Villarreal brass thought at the start of this season our strike force would be in good shape with the duo of Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcácer. However, the two of them scored from open play in the same La Liga match exactly twice (vs. Eibar in September, vs. Getafe in November) which is hardly the sign of a successful partnership.
Gerard, of course, is not the issue. 30 goals and 10 assists in all competitions for Villarreal show that. Alcácer had a strong start before suffering a hamstring injury in mid-November (9 goals and 2 assists in 11 matches, 4 of the goals coming in the Europa League), but he was out for a few weeks, then had a thigh strain and missed over a month. Post-injury Paco was not so good—3 goals and 3 assists in 27 matches.
Villarreal have to be assuming—or at least hoping—Paco becomes the Paco of the first part of the season. But they’ve cleared some salary by paying €250,000 to Carlos Bacca to break his contract. Bacca was clearly not the player he was a couple of years ago, but he still came up with 9 goals in all competitions including that magical hat-trick against his former club, Sevilla.
It’s worth remembering that when Samu Chukwueze was available and at his most effective was on the right of a 4-4-2 with Gerard and Paco/Bacca as the 2, so I would expect that would be our nominal formation. But with Bacca gone, we are going to want to bring in another striker. Fer Niño showed some promise, for sure, but clearly Unai Emery is not looking to him—at age 20—for a lot of league minutes. Expect him to go out on loan, probably.
The seductive name being tossed about is that of Cedric Bakambu. When he left Villarreal for China in January 2018 he said he’d like to return, and he is out of contract in December. He turned 30 in April, so he should still have some decent years ahead of him, though obviously he has not exactly faced topflight competition the last few years. Then again, he hasn’t had to play a lot, either (45 goals in 62 league matches in China).
Still, even if he comes—and especially if he doesn’t arrive until midyear—it seems we might want a fourth striker if we actually want to play two at a time. Personally I would be looking at the French league—though everyone is right now. A player like Amine Gouiri from Nice—a striker who can play on the left —would be great, but would not be cheap. I don’t see that sort of spend unless we are moving Paco, to be honest.
What do you think? Do we stay pat with Paco-Gerard as our main duo and Bakambu as a third option, or something else? Comment away!