El Centrocampista

ALL AT SEA – Villarreal find life tough without Cazorla


Man the lifeboats, the yellow submarine is in trouble. The vessel is not sunk, but it is plummeting at an alarming pace.

Though they recorded their first La Liga win of the season this week, to describe Villarreal’s start to the season as a disappointment would be a major understatement.

They have been battered by a patched up Barca, comprehensively beaten by Bayern Munich and humbled by newly promoted Granada.

It is very early days, but Villarreal’s form so far suggests that a repeat of last season’s fourth place finish will be a mammoth task.

There are several explanations for the yellow submarine’s lacklustre start to the season.

For instance, new signing Carlos Zapata has yet to develop an understanding with defensive partner Carlos Marchena, midfield lynchpin Borja Valero has been strangely off the pace, and twin terrors Rossi and Nilmar have struggled to find any sort of form.

But perhaps the most obvious explanation is the loss of Santiago Cazorla.

Cazorla, a product of the Villarreal youth system, was somewhat bizarrely sold to top four rivals Malaga in the pre-season.

The little winger come attacking midfielder was sold for in the region of £20 million, netting Villarreal a tidy profit, but his exit has left a gaping hole in the El Madrigal side’s midfield.

Cazorla is a rare talent. He has all the attributes of a natural winger, but can also act as a midfield playmaker, cutting inside, playing eye of the needle passes and having efforts at goal.

It is these match winning attributes which Villarreal now lack.

Garrido has tried both Cani and Valero in the position vacated by Cazorla, but as good as both players are, they are not ready made replacements for the little playmaker.

Valero in particular is not suited to this position, and as Villarreal’s most creative midfielder, needs to be played in his natural central position.

Rossi and Nilmar both relied heavily on Cazorla’s ability to provide them with quality service, and without him, both have so far struggled to provide a sufficient goal threat.

Bearing in mind Villarreal’s sloppy form, not to mention the instant impact Cazorla has had at new club, Malaga, surely it is fair game to ask two questions.

Firstly, why on earth was Cazorla sold? And secondly, why was a suitable replacement not brought in?

The answer to the first question is fairly simple. £20 million is a huge amount of money to a club like Villarreal, and a £20 million profit for a player who cost the club nothing is a super piece of business.

The answer to the second question is however less clear.

With the exit of arguably the club’s best player and the club’s coffers £20 million for the better, one would have expected Garrido to be given funds to go out shopping for Cazorla’s replacement.

But no money was forthcoming and Garrido now finds himself badly in need of a creative wide player.

Villarreal are a little miracle. They have pulled off some incredible results and have had some unbelievable success.

Succeeding without Cazorla however, may just be their biggest test yet.

One Comment

  1. Heath Chesters

    23 September, 2011 at 16:55

    Although obviously pleased Granada managed to beat Villareal, they did look a distinctly average side to me.

    Despite what some suggested might have been a European hangover, they’re a club that’s used to battling on both domestic and European fronts in recent years, so there was no real excuse against Granada.

    Interestingly during the match against Granada, Valero started out wide, but kept drifting into the middle and deep, where he looked far more dangerous spraying balls around the pitch.

    They’ve a good enough squad though, that they should start climbing the table pretty quickly following their first win of the season.

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