Villarreal’s honeymoon start

Villarreal boss Marcelino Garcia Toral showed admirable judgement ahead of the new season as the club returned to Spain’s top-flight after a one-year absence. The former Sevilla Coach said he wanted to wait until 10 or 12 games had elapsed before assessing his team’s chances.

In a positive frame of mind after last weekend’s 3-0 win at Osasuna, Marcelino praised his men’s hard work, ability and collective endeavour, but he is still not getting carried away, even after three straight wins against Almeria, Valladolid and the Pamplona outfit.

Fellow promoted side Almeria were 2-1 ahead in the season’s opener and, like Villarreal, were guilty of defensive naivety in an entertaining encounter strewn with errors. The Yellow Submarine overturned the deficit with character and determination, but the win was far from straightforward.

Similarly, Marcelino saw his side fall behind as early as the fourth minute at home against Valladolid in Week 2 before drawing level with a penalty and scoring the winner late on. Their comprehensive win in Pamplona against poor opposition has left Villarreal sitting pretty in third place, having made their best ever start in their 14th La Liga campaign, but they have yet to be seriously tested.

But, they will only have to wait until the first round of fixtures after the international break for that challenge, however, when Real Madrid visit El Madrigal in what could see Gareth Bale make his first appearance for Los Blancos. 

Having achieved promotion with a core of consistent players like striker Jonathan Pereira and midfielders Cani, Manuel Trigueros and Bruno Soriano, Villarreal President Fernando Roig has made sufficient finances available to allow Marcelino to strengthen his squad significantly over the summer.

Acutely aware that, in a league where almost every club is encumbered by major debt, there can be a fine line between survival and failure, Roig has been prepared to gamble, enabling the Coach to build a team characterised by its speed, creativity, discipline and tireless pressing game – one that needs to be good enough to stay up.

Marcelino has spoken of his players being comfortable in possession and enjoying their football and possessing the ability to play a quick, triangular passing game with speed and precision, reminiscent of the Barcelona style.

Slovenian Bojan Jokic from Chievo Verona, Serbian Aleksandar Pantic from Red Star Belgrade and Brazilian Gabriel Paulista from Vitoria Salvador all provide defensive reinforcement, after the club failed in a bid to lure Barcelona centre-back Marc Bartra to El Madrigal.

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo has arrived on loan and Mallorca pair Giovani dos Santos and Tomas Pina have been added to the attack and midfield respectively. Pereira’s loan move from Real Betis has been made permanent and attacking midfielder Javier Camunas joined from relegated Deportivo.

Whilst well equipped and currently high on confidence, Villarreal are pertinently keeping their cool. Indeed, Marcelino is realistic and experienced enough as both a player and Coach to know that there are teams who start badly and come good – and that the opposite can also happen.