The right-back situation looked healthy at the start of the season. On the books, we have Mario, Pena and Juan Foyth. Foyth was originally bought in as a CB mainly. Emery was very much aware he could play at Right back but the plan was CB. As it turned out Foyth showed his versatility playing CDM, CB and mainly Rb this season.
It feels painful talking about Juan Foyth before Mario. Unfortunately for Mario, Foyth has been the better player this season. Last season Samu couldn’t defend, and Mario was vulnerable. With Foyth Samu has been in better form. This season it was more secure with Pino for Mario. When he was forced out injured Foyth stepped in.
Start of the season many of you remarked “this is not 1980s” when I pointed out a defender’s role is to stay at the back. I do find it ironic that you all now prefer Foyth and yet ‘1980s’ defender he is. A hard-tackling defender who is not afraid to get stuck in a very rarely strays across the halfway line. The Europa League picture of him with blood all over his face is as about 1980s as you can get.
When he does press forward, he catches the opposition off guard and is very effective. Like Pau Torres, he has an excellent pass on him and is very assured on the ball. He is Villarreal priority signing at 15 million, but the plan is to hopefully cut that down. The club will not want to make the same mistake they did with Zambo and miss out. Once signed I expect him to be our right back. His injuries are a bit of concern, but he may yet grow out of them.
Villarreal loyal servant at the back Mario Gaspar was ever-present this season. A few wobbly appearances which always seems to happen when we get a new manager. Once he gets the confidence of his new manager, he settles in. Still more than happy to bomb down the wings and he does link up with Gerard very well. This isn’t always recognised on the pitch by Pundits. The emergence of Pino this season has allowed him to get forward. Yemi is a very solid defence wise which means less pressure on Mario and he can press forward. His crossing is still impressive although really should work on his shooting to get Emery’s full confidence. If we sign Foyth I suspect Mario’s playing time will be reduced. Age is starting to take its toll but he is far from decrepit.
I feel massively sorry for Ruben Pena. He has been a very loyal servant to the club over the years. It was reported that he has been told he can find another club. I am not sure this will be the case. Versatility is valued by Emery. He has never really established that right-back position as his own. What was interesting this season is I get suspicion he was tired of playing right back with injuries. We started playing him at right wing this season and to be honest he was impressive there if anything better than RB. Some beautiful assists and a stunning goal. He seems we have too many right-wingers and our right-backs will now be staying at the back, so I guess it’s time for him to move on (Sigh) Turning 30 as well isn’t a good thing for a player who relies on pace
Providing we sign Foyth I can’t see us replacing Pena if he chooses to leave. Despite playing in two competitions. Mario is consistent enough to step in if Foyth is injured. Foyth does have his injuries so I suspect Mario will get plenty of game time. It may be possible that Funes Mori becomes out 3rd choice right-back who knows. That being said I can’t see us splashing the cash but I could be wrong. There was a rumour of our interest in Emerson Royal of Betis but that seems to have gone quiet now