If you’d told me that six matches into our return from the break we would be unbeaten and have 16/18 available points I would have asked you who the manager was and what he did with Javier Calleja. I have been openly critical of the manager at many points this season, but he has this team absolutely flying right now and deserves a very large share of the credit.
Before the season delay, our ability to generate shots had dried up. Specifically, if we weren’t creating something off the counter we just were not getting any decent chances at all. The 442 as we are now running it has fixed that, with Zambo having space to make attacking runs with and without the ball, incisive balls from Santi on the left, and devastating dribbles from Chukwueze on the right.
What impressed me yesterday is that even with the wide midfielders rotated, we still were able to get a lot of that done in the first half.
What more can we say? The man is playing heroic football right now and he contributes in so many different ways on the pitch that it helps his teammates, especially Paco Alcacer and Carlos Bacca, who have been much more involved in the last few matches precisely because of the work Gerard is doing.
With Barca around the corner, a two goal lead, and the opposition down to 10 men, I’m not sure Santi needed to play in that match. I certainly think that instead of sending Paco on we could have given Fer Nino minutes. Calleja is pushing a lot of the right buttons so these issues really are quite minor but especially in the Fer situation, his development will be so dependent on the chances he gets in the next 18 months or so.
For me, personally, Alberto Moreno had another bad match. He had three unsuccessful touches, no key passes, no tackles, five fouls, and a yellow card. I’m really hoping to see Quintilla the next time out.
BARCELONA. Strictly on form, we should be favored over this team, but they have this short Argentinian guy who really only needs one touch of the ball to change a match, so we’ll have to evaluate this more on how we perform than on the result. That said, I can’t remember ever being this confident about Villarreal’s chances going into a match with this Catalan side.