La Liga review: Villarreal’s performance through the stats

It’s over! As La Liga comes to an end, some things have changed, and other have stayed the same. Valencia is as mercurial as it gets, that Marcos Llorente is arguably the signing of the season, and Sevilla’s Monchi is back with a vengeance.

We also see that some things are as sure as death and taxes: Lionel Messi, Pichichi. Iago Aspas, 99% of Celta. Fran Escriba, making miracles at Elche. Simeone pushes his team one match at a time.

But, how did Villarreal fair in La Liga? Emery’s men finished seventh as the club focused in what would be a magical and unexpected Europa League title, but it is important to mention that the fifth spot was there until the last match. The results did not help, and Villarreal finished outside of the top six.

Luckily enough, the Europa League win means Villarreal will play in the Champions League. However, it is still important to measure the performance of the players and the team as they compare to the rest of La Liga. Let’s take a look!

Overall La Liga Stats: Villarreal players in the Top 50 per stat

Most goals:

2. Gerard Moreno, 23 

34. Alcacer, 6

42. Bacca, 5

  • The Moreno-dependency is obvious in this stat, as the striker scored roughly 45% of the goals of the team. Alcacer had a good start and Bacca a good end to the season, but a need to reinforce this position is obvious when looking at the numbers.

Most assists:

12. Gerard Moreno, 7

13. Trigueros, 7

39. Alcacer, 4

40. Parejo, 4

  • Here, Moreno is also leading but Trigueros, with more matches played but the same amount of assists, supports the striker. Alcacer and Parejo round things up.

Most shots (total):

3. Gerard Moreno, 47

29. Alcacer, 20

  • This is a very interesting stat, as Moreno shoots much less than Messi, but did not finish far off from the Argentinean. He is definitely more efficient than Alcacer too, as the forward from Torrent scored 6 in 20 shots, for 23 in 47 of Moreno. This stat bears repeating–every other shot on target Moreno makes, ends in goal.

Most passes (total):

3. Parejo, 2,668

10. Pau, 2,058

11. Albiol, 2,051

34. Trigueros, 1,579

  • Partnerships are on the menu in this stat. The Parejo-Trigueros and Pau-Albiol couples serve each other well, and account for a big portion of the passes of the team. Especial mention to Dani, who guided the team through 53 total matches this overall season. He played everything.

Most times recovered possession: 

25. Parejo, 45

  • The midfielder not only creates, but destroys, as well. He recovers the ball more than once per match.

Most fouls (total):

15. Trigueros, 58

41. Gerard Moreno, 44

49. Pedraza, 42

  • Trigueros is top here, and it makes sense as many of us have the classic image of Manu complaining about a foul that shouldn’t have been call in our brains. Moreno and Pedraza complete the podium as two aggressive players on the pitch.

Most dribbles (total):

4. Gerard Moreno, 71

33. Samu Chukwueze, 39

39. Parejo, 37

42. Moi, 36

  • Samu and Moi show in the Top 50 in this stat, demonstrating the talent Emery knows they have, but showing a bit lower than one would have expected.

Minutes played (total):

7. Asenjo, 3,240

11. Parejo, 3,119

11. Albiol, 3,119

25. Pau, 2,970

  • Asenjo played basically everything, and Parejo was not far off. Albiol and Pau spent the entire year together as well.

Whoscored.com Rating:

7. Gerard Moreno, 7.62

19. Parejo, 7.10

  • We took the Whoscored.com ratings as a measure of overall performance this season, and two Villarreal players would make the best La Liga team: Moreno and Parejo.

Other stats worth noting

  • Mario is the 10th best player in La Liga in terms of tackles per game, with 2.2 successful ones per match. 
  • Trigueros is the fourth best in the competition in terms of assists away from home, with four. 
  • Parejo is the fourth best passer in the league (per match), with 74.5 passes every 90 minutes.
  • Asenjo made it to the middle of the pack when it came to saves, accounting for roughlt 2 saves per match, 80 total.

Team review

Villarreal is also highlighted in several areas in the collective:

  • Fourth team with the most goals, with 60–but actually the 9th with the most shots per match, with 10.7. Efficiency is the name of the game. 
  • Villarreal shows his willingness to let the opposition run its game and counteract, and the numbers support this claim. The team is in the bottom four in terms of aerial challenges won (13 per match) and least fouls committed (11.8 every 90 minutes)and in the bottom five in interceptions per match, with 9.8. Emery’s men are also the 2nd team with the least yellow cards, with 65, only under Real Madrid (57). 
  • In the offensive, Villarreal shines again: Fourth team with the most possession on average (54.3%), also top four in most shots per match (4.3), and the second best dribbling team, with 11.5 successful dribbles per match, only behind you-know-who. 

Overall Insights

  • Gerard Moreno takes the cake: Overall, he is the top scorer, the player with the most assists, most dribbles, most shots, and overall rating in the team. On top of that, he is also by far the top scorer away from home, with 14 goals in 17 matches, and the seventh best dribbler in La Liga, with 2.2 successful dribbles per game. 
  • The team was not known for its defensive power this season, neither in the midfield, recovering possession, nor conceding a small amount of goals. However, it proved to be very efficient with the chances it enjoyed.
  • The wings have proven useful throughout the season, but the middle of the pitch is where it’s at for Villarreal. Pau and Albiol, Parejo and Trigueros, and Moreno up front are the gold of the team. If Roig Negueroles manages to bring in a dangerous winger, Foyth sticks around, and a promising striker joins the ranks, four competitions will seem less daunting to a stretched-thin squad.

Last Week of La Liga: Villarreal visits Real Madrid with sights on Wednesday

It’s al happening. Villarreal ends their domestic season with an explosive match against Real Madrid that will decide the championship for Zidane’s men, and which European competition Villarreal will play, bar the Europa League final. 

This week, news from the capital of Spain poured through to the rest of the country around Emery’s will to field a competitive starting eleven against Real Madrid. There were rumors around Atletico’s apparent “outrage” at us not playing Moreno, Parejo, Albiol and Pau, and everybody else, regardless of the most important match in our history playing less than 96 hours from Saturday.

In the end, every team in our position, with a potential title on the line and a qualification to the Champions League as a byproduct of that title, would make sure not to field the same exact eleven that would play in Gdansk. Regardless, there are some things that never change, and this is one of them–comments from all sides on the week of a match against Real, Barcelona and the like, on how we should do or not do something, or make sure to play in a specific way. 

We keep going.

The training session in Vila-real clarified a few things: one, that Juan Foyth is looking more and more fit for the final on Wednesday. The Argentinean will not feature in Valdebebas tomorrow, but is looking to start next week. Music to the ears of Villarreal fans after Juan’s performances, especially in Europa League, this season. A good match by the young player could shore up a full transfer from Tottenham to Villarreal, through a payment of approximately 15 Million Euro Tottenham’s Levy is asking to receive. 

On the other hand, Samu Chukwueze does not seem like he will make the final. A truly big blow for Emery, who has trusted the Nigerian winger through the entirety of the season, and who has shown in big games before. He may make the bench and potentially have a few minutes in him, but he will very likely not start in Gdansk. With that in mind, Yeremy Pino will need minutes against Real tomorrow to keep getting match-fit for Wednesday. 

Speaking of, Yeremy and striker Fer Niño both were called to Spain’s Under-21 national team. Pino and Niño have 10 rollercoaster days: Real Madrid tomorrow, Manchester United on Wednesday, and Croatia, in the quarterfinals of the U-21 Euro, on the 31st. 

Two other quick mentions:I personally still feel that whoever join forces tomorrow with Moreno and Yeremy up front will play in the final. It makes no sense to me to field Bacca last week against Sevilla, tomorrow again, and then ask Paco Alcacer to perform on Wednesday. If Carlos starts tomorrow, I’ll expect him to play against Manchester United. If Paco is the one, Bacca will be a super-sub on Wednesday.

At this point, I want the Colombian to play. He’s won the Europa League twice with Sevilla. He’s scored in finals–and, he just netted a hat-trick against the Andalusian team in La Liga last week. He’s in form and we need to take advantage of that. Play Moreno and Yermy on the wings, and put Bacca up front. 

The last thought goes to Pau Torres. A lot has been written about the young centerback, including a few who spoke to their lack of conviction that Torres could cut it at the highest level. In a lot of ways, they see this week as an audition for the big teams.

Can he stop Benzema on Saturday? Can he do the same with Cavani on Wednesday? If he does, a top team may be willing to splurge the 65 Million Euros that protect his contract. 

I don’t really care about any of that. This week is not an audition for Pau. Mind you, this is the most important week in the history of Villarreal. We need him focused on tomorrow, on the final in Poland, and then, and only then, let’s see where he lands.

My hopes are still that we win the cup, qualify for the Champions League, and are able to retain Pau one more year at least. 

Big week for us. Let’s hope it’s a good one!

La Liga comes to an end: The chances for Villarreal to play in each European competition next season, explained

Villarreal is approaching a week full of highlight and under the spotlight. with everything to be decided still. Emery will field his team on Saturday (11AM CST) against Real Madrid at Valdebebas with a chance to finish fifth, sixth or seventh; four days later, The Yellow Submarine will measure up against Manchester United for their first true trophy ever in the Europa League.

Due to the multiple options Villarreal is managing based on what happens that last La Liga week, we at Villarrealnews thought it would be helpful to explain the different scenarios that could play out.

Matches of interest this Saturday:

  • Real Madrid vs Villarreal (7th)
  • Celta de Vigo vs Betis (6th)
  • Osasuna vs Real Sociedad (5th)

Basically, there are two sets of outcomes: If Villarreal win the Europa League, La Liga’s finish doesn’t matter when it comes to European competition. If they don’t, several possible options comes into play.

If Villarreal wins the Europa League: Emery’s men will qualify to the Champions League for the 2021/22 season, regardless of what they end up doing in La Liga. Spain will then have five teams in the Champions League next season.

If Villarreal loses: The scenarios are varied–multiple things could happen if La Liga is the only path for the Yellow Submarine to play in Europe next year.

  • Europa Conference League: Villarreal has, at the very least, already ensured his participation in this competition. The worst case scenario is that they play the Conference League if they either lose to Real Madrid, tie but Betis AND Real Sociedad tie or win, or win–but Betis AND Real Sociedad win as well.
  • Europa League: Villarreal could qualify to the second tier of European competition if:
    • They tie against Real Madrid, and Betis lose. A tie would not do anything to place above Real Sociedad as they have the direct goal average tied, and the overall goal average that counts after that is +20 for Sociedad and +17 for Villarreal. However, if Celta de Vigo beats Betis at home and Villarreal manages a point in Valdebebas, Villarreal will end the season in sixth position.
    • They beat Real Madrid, and Betis OR Real Sociedad don’t win: Villarreal could even finish fifth in this scenario. A win against Zidane’s team would mean Villarreal would end fifth if both Betis AND Real Sociedad don’t win, or sixth if only one of them wins. A win in Madrid is unlikely as Real is playing for their only title chance this season, but everything is possible.

Other news from the past couple of days as we inch closer to the final in Gdansk:

  • It seems as Rulli will play the Europa League final after all. Even though Asenjo had been featuring in the last few La Liga matches (and done so quite well actually), our own research showed that Emery usually gives the Europa League goalkeeper the chance to play the final too–even if it means that player has a 2-3 week break between semifinal and final. It happened with Beto and Soria at Sevilla in two of the three finals Emery won down South. He confirmed it in yesterday’s press conference: Rulli will be on goal on the 26th.
  • Juan Foyth is also likely to play next Wednesday, Samu is unlikely. The Argentinean showed at training on Tuesday and even conducted exercises with the team for about 15 minutes. He is looking fit and will use every bit of the next seven days to get ready for the final.
  • Chukwueze is looking less likely to feature–it will likely be a day-of decision. Much like Manchester United’s Harry Maguire, actually. There were soem false accounts that he was ready to go and training–that’s not the case.
  • Carlos Bacca was front and center this week after his hat-trick against Sevilla last weekend in La Liga. The Colombian has one year left in his contract, and the rumors are he may look for another team where he can play more this summer. A lot of chatter ensured this week as well around whether he or Paco Alcacer should start against Manchester United. Some are saying Alcacer should play as he is the higher-caliber player, but others are asking for Carlos to start as he is the one who is in form. Whoever you see playing against Real Madrid, will likely feature on Wednesday.
  • The numbers don’t lie though: Bacca has nine goals in all competitions this season, scoring a goal every 145 minutes; Alcacer has scored 12 goals in 2020/21, but he has done so through seeing more playing time–a goal every 177 minutes. He does link up with the team better though, as he has assisted in five occasions, against two by the Colombian.
  • On the 15th of this month, we celebrated the 24th anniversary of Fernando Roig’s purchase of the majority stake of Villarreal. If you’d like to know more about Roig’s tenure in Vila-real, check out my piece on his life with the club here.

The stats don’t lie: Key Villarreal performers in La Liga, and why

As Villarreal gets ready to play a vital match against a Valladolid much needed for points, we look at the official La Liga stats to see where the impact this season has been. In combing through the data, some insights prove obvious, but others are quite surprising, or rather, reinforcing Emery’s dependency on a few key players.

So, what does the data say?

The impact of the Pau/Albiol partnership

In terms of overall team numbers, Villarreal excels in a few departments, but also makes obvious that some help is needed for next season in specific areas. Overall, the data points to Emery’s men being soft on defense–Villarreal is the 3rd worst team in terms of interceptions, with 51 per match. In that department, a creative player like Parejo, with 41 steals, is their top player, even though he is number 27 in the global La Liga standing for that stat. Next in line are Estupiñan and Pedraza, with 35 and 34 interceptions respectively, not even in the top 50 for the competition overall.

The lack of physicality in the team is obvious also in fouls committed. If a team is in the bottom spots when it comes to interceptions, you would expect that some fouls would make up for that lack of success in stealing the ball–but here again, Villarreal is the 3rd worse, with roughly 12 fouls per match. Here’s the formula:

Bottom three in interceptions + bottom three in committed fouls = a lot of chances for the opposition to try to score.

That should translate into goals conceded, but here is where the team excels–Villarreal is the 4th best team in La Liga when it comes to winning balls in the air. The Pau/Albiol partnership have a lot to do with this, and they both sit top of the standings in that department. Villarreal wins around 52 aerial challenges every match, and that means the team does not concede as many goals as they otherwise would, sitting 8th best, with 42 goals conceded. 

That points to a potential challenge this summer: if Albiol needs to take longer rest periods due to his age (35), and Pau leaves for the Premier League or a top team in Spain, Villarreal will likely suffer. The height (6′ 0′) of Aissa Mandi, experienced French centerback coming on a free from Betis this summer, should help with that. 

Mandi is also more exciting to watch when it comes to tackles, and often goes for a 90’s-style diving effort to clear the ball, something that Albiol and Pau don’t do that much. I believe the Frenchman should increase Villarreal’s numbers of both interceptions–and based on his defending style, probably fouls committed.

The team is also 16th in yellow cards, with less than two per match, which makes sense when you iterate the lack of commitment when it comes to taking the ball away from the opponent unless it is absolutely necessary. Instead the decision to sit tight, let the other team get close, and hope Pau and Albiol do their thing.

Moreno is key up front–even more than expected

When one looks at the Pichichi (La Liga top scorer) race, it makes sense to think that Gerard Moreno is the key man for Villarreal–but the dependency goes way beyond goals. The catalan striker, who this week tied for most goals in La Liga with the yellow shirt (equaling Diego Forlan and Giuseppe Rossi’s 54 goals in the competition) is either top or in the podium of the list in a few categories:

  • Goals scored: 21 (1st in the team, 2 in La Liga)
  • Shots on goal: 45 (1st in the team, 3rd in La Liga)
  • Assists: 5 (2nd in the team, 20th in La Liga)
  • Successful dribbles: 65 (1st in the team, 4th in La Liga)

The absolute need to rely on Moreno is exacerbated when one looks at the rest of the team’s performance: the next scorer in La Liga is Paco Alcacer, with six goals; the next shooter, the striker from Torrente again, with 20 attempts on goal.

Overall, Villarreal is 4th in shots on goal, only behind the top 3, attempting 4.3 shots per match–and almost 40% of those are Gerard Moreno’s. The club is also 4th in goals-per-shot-attempted, with 18% of attempts on goal ending as such, and Moreno is a huge asset in that category as well, with an insane 47% of shots on goal ending in one.

Gerard is an amazing player who will probably leave this summer or next. His stats are just amazing, and the player is getting to the point where his last big contract may happen now or never. We compared him to the mighty Lionel Messi for the sake of it, and a few things were surprising to see:

  • Gerard Moreno has scored 21 goals, and Messi, 29 of them.
  • However, Messi has played roughly five and a half matches more than Moreno, and adjusted to minutes per goal, the Villarreal striker scores every 116 minutes, and the Argentinean, every 101 minutes.
  • The most impactful insights comes in terms of total attempts to score/goals ratio. Gerard Moreno has to do more with the chances he has, and has managed to take a shot a total of 73 times this season. Lionel Messi has done it 135 times–almost double.

This means a statistic almost unreal–29% of Moreno’s total shots end in goal. Messi’s percentage is 21%. Benzema is at 23%, En-Nesyri at 28%, and Luis Suarez, at 25%. Gerard Moreno is the most efficient of La Liga’s top five strikers. 

Parejo is vital, and the wings, a great complement to Moreno

Not far on importance to the team is Dani Parejo, on top of the ladder in total passes (2,466 total number, 3rd in La Liga), total minutes (2,857, 22nd in La Liga), and dribbles (34 successful ones, Top 50 in La Liga). The midfielder is one of the main reasons Villarreal sits 4th in the competition in total passes, accounting for roughly 14% of the team’s total tally.

Special mentions go to both Moi Gomez and Samu Chukwueze, both in the top three for the team in goals (four each), shots on goal (11 each), and dribbles (the Nigerian is second with 39 successful ones).

Overall, the stats don’t lie: The Pau/Albiol partnership, Parejo in the midfield, and Moreno up top are the main reason Villarreal is where they are; but there is a need for more physicality especially in the midfield to keep the opposition at bay and concede even less. 

Moi and Chukwueze on the wings give the team the verticality it needs to get Moreno just enough chances to get close to goal. A strong back four does the rest.

Source: laliga.com

Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Conference League: Breaking down who qualifies for what in La Liga

If there is something the Superleague coup showed the sport is that European soccer is changing, and every year, new rules to existing competitions keep getting added. Every now and again, even new competitions are added as well. 

The Intertoto came and went in the early 00s, the UEFA Cup got rebranded and re-formatted as Europa League, and as of next year, there will be a new tournament: The UEFA Europa Conference League. Excited? Sure you are.

This brand new competition will sit right below the Europa League, and it will be a new opportunity for those straggler teams who don’t make the top spots in their domestic leagues, but still have a primal need to play 50 matches per season. Yay.

Something that became clear to me through the introduction of this new competition was that I had no idea who qualified for what between the Champions League, Europa League, and Conference League. I took it upon myself to look at the UEFA rules in Spain, and I come to you with just that: the comprehensive list of who qualifies for what in La Liga, taking into account all scenarios. 

So, grab some popcorn, play that shitty Europa League Champions-League-wannabe anthem on your phone, and read on.

  • UEFA Champions League: As it has been the case for the past couple of years, the top four teams in La Liga will qualify, with no need for any pre-qualifying rounds, into the group stages of the top European competition. This without a doubt will be Atletico, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla, although not necessarily in that order.
  • UEFA Europa League: Fifth place will automatically play in this competition. As of right now, that is Real Sociedad. The winner of the Copa del Rey also plays this tournament, but since the winner of the Spanish Cup was Barcelona, and Barcelona will play in the Champions League, the honor goes to 6th place. As of this article, Betis is number six in La Liga, so that would go to Pellegrini’s men.
  • UEFA Conference League: The third tier of European soccer will invite seventh place in La Liga, with a qualifying round being played on August 19th and 26th to get into a group stage that will surely include very few top teams in the continent. However, because of the craziness of the English Premier League, this competition could see a Tottenham or Liverpool, for instance.

But wait–there’s more! Here comes Villarreal with the combo breaker. If Villarreal lose in the Europa League final, everything stays the same. IF Villarreal happens to win the tournament, and:

  • They finish 5th or 6th: They qualify to the Champions League as Europa League winners, bringing the number of Spanish teams in the top competition to five, and the other team in the Top 6 would qualify to the Europa League, and 7th, to the Conference League. So basically, Spain would gain a CL spot, and lose an EL spot.
  • They finish 7th: Villarreal qualifies to the Champions League, 5th and 6th qualify to the Europa League, and there would be no Spanish teams in the Conference League.
  • They finish 8th (not likely but possible): Champions League for the Yellow Submarine, 5th and 6th to the Europa League, and 7th to the Conference League.

And that’s basically it! Who wants to go stick their head in the freezer?

If there is something the Superleague attempt showed, is that European soccer is changing, and every year, new rules to existing competitions keep getting added. What’s more, new competitions are being added as well. The Intertoto came and went in the early 00s, the UEFA Cup got rebranded and reformated as Europa League, and as of next year, there will be a new tournament: The UEFA Europa Conference League.

This brand new competition will sit right below the Europa League, and it will be a new opportunity for those straggler teams who don’t make the top spots in their domestic leagues, but still have a primal need to play 50 matches per season. Yay.

Something that became clear to me through this season was that I had no idea who qualified for what between Champions League, Europa League, and Conference League. I took it upon myself to look at the UEFA rules in Spain, and I come to you with just that: The comprehensive list of who qualifies for what in La Liga. So, grab some popcorn, play that shitty Europa League Champions-League-wannabe anthem on your phone, and read on.

  • UEFA Champions League: As it has been the case for the past couple of years, the top four teams in La Liga will qualify, with no need for any pre-qualifying rounds, into the group stages of the top European competition. This without a doubt will be Atletico, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla.
  • UEFA Europa League: 5th spot will automatically play in this competition. As of right now, that is Real Sociedad. The winner of the Copa del Rey also plays the second-tier tournament, but since the winner of the Spanish cup was Barcelona, and Barcelona will play in the Champions League, the honor goes to 6th place. As of this article, Betis is number six in La Liga, so that would go to Pellegrini’s men.
  • UEFA Conference League: The third level of European competition will include the 7th place in La Liga, with a qualifying round being played on August 19th and 26th to get into a group stage that will surely include very few top teams in the continent. However, because of the crazyness of the English Premier League, this competition could see a Tottenham or Liverpool, for instance.

But wait–there’s more! Here comes Villarreal with the combo breaker. If Villarreal lose in the Europea League final, eveything stays the same. IF Villarreal happens to win the tournament, and:

  • They finish 5th or 6th: They qualify to the Champions League as Europa League winners, bringing the number of Spanish teams in the top competition to five, and the other team in the Top 6 would wualify to the Europa League, and 7th, to the Conference League. So basically, Spain would gain a CL spot, and lose an EL spot.
  • They finish 7th: Villarreal qualifies to the Champions League, 5th and 6th qualify to the Europa League, and there would be no Spanish teams in the Conference League.
  • They finish 8th (not likely but possible): Champions League for the Yellow Submarine, 5th and 6th to the Europa League, and 7th to the Conference League.

And that’s basically it! Who wants to go stick their head in the freezer?