As the season comes to an end and the Glory of the Europa League begins to settle. We reflect on some of the key positions of the season looking at Left Back. It has clearly been one of the strongest positions this season with basically 4 Left Backs on the books this season
Pedraza has been one of the stands out players for this season for Villarreal. You may remember my passionate defence of him at the start of the season. Far from being smug about it, even I was surprised how well he played. Yes, he is unorthodox as a defender but that’s his game. He is a weapon that teams struggle to judge and handle. His tackling is suspect and has a questionable amount of Yellow cards but Pedraza is an extremely intelligent defender. He will do next to nothing to stop a player from getting past him. His off the ball work and strength forces the player out wide and his long leg can usually put a good tackle in on the run. I recall very few goals coming from that right-hand side while he is defending. In most cases they came from crosses or in box defending which he could improve on, Emery gave him a chance and got the best out of him. He was all set to leave after a loan spell with Betis. He turned it around and now is being linked with several big clubs. I for one hope this doesn’t happen as he is unique and a big undervalued asset to the club
No one expected 4 assists and 2 goals from him. He resisted the urge to press which was part of the reason he started over Estupinan. When he does get forward, he has embraced Emery’s ideas with excellent decision making and passes. A man of his height quick feet can be tricky. It’s worth noting that Pedraza is more of a long-distance runner. It takes a while to get to full acceleration but when he does it is difficult to catch. I’ll be honest he has been my favourite player this season although I certainly wouldn’t play him as a Left winger with his lack of quick feet.
Stats: 20/21 Apps 44, Goals 2 , Assists, 4 10 yellow cards, minutes played 3.282
The 15mil euro signing for Villarreal hasn’t quite lifted off yet. Credit where credit is due he had an incredible 2019-2020 season. He is a very complete LB in his own right. He has everything in terms of speed and tenacity. His tackling technique is probably better than Pedraza. Where I feel he falls short is his decision making and discipline. He would be prone to attack too often and was too high up the field. This meant he was caught out of position more often than not. He has the speed to get back but to maintain that over 90 minutes would be tough. Attack wise you couldn’t ask for more from an LB. He has a truly beautiful cross on him but struggled with getting into the box and shooting. Emery prefers his defenders do exactly that. He was injured for a time and Pedraza really began to blossom. There is a massive difference between the game time between Estupinan and Pedraza and it’s not a fair judgement. It’s clear Emery preferred Pedraza and considering Moreno came on for Europa League does speak volumes. That could be penalty-taking duties who knows Transfer value has dropped to 10.8 which is the same as Pedraza’s now. Still 23 years old so plenty of time to learn and adapt to Emery. However, with an abundance of LBs would a decent offer from a club convince us to sell him? who knows. I wish we have considered playing him as left winger at times. He would be better suited to it than Pedraza.
Stats 20/21 Aps 33, Goals 0, Assists 2, minutes played 1688
I don’t think any Villarreal fan can be surprised by the lack of playing time and stats here. Hopefully, it's upwards from here. In preparation for this article, I watched Videos from his time with Liverpool and the season before where he was also injured. He has a similar problem as Estupinan in that he is caught out of position far too quickly. The difference is he is a tad more disciplined and attacks as Emery prefers. Attack wise he is a mixture of Estupinan and Pedraza which is a credit to his versatility. One major difference is that he also plays with a smile on his face. He does have the experience ahead of the other defenders at 27. He was a key player under Emery at Sevilla so there is a connection there. Providing he can stay fit he should have more to offer. Can the board see this as value for money who knows.? Can he force Pedraza out of the top spot, I don’t think so.
Stats 20/21 Aps 9, 234
Controversial as ever even 3 LBS feel too much. It’s clear Costa is leaving and I can’t see space for Quintillà. For me, I prefer we keep hold of Pedraza as our first choice left back. It fills me with dread if we are left with Estupinan and Moreno. Especially if that future left winger is going to be quick and pacey. We can’t afford to be caught on the break, He has been one of our key defenders. If 30 million offers come in I am sure it will be considered but I feel that would be a mistake. That leaves Estupinan and Moreno. Moreno seems to be Emery’s preference out of the two and providing he can stay injury-free he can offer something different to Pedraza depending on the opposition.
Estupinan was brought in as a long term investment and I can’t see him being sold. There was a rumour of 15 million from Juventus but that is the Italian media after all. If that is a true bid and we could get all the money back. I can’t imagine he was happy about the Europa League. It's a headache for Emery but I can only see players being sold here no signings.