Villarreal have prided themselves on outstanding technical quality within their midfield over the years.
Bruno Soriano, Marcos Senna, Santi Cazorla, Juan Roman Riquelme and many more top talents have previously lit up the Estadio De La Ceramica, and the last two seasons have continued that trend.
Dani Parejo and Etienne Capoue were two of the club’s best performers last season, and Unai Emery looks set to continue with the pair as undisputed starters heading into the 2022-23 campaign.
However, going forward, there will need to be some sort of long-term strategy to replace them.
Parejo and Capoue are 33 and 34 respectively, and Francis Coquelin is 31. Within the next few seasons they should not only be rotated more, but eventually overtaken in the main starting XI.
Parejo played a whopping 45 times in all competitions whilst Capoue managed 43 appearances, and this is simply not sustainable going into a season with a lot of fixture congestion and Europa Conference League matches.
Capoue has now extended his deal to remain at the club until 2024, and will likely be an integral player throughout these next two seasons.
Manu Trigueros can provide quality cover, but if Emery is to continue with the 4-3-3 he deployed in the Champions League knockouts then additional bodies are necessary.
One option in the market is Giovani Lo Celso, who Emery is reportedly keen on bringing back to the club after his loan spell last season. The Argentina international would provide creativity both as an advanced number 8 and part of the front three.
Manu Morlanes has returned from his loan at Espanyol, where the 23-year-old made 31 appearances last season, and may be an option for this upcoming campaign.
Another factor to consider is that Villarreal need to add more goals from midfield, and none of the current options are goalscorers. Parejo and Capoue scored just 3 La Liga goals between them last season, and Lo Celso, Trigueros and Morlanes aren’t exactly clinical.
Therefore, the areas to address in midfield, through internal options or the transfer market are:
- Tactical versatility
Any player coming in would ideally have the technical ability to match up to someone like Parejo, and his long-term replacement should be a creative central midfielder capable of dictating play in the middle.
The depth at central midfield for the upcoming season now stands as follows:
- Dani Parejo
- Etienne Capoue
- Francis Coquelin
- Manu Trigueros
- Manu Morlanes
Ideally, at least one more body will come in this window, assuming Morlanes stays, allowing for a strong depth of two players per midfield position.
A starting trio of Capoue at the base, with Parejo and Lo Celso more advanced, would be well balanced, and Coquelin could come in with Capoue slightly ahead against tougher opposition.
Trigueros and Morlanes could both start the Conference League fixtures, whilst also rotating with Parejo to allow the 33-year-old more rest between matches.
Although less of a priority than other areas of the pitch this summer, an eye does need to be kept on the future of the midfield considering both the importance of the position as well as the level of quality that will need to be replaced.