very inconsistent. We’ve seen it happen many times, and this was another example.
He was positioned on the right side of a 4-1-4-1. He got the ball, and tried to cut inside whenever he had it (similar to the game against Elche, more on that later). He also made a few inside runs, to help his case in offense. Failing to register a key pass, a shot, or a pass into the penalty area really shows how much or little he actually did. He was subbed off for Nino on the 57th minute.
Take Kubo returned to the bench after the game against Sivasspor. Villarreal faced Elche in the league, and Kubo came on as a second half substitute. To be honest, this half alone was so much better than his last few appearances. He didn’t score or assist a goal, but was a constant menace on that right wing spot. He usually received the ball on the right wing, and then moved to central positions with it, which looked kind of like a semi-free role. It was almost always like that until Paco Alcacer was replaced due to injury and Kubo had to stay wide (usually) due to Moreno being the sole striker.
It was a flexible 4-4-2 till the time Alcacer was on the pitch: Kubo and Manu Trigueros acted as wide midfielders when Elche were in possession of the ball. When Villarreal got the ball, Manu drifted a little inward and Kubo stayed wide, but as I said, moved to central positions when he got the ball, which also looked to be an attempt to draw the marker out to create space for Mario Gaspar’s overloads, if any. That looked like a flexible diamond, but only for a short amount of time.
It was an interesting tactic from Unai Emery because although it looked to be good going forward, but sometimes due to a lack of wingers at that time, (especially in the right when Kubo left the space), Villarreal had little to no width, nor coverage. But, going forward, it was working.
Kubo showed a lot of intent and will to fight for his place, in this game. That alone made me feel like this one was one of his better performances. Defensively, unlike in initial Europa League games, he didn’t start pressing from the point where he (or his team) lost the ball. If he wasn’t in his position, he tracked back and then started pressing, bar a few occasions.
When Paco Alcacer was subbed off for injury, Kubo more or less stayed in the wing more often than not, although did cut inside a few times then too. Statistically speaking, it was a great half from Kubo. He had six shot creating actions, four key passes, three passes into the attacking third, three into the penalty area. He completed two out of his three dribble attempts. This was far, far more than all of his last four appearances COMBINED.
Some other notes:
- Kubo tracked back when needed to. It wasn’t sporadic; he actually did it a bunch of times to help Mario Gaspar out. Even won a tackle and intercepted a pass.
- Kubo had a penalty shout which could’ve gone both ways. There was contact, but Villarreal didn’t get the penalty. He played a great pass into the box before that as well.
- He had a great chance to score a goal which involved some beautiful combination between Gerard Moreno and Dani Parejo (who, by the way, is easily one of the best passers in the game right now, what a player) and he tucked it towards Kubo, who was under pressure from the defenders, so had to “toe-poke” a shot into the right side of goal, which was empty. The keeper produced a fantastic save to keep that from going in. It wasn’t the most powerful shot, but it certainly was a great shot given the circumstances.
With the final Europa group league match against Qarabag suspended- and possibly not happening at all- Kubo is likely to start next in the Copa Del Rey against Leioa on December 16th.