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Toko Ekambi the X-Factor as Villarreal enjoy hot start to the season (FM2020)

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Villarreal is a counter-attacking machine.

Villarreal v Alaves - La Liga Santander Photo by Maria Jose Segovia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

So, yesterday I started a Football Manager 2020 save with Villarreal to prove that all this club needs is a decent manager and we can make it to Europe. You can read the results from our summer window and season opener here. Today, we cover a hot streak, some injuries, and the glory of Karl Toko Ekambi on the break.

Since our opening draw against Athletic Club where the manager made some questionable team selection decisions, form has settled in nicely for Villarreal CF. In our second match, we ran roughshod all over Granada in a game dominated by Samuel Chukwueze.

The team was deadly and clinical all night as Granada came out in a narrow formation and was absolutely torched in the wide areas. The great thing about our roster is that, when it’s handled well, we are just as dangerous attacking from wide areas as we are at working it through the middle and if you try to focus on just one of them, we’ll burn you. Worth noting that Moi Gomez had two assists in the match and was in the La Liga team of the week.

This performance was followed by a relatively high pressing performance against Deportivo Alaves. We didn’t really seek to control possession, we just sought to turn you over. Toko Ekambi didn’t start this game but with the score tied at the hour mark (and Gil Manzano not doing us any favors) he came on and immediately changed the entire game, latching on to long balls that had been a step too far for Gerard all night. This performance makes Toko, for me, the starting 9 until proven otherwise.

The partnership of Albiol and Pau Torres with Demme as a shield above them has been crucial the last two matches, first keeping Granada from getting shots on target and then totally erasing Alaves’ offensive threat despite them having a considerable amount of the ball. Toko, not surprisingly, was named in the La Liga team of the week.

The third (and final) match we are covering today is the win against Espanyol. I have no nice way to put this, Espanyol are a dirty team. Two of our players suffered injuries in this one, with Raul Albiol the worst affected as he will be gone for three weeks.

Fortunately for us, Toko continued his hot streak, bringing his season tally to five goals. I can’t emphasize enough how great he has been in this scheme, but he is also just having a good run of form in general, as he scored twice over an international break with Cameroon as well. I’ll have to make a big decision for next match, Ramiro Funes Mori or Romain Bregerie. I’m think Ramiro just because the only match we’ve given up any goals in was the one with Romain on the pitch.

Standings

We’re currently third in La Liga with the best defensive record in the league. Our next two matches are Vigo and a derbi against Valencia, both of whom are off to strong starts and will be a good test for our club. Defensive solidarity and powerful counters have been the name of the game so far in a great start to the 2019-2020 season.