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Left Backs, Tactics, Permanent Class, and more from the Valencia match

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What a day to be a groguet.

Villarreal CF v Valencia CF - La Liga Photo by Manuel Queimadelos/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Yesterday’s derbi was an absolute blast. Calleja got the tactics right (again!), Santi turned the clock back years with the ability he showed, Bruno got significant time and honestly looked pretty solid... let’s break down some of the details.

Who should start at left back?

This has generated some post match discussion, so I just wanted to do a blind number comparison for you:

Numbers from fbref.com

The biggest takeaway for me was that there is no one right or wrong answer here. Frankly, neither of our LBs are good enough to be a clear cut starter. Player A takes much better care of the ball and is less likely to find himself on a yellow (while being just slightly more creative). Player B is more aggressive and does a better job applying pressure (though he’s not as good a tackler of players trying to dribble past him.)

I’ll let you know at the end of the article who each player is.*

Santi’s throwback day

Santi Cazorla is good most matches but he was absolutely transcendent against Valencia. His run to meet Asenjo’s long ball followed by a volleyed touch to set up our second goal still defies all reason to me. Just an incredible piece of skill. Once Bruno entered on the hour mark the two old guys just toyed with Valencia in possession for long stretches at a time. Especially in our condensed schedule, Santi probably can’t play that many minutes every match but it was absolutely heartwarming to see him out there looking like a guy in his mid 20s instead of in his mid 30s.

Some stats from yesterday

We outdid Valencia on xG 1.5 to 0.4 which basically just says the result on the scoreboard matched the chances created on the pitch. We completed 90% of our nearly 700 passes and didn’t give up a single shot on target. Despite having the majority of possession we had far more clearances than Valencia and forced 6 offside calls to just one called on us, which says to me our back line was very well organized and very well prepared.

Full credit to Calleja. Against two talented opponents in a row I think he’s gotten the tactics spot on. He may have left his last set of subs a little bit late but since he was ensuring a clean sheet against a big rival both in the table and regionally I’m not going to be too bothered by it.

Paco and Gerard

Gerard was the man of the match for me. Created the first goal in a wonderful piece of play with Paco and finished the second goal with a tremendous volley, he was everywhere and always a threat.

As for Paco, this is the most involved I’ve seen him in a Villarreal shirt, and even though his influenced waned as he got tired toward the end of the match he still applied 21 pressures on the night, picked up three blocks and attempted EIGHT shots. He didn’t necessarily have more touches but he was far more influential with the touches he had and his movement made sure those touches were usually in dangerous areas.

Final thoughts

We need to go out and beat Betis on Wednesday. We have too many difficult teams left to drop points in this one. That said, for today I’m just focusing on enjoying the derbi win. It was honestly probably the best performance we’ve had in 2020 by some distance.

Villarreal CF v Valencia CF - La Liga Photo by Manuel Queimadelos/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

*Player A was Quintilla and Player B was Alberto Moreno. I heavily value ball retention and I like Quintilla’s tackle % vs dribblers and the fact he’s less likely to get a card, but as I said above I don’t think either guy is so good that him starting is a hill to die on.