With the transfer window open and Unai Emery already active in the market, central defence is an area he may look to strengthen ahead of the new season, despite it being an area packed with significant quality.
Strong depth will be necessary as Villarreal are to compete in the Europa Conference League, and Villarreal were rather fortunate that both Raul Albiol and Pau Torres managed to stay injury-free for the vast majority of the season.
Torres has been strongly linked with a move to the Premier League, and Albiol is set to turn 37 this season, meaning a signing may have to be brought in, but the pair fared well both domestically and in Europe last season.
Albiol’s performance at the Allianz Arena helped secured the famous victory over Bayern Munich, while Torres was consistently impressive throughout the Champions League run.
Mandi, who joined from Real Betis on a free transfer, had a disappointing first campaign at Estadio De La Ceramica, and his viability as a third-choice centre-back remains questionable.
Here’s how the stats of Albiol, Torres and Aissa Mandi compare from the 2021-22 season in all competitions, via Whoscored.com.
Torres - 46
Albiol - 42
Mandi - 22
Torres - 6
Mandi - 2
Albiol - 1
Successful Tackles per 90 minutes
Albiol - 0.9
Torres - 0.9
Mandi - 0.6
Interceptions per 90 minutes
Mandi - 0.9
Albiol - 0.8
Torres - 0.6
Aerial duels won per 90 minutes
Torres - 1.8
Mandi - 1.7
Albiol - 1.5
Passes per 90 minutes (Accuracy)
Mandi - 64.7 (93%)
Torres - 62.3 (85.8%)
Albiol - 56.7 (86%)
Stats don’t tell the whole picture, as Mandi played significantly less minutes compared to his counterparts.
Still, they show how all three are suited to Emery’s system - the high pass accuracies help when playing out from the back and Pau Torres in particular often progresses the ball well.
In La Liga last season, Torres was paired with Albiol for most games, with Mandi rotating in during any absence.
Mandi did make a number of high-profile errors, and the 30-year-old plays with a chaos opposite to the calmness and composure regularly displayed by the Spanish pair.
Albiol’s physicality proved to be the perfect foil for Torres to drive forward, and the 25-year-old established himself as one of the best ball-playing defenders in Europe.
Overall, centre-half was a strong position for Villarreal last season as the Yellow Submarine conceded 37 goals in the league, joint third with Real Sociedad and less than Barcelona, but extra quality depth is required.