Villarreal and Sevilla Played a Sport

When I was 15 years old my dad gave me some advice that finally paid off yesterday. He said, “Aaron, your team can’t win the soccer internet every week. Remember this for when you get really excited about a huge game at Villarreal.” Thanks, dad.

Sevilla looked extremely unlike the LaLiga Sevilla we grew to know and love so well over 90 minutes one week ago. We burst into LaLiga like a box of very skilled puppies. At El Madrigal, though, we looked like a box of um..older dogs that don’t move around much any more. Yeah–that kind of box of dogs. And that is the wrong kind of box of dogs!

Right out of the gate, we looked like conceding in a similar fashion to last week. We turned the ball over too many times in areas that immediately put the goal under pressure (one is too many, but we did it 3-4 times!), and even though we weren’t punished for it and got a clean sheet, I still don’t think we showed four goals of defensive improvement over last week. Sarabia, Kiyotake, and N’Zonzi had one disturbing giveaway in the first 10 minutes each. Not a good way to start! At least defense isn’t where we’re going to win our championships, so what about the offense!? Oh. No goals and no shots on goal? How? Credit to Villarreal, who left few gaps for us to exploit. They seem to be doing rather well after losing Bailly to Man U, but I think most of us are concerned with how listless we came off in attack. Regardless, this was Villarreal’s first LaLiga home match of the year, so their intensity was a notch higher than most opening 20 minutes of soccer, but I was still surprised they only had a 57-43 edge in possession during that time. Sevilla grew into the match after that point and turned the tides to end with 63 percent possession, but the overwhelming feeling was one of perhaps too much respect for Villarreal. So we didn’t add to our goal tally, but the proverbial pendulum of expectations was always going to settle away from 6-4 and toward 0-0 sooner or later. Hello, sooner!

We don’t want to get too deep into “what have you done for me lately?” mode, but the team played so dramatically differently that it’s hard not to wonder what changed. Last week, we saw dozens of long square balls into open space for Mariano or Vitolo to run onto, but this week those spaces were not there, nor were we moving with enough pace to open many pockets to begin with. This match occurred in midfield–not in either third–and that compression seemed to gum up creative flow and movement. I hate to draw the comparison, but it reminded me of the feeling I used to get from a Manolo Jiménez team.

OK, let’s find some positives. Sergio Rico was suave AF on four shots in 10 minutes of the second half when Villarreal threatened most to break the deadlock. His passing seemed better this week, but there were many times that dinking it around the backline led to nothing more than a goal kick under duress. Despite a couple bad giveaways N’Zonzi played the anchor well for the middle. It surprises that there would be talk of selling him this week, but maybe if Medel is still in the mix it could be an acceptable swap. N’Zonzi would be hard to replace simply for the first balls won quotient, which I’m sure is astronomical. Mariano was tireless and sent in a good deal of crosses. He is so good at linking with others in attack, though, so it was surprising to most often see him alone out wide. He did manage to ‘meg someone in his own box, though, so yeah, you got yours, Mariano.

There were high expectations that this match be a showcase for our and LaLiga’s brand of play, and though it failed to do that it did earn us a point in a direct rival’s stadium. We might as well be pleased at that. Even if your sandwich doesn’t have everything you wanted in it, it’s still food, right Soldado?