I’m an eternal optimist, truly. For me, dawn is always around the next corner, and I’m prone to look at the situation and understand it in the most hopeful way possible. That’s why I’ve defended Unai Emery so adamantly for so much of this campaign, why I’ve been so incredibly confident that this team would qualify for European Competition next season. It’s why I still feel really good about our chances about the Europa League, to be honest.
But doggone it, Valencia suck. They are the worst Valencia side I ever remember seeing and we lost to that trash heap and I’m downright angry about it. The next five La Liga matchdays we face Eibar, Cadiz, Granada, Osasuna, and Alaves. Let me tell you right now that yesterday we gave away ALL our wiggle room for those matches. We honest to goodness need to win every single one of them to get back on track, and you and I both no the chances of that happening are, to mockingly quote myself, ‘incredibly low’. Here’s three things I think need to be done differently.
1. Pick a left back
Look, I’m very understanding about the injury situation, really and truly. I get performance suffering when you can’t put a consistent XI out week in and week out, but when you hardly ever let either of our left backs play more than an hour, you just make that continuity problem worse. We have two good left backs. I honestly don’t care too much which one of them starts, but whichever of them starts needs to finish the game unless he gets hurt. We can’t continuously break the continuity on our back line halfway between matches. It’s ridiculous Emery. Choose a guy and make him your guy, and tell the other one he can play in Europa.
2. BE AGGRESSIVE WHEN WE HAVE AN ADVANTAGE
Really didn’t intend, initially, to type that in all caps, but I was at the second ‘g’ in ‘aggressive’ when I realized my caps lock was on and so I rolled with it because that’s how I honestly feel. I fully respect a coach who wants a coherent team shape and defensive solidity at all times, but that doesn’t mean we have to hole up and hide every single time we get a lead. Honestly, at this point when Villarreal take the lead in a football match I just assume we’re gonna concede at some point. It’s inevitable. There’s absolutely no killer instinct tactically, and that’s a darn shame given how much attacking talent this team has.
3. Sit Pau Torres
Pau has two problems. One, he’s played every single available outfield minute this season, and that has to be adding fatigue on his body. Second, he’s getting to the point where every single week there’s some stupid pass or another he makes that gets us into trouble. I don’t mean to call out Pau as if he’s the root of this team’s problems or anything, he’s not. But he’s one of our three best players and we can’t afford these mental mistakes from him. I think sitting him down for the league match with Eibar could serve two functions. First, use it as a message to the player that he’s not untouchable and he needs to sharpen up. Second, a byproduct of this is that he’ll get a few days off, and for my money he needs it.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s a lot more that ails this team. Some of them are hard to really put a finger on and describe. What is this team’s mentality? Who is the hard nosed leader that adds toughness? Some of the issues are tactical. If you go to our Twitter page you’ll see a pass map from the Valencia match and there is just no cohesion at all. Samu and Gerard basically never passed to each other, neither did Moi and Estupinan. Asenjo basically sent everything through Pau and nothing through Albiol, which I’m sure made us predictable (and may have contributed to Pau’s issues). I don’t expect Emery to be able to fix the finishing, but I DO expect him him to be able to fix things like patterns of play that eventually create that passing data.
I’m frustrated, I know you are too. There is zero time left to wait before things get fixed, and I think the practical suggestions above would at least start us in the right direction.