Villarreal Season Preview 2020/21 – Valencia Raid leaves Yellow Submarine looking strong

Villarreal Season Preview

Villarreal enjoyed a strong 2019/20 season to secure a return to European football. However that wasn’t enough to keep Javier Calleja in a job with Unai Emery coming in to take charge as the Yellow Submarine aim to kick on in 2020/21. Read on for our Villarreal season preview.


Last Season – 5th

Having flirted with relegation the previous year, Villarreal bounced back strongly and seemed to get better as the campaign progressed with a strong run of form post-lockdown helping them seal Europa League qualification with relative ease in the end.

A much changed defensive unit from the previous season was important, but it was their ability to score goals which gave them the edge on their rivals. With Gerard Moreno and January signing Paco Alcacer forming a strong strike pairing and Santi Cazorla chipping in with plenty of goals and assists from midfield, only Barcelona and Real Madrid could better Villarreal’s tally of 63 league goals.


Villarreal Summer Transfers

Players IN

Take Kubo | from Real Madrid | LOAN

Dani Parejo | from Valencia | FREE

Francis Coquelin | from Valencia | €6.5m

Players OUT

Karl Toko Ekambi | to Lyon | €11.5m

Alvaro Gonzalez | to Marseille | €4m

Santi Cazorla | to Al-Sadd | FREE

Enes Ünal | to Getafe | €9m

Xavi Quintilla | to Norwich City | LOAN

(Transfers up to 31st August 2020.)


Coach –  Unai Emery

Javier Calleja will feel a bit aggrieved to have lost his job in the summer. A deal for Unai Emery to take over at the Ceramica is believed to have been agreed before LaLiga returned after a 3 month break in June. Had they waited to see how Calleja’s side evolved over the period, it’s possible a different conclusion might have been reached although you sense there was never 100% belief in Calleja who had previously been sacked by Villarreal only to be reappointed shortly after.

Unai Emery is a bigger name and one with real pedigree, particularly in this league and significantly in the Europa League where Villarreal will play this term. The Yellow Submarine are still desperately seeking their first ever major trophy and the hope will be that Emery is the man to push them onto that next level, even if his style of play marks a slight shift from the ‘Villarreal way’ which typically places greater emphasis on a technical rather than physical approach.


Possible Villarreal Line Up 2020/21

Villarreal line up

Unai Emery is a relatively flexible coach in terms of formations and throughout the course of his career we’ve seen him use a range of different ones, including both three and four man defences. We may see some experimentation over pre-season and during the first few weeks but right now a 4-4-2 looks to offer the best balance for the players they have available.

Defensively it should be pretty similar to last season with Alberto Moreno set to be the first choice left-back following Xavi Quintilla’s move. The full-back positions could perhaps do with strengthening if there is more cash to spend but Emery ought to be content with his goalkeeper and a central defensive pairing of Pau Torres and Raúl Albiol.

It’s all change in midfield though with club legends Santi Cazorla and Bruno both departing. They’ll also be without André-Frank Zambo Anguissa this season and his absence will be felt after a very strong showing on loan at the Ceramica last term. Villarreal did well to replace players of such quality by taking Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin off neighbours Valencia. With the total spent on that pair less than €10 million, on the surface it was an extraordinary piece of business from the Yellow Submarine.

Take Kubo will be the third new signing in their likely first choice midfield next term. The Japanese teenager will be hoping to continue his development in a stronger side having impressed for relegated Mallorca in 2019/20. He’ll look to create chances for one of LaLiga’s strongest strike pairings in the shape of Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer.


Key Man – Gerard Moreno

Gerard Moreno returned to the Ceramica in 2018 but struggled in his first season back at the club. The 2019/20 campaign though saw Moreno really hit the heights as the forward chipped in with 18 goals and 5 assists. Only Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema scored more goals in LaLiga last term and Gerard’s tally is all the more impressive when you consider he was frequently used on the right flank rather than as the side’s main striker.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Emery continues to use Gerard Moreno out wide or whether he opts for a more orthodox front two with the 28 year old partnering Paco Alcacer. With the likes of Take Kubo and Samuel Chukwueze also capable of playing in attacking right wing role, it seems more likely that Gerard will be used as a striker this season and he’ll fancy he can get close to 20 goals again as he aims to make Spain’s squad for the European Championship next summer.


One to Watch – Take Kubo

Takefusa Kubo was a joy to watch at Mallorca last season with his refreshing attitude and immense ability suggesting he’s a player with a very bright future indeed. This is a good move for Kubo and a good move Villarreal. It’ll be really interesting to see how he fits in at the Ceramica and he should flourish in a team that is likely to enjoy more of the ball and dominate more games than the Balearic Islanders did.

Kubo will face a battle for a starting role though with fellow youngsters Samuel Chukwueze and Javier Ontiveros also hoping to establish themselves in the Villarreal first XI.


Villarreal 2020/21 Targets

To an extent, this isn’t the easiest of jobs for Unai Emery given Villarreal set the bar pretty high last season with a 5th place finish. Breaking into the top four may be just beyond them unless Sevilla suffer an unexpected decline under Julen Lopetegui. Therefore a repeat of last season’s 5th place finish may be as good as it can possibly get in LaLiga, but they do look to have a squad capable of doing that.

The cups will be a big focus for Villarreal this season too with Unai Emery’s exceptional Europa League record one of the main reasons he got the job. They look capable of going deep in the Europa League while a club like Villarreal ought to fancy their chances in a Copa del Rey which no longer features two-legged ties.

LLE Prediction: 5th


Villarreal Season Preview 2019-2020
Villarreal

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Spanish football writer
About Mark Sochon 1703 Articles
Mark is a freelance writer based in Madrid, writing mostly about Spanish football. His work has been published by the likes of Guardian Sport & World Soccer. Contact: marksochon (at) hotmail.co.uk