We had what might have been our most active comment section ever for a match yesterday, which is particularly shocking for a midweek fixture. Of course, 138 comments and counting are going to bring a wide variety of opinions, but there were a few themes.
The first thing that set everyone off was a missed penalty by Paco Alcacer. Lemme tell you what, people were BRUTAL after that missed penalty. They wanted him gone, wanted him benched, wanted to practically burn him in effigy as he missed a second penalty since returning from injury. It was, quite frankly, ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, Paco should have never asked to take it (it appears that he wanted to announce having a child on the way via the celebration and that may have motivated his request) but come on people, he’s still an excellent striker and our leading scorer in the Europa League this season. In all competitions, Paco is just three goals behind Gerard for the team lead, despite having played about 500 fewer minutes this year than our number 7. He’s also only one assist behind Gerard and presses more than Gerard does, for those of you who think Paco only does one thing. (Paco also got called an average finisher yesterday, meanwhile he has 10 goals on 32 shots so far this season, a remarkable finishing percentage- and his average shot distance is over 13 yards from goal so this isn’t just a tap in merchant.)
As the match progressed, one person wondered what the [blank] was wrong with Parejo, saying he lost the ball again and again. I decided to look it up. Parejo recorded zero unsuccessful touches and was never dispossessed, and completed 94.8% of his passes.
At one point in the match, all our players besides Coquelin and Pedraza got called ‘soft’. The accusation is ambiguous enough that I won’t try to break it down, but I’ll just say I disagree. (Also, apparently Iborra isn’t soft but Capoue is, even though Capoue attempts more tackles, so I’m not really sure what the parameter is here).
Manu Trigueros apparently would be a top midfielder if he scored more goals. I wasn’t aware it was a midfielders job to do the scoring but here we are.
Shots even got fired at Asenjo, who wasn’t even playing. He should apparently be benched for Rulli who apparently can’t defend crosses (though I thought he did so very well yesterday,)
The last big player jab is one I wholeheartedly took part in, tweeting to SB Nation’s Tottenham site that they should take Juan Foyth back. Foyth was also accused in the comments yesterday of being out of position a lot. If I’m completely fair, Foyth was signed to be a CB and he’s not a terrible CB at all. It’s not his fault we’ve mainly asked him to play midfield and RB (and boy he is NOT a midfielder).
In addition to ALL this, Unai Emery has been under a tremendous amount of fire this week, and we had a full blown debate about just how at risk the club is to miss European play next season in the match preview for Salzburg. Why, you ask, have I gone through the effort to detail all these complaints (including my own)? Because we need to CALM DOWN. Seriously. I know emotions run high when the team is in rough form, and they run higher when it’s a European knockout tie, but this fanbases is better than what we’ve been the last couple of weeks. We’re not some spoiled bloated Premier League squad with delusions of grandeur. If players and managers were flawless, they wouldn’t be at Villarreal. That’s the stone cold truth. Even when we had a superstar like Riquelme, it was because he was a tortured genius that had trouble interacting with other people, and it doomed his time at Villarreal just like it did his time at Barca. We all want the club to take that next step and get a trophy. We all want to understand the reasons why when things don’t go as we think they should. But I also think we all (me included) have been too hard on various members of the squad and coaching staff over the last couple of weeks.
I’ll be really honest. Our next two league matches are brutal. If we came out of them with four points, I’d be ecstatic, if we got two, I’d be satisfied. The temptation is going to be there to jump back into the negativity. Let’s not do that. Instead, let’s hold our nerve and back a team that is currently in solid shape to both advance to the round of 16 in the Europa League and finish in the European places of La Liga once again.