Technically, we have three and a half wingers or inverted wingers on the roster now, but the first discussion here should be Unai’s preference of the formation.
442 or 433
As a master of tactics, Unai tried multiple formations and variations in 58 games of this season. By roughly counting, Villarreal played 24 times of 4-4-2, 32 times of 4-3-3 (or 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1), and 3 CBs twice. Though the choice of formation could be affected by injuries, strategic rotations, and the state of the players and opponents, certain patterns can be observed such as that 4-4-2 was more often used in 2021, and certain players were more favorable when they had no physical or stamina issues.
After Onti’s departure to Huesca, Moi is the only left sided winger left in the team. He started 23 times at the left flank, 8 times in 4-4-2 and 15 times in 4-3-3. His versatility also allowed him to play cm and RMF at times. But overall, his performance was not as good as his last season, which was evidenced by more appearance of Trigueros and Yeremy in the second half of the season.
With or without him, Villarreal’s attack from left side sometimes relies on the overlapped running of the left backs. As Robin pointed out in the review of LBs, speed and pace is needed on the left, either by moving Estupinan forward or incorporating a winger. I don’t know who can fit this position and adapt to Unai’s plan quickly, but either Deulofeu or Harit could provide some different plays from what Moi can do.
Samu is the first choice on the right, when he’s fit of course. Actually he started 22 times and finished the season with 5 goals and 5 assists. His performance after the surgery in this January was more promising, which reminded us how a healthy Samu could play. It’s a pitty to see him off early in the Europa League Final due to another injury, but with no surprise he should be irreplacable on the right side.
We all love Yeremy with no question. His versatility on both sides earned him much more time on the pitch than I expected. Although Unai tended to call him from the bench, he still started in 9 occasions and scored 7 times, including a sensational goal against Real Madrid. Though not physically strong, he could attack his opponent with his dribbling and progression skills. And his defensive discipline was highly recognized by Unai, whose defensive strategy was built on structural play and positioning. The style of play of the 18 years-old also earned him a spot in U21 national team. It’s expected to see him playing a more important role on both sides in the next season.
Yes, I counted him as half a winger. We all know how well he played and how he played. And we have to admit that he’s more dangerous when he starts from the right flank with someone anchoring one or both CBs.
Unai have played several other wingers during the season, including Kubo, Pedraza, Pena and Baena. Kubo had an unsuccessful season at Villarreal and Getafe, which we had a lot of discussion last year. Baena was given the least minutes among the three youngsters and is expected to be loaned out for more appearance. As for Ped and Pena, they fit better in side backs or wing backs.
We also have some wingers out on loan, but it seems that neither of them would have a place in the team except for Ivan Martin, who had a successful season at Mirandes. It’s not clear to see Unai’s plan on him, but he could earn some time at least in La Copa if he stays.
Kind of a conclusion
Back to our question, do we need another winger? It depends, on the cost I suppose. We already have a perfect roster with talent and experience. To be more perfect, we need more speed on the left wing and less injury on the right. Currently we have some backup plans but a new enforcement is welcomed if it doesn’t cost too much.