It has been a largely disappointing, underwhelming season for Villarreal following last season’s terrific 5th place finish. The Yellow Submarine are desperately struggling this season to collect any victories following a pre-season of optimism and belief that this could be their year to gate crash the Champions League places. However, their situation right now is a major concern as they lie 19th in the La Liga table, 3 points adrift of safety and that simply isn’t good enough for a club like Villarreal with the excellent footballers and brilliant fans the club. Their form is abysmal with the club winless in their last 7 La Liga matches, and they have sunk down the table with two different managers this season.
A season that could off brought plenty of promise has turned into a disaster and things must improve fast if they are indeed to escape the relegation battle. After just 3 league wins in 15 matches and 15 months in charge, the club sacked their former B side manager Javi Calleja who had ignited their previous season after Fran Escriba’s ill fated spell in charge. Calleja brought excitement and flare which has been non-existent this season. Calleja just couldn’t get them going and so far, his replacement Luis Garcia Plaza isn’t getting much of a tune either. Garcia Plaza is winless in his 5 league games drawing 4 and losing just once and that was at home against Getafe. Villarreal have won just twice at home this season and that is a major concern for a stadium that was once a fortress and very difficult for teams to play. However, the Ceramica has lost its rigid, strong presence and teams are finding easy ways to walk away with points and its no surprise the Villarreal faithful are restless. But we have seen Villarreal can perform and when on their game they can prove unstoppable and certainly their thunderous away win at Ath Bilbao back in September emphasises that. But Villarreal’s players just cannot find their consistency and confidence to go out and win football matches. Their overall form in recent months is woeful with just 1 league win in 13 matches and things are not working at the club on the pitch.
Possible factors in their demise this season is certainly to do with a lack of goals as Villarreal just cannot score on a consistent basis despite having the likes of Gerard Moreno, Karl Toko-Ekambi and Carlos Bacca in their forward line. The trio between them have scored just 11 league goals between them and that simply isn’t good enough for three quality strikers. While their midfielders have struggled for goals with only Santi Cazorla and Pablo Fornals notching goals in the league thus far and certainly their midfield has lacked a spark all campaign despite the return and best efforts of Villarreal hero Santi Cazorla. Cazorla has really attempted to galvanise his teammates but they just cannot find the confidence to go out on the pitch and secure a win. Confidence and form are at rock bottom and this is certainly another major problem for them this season. Their transfer business has also been largely disappointing this season except for Santi Cazorla. Gerard Moreno returned to the club for a hefty £20Million in the summer but has struggled for goals, chances, form and confidence while fellow big money striker Karl Toko-Ekambi has struggled further having moved for almost £18Million. While defensive signings Ramiro Funes Mori and Miguel Layun have also flattered to deceive. However, despite their poor recruitment this season, their academy has shined this season with youngsters making the step up. These include the likes of Alfonso Pedraza, but it is winger Samuel Chukwueze that has certainly caught the eye with the pacey, creative, talented young winger has certainly made an impression in the side this season and does have plenty of admirers across Europe. The 19-year-old brings raw pace and talent to a side lacking in pace and creativity on their flanks and across his 18 appearances in all competitions this season, Chukwueze has scored 5 goals and assisted just the one but has created plenty of chances for his teammates. The winger has been a bright spark in season where the light has very much been off for Villarreal and while he cannot do everything, he is certainly someone the fans can look up to and be the inspiration to gain that illusive win to ignite their season.
Luis Garcia Plaza knows improvement is needed and fast with all of Villarreal’s squad underperforming this season. The regulars Sergio Asenjo, Mario Gaspar, Juame Costa, Manu Trigueros, Pablo Formals and many more have been short of confidence and despite spirited efforts from some players to galvanise the team, Villarreal are desperately short on all the elements of winning a football match. A winless run that stretches back to the end of November, a Copa del Ray exit to Getafe and a narrow pass into the knockout stages of the Europa League has not pleased the Villarreal fans and while Garcia Plaza is new in the role having only been in charge of the Villarreal B side over a decade ago, he will be fully aware of the task ahead and Villarreal must at least survive relegation and the old cliché in football ‘Your never to big to be relegated’ rings loud and true across the Ceramica and no doubt the fans are majorly concerned with their teams precarious position in the table. However, due to the unpredictability and tightness of La Liga, back to back wins could have Villarreal on the cusp of the top half. But wins are proving very allusive for the Yellow Submarine.
As January ends and February begins, Villarreal have some huge matches coming their way including their next league game which is the derby with south coast rivals Valencia at the Mestalla. A must win for Villarreal and a derby victory could be exactly what they need to ignite their season and steer away from danger. Following the derby, they have fixtures against fellow strugglers Espanyol and Valladolid which again is must win before they enter a difficult period with two Europa League games against Sporting Lisbon sandwiched in between games against Sevilla and Atletico Madrid. A crucial month dawns on Villarreal and they must find a win sooner rather than later otherwise the possibility of playing their football in the Segunda Division next season is increasing and big club like Villarreal should be pushing the top 4 not fighting relegation but that is where they find themselves and the Yellow Submarine must stem the tide before they are swept out of La Liga.