Everyone has different ideas on how to run a football club. Spend a lot of money? Invest in your youth? Wheel and deal your way to mediocrity? Me? I’ve chosen to run this club in line with The Villarreal Project as explained in the opening post:
- Quality of Leadership
- Financial Strategy
- Political Strategy
- Manager Profile
- Player Recruitment
- The Football Complex
- The Stadium
- European Success
- Community Ownership
- First Love Campaign
As we work our way through the updates I will refer to the above as check points along the way to make sure I cover our philosophies and don’t steer us off course. I’ve discussed the transfer dealings which covers off point 5 and now we’ll start working through our start to the 2018/19 season.
Quality of Leadership
In line with the Director’s high standards I looked to rejuvenate the non-playing staff to bring in the best available staff members possible. A new assistant manager, along with other backroom staff, made their way in to El Madrigal to give us one of, if not, the best coaching staff in the league. When we move into the second season I’ll go into more detail about what I look for in a staff member and how to build a great backroom team.
With the focus on tactical familiarity and fitness I arranged 10 friendlies against varying levels of opposition including a tour of China. Why China? Part of the political strategy was to include networking and affiliations to help grow the Villarreal brand globally and when the time comes I will look to seek affiliation in China with a view to grow our merchandise sales in Asia. I also arranged the inaugural Copa del Pamesa tournament to generate a sense of competition and make pre-season that little bit more enjoyable, however this turned out to be a bit of a cock up as the Football Manager fixture computer cancelled the Final fixture! We finished pre-season as I always do, with a morale boosting fixture against a local or affiliated team, for this game it was both, Onda are one of our affiliated clubs and based in Valencia and they had the unfortunate task of being the whipping boys.
The curtain-raiser for the season is the Supercopa which pits the League winners Barcelona against the Copa del Rey winners Villarreal in a two-legged tie. Unfortunately for us Barcelona were a little too much to handle across too legs at this early point in the project. Two 1-0 losses saw the Supercopa head back to the trophy cabinet at The Camp Nou. The 4-2-2-2 system frustrated the Catalans and actually provided me with some confidence that this system could be difficult to break down.
After a less than ideal opener against Granada and some tactical tweaks to the 4-2-2-2 & 4-3-1-2 systems saw us pick up a great haul of points in September ending with me picking up manager of the month.
As we progressed through the months towards the winter break we only lost a further 2 games against Celta and Barcelona, the latter was a real dicking. We actually went 1-0 up and thinking that we’d have enough to restrict Barcelona based on the results in the Supercopa I didn’t change a thing and within 4 minutes I found us 2-1 down!
We’ve lost 3 games in the first half of the season to Granada, Celta & Barcelona. I didn’t expect to win against Barcelona but the losses against Grandada and Celta hurt, but I can offset one of those losses against the fantastic victory we had against Real Madrid at El Madrigal, goals from Benedetto, Moreno, Welbeck & Castillejo saw us run out 4-1 victors against Los Merengues.
We were drawn against OGC Nice, Wolfsburg & Russian minnows Ural. My expectations were to get through the group stage using as many of the second-string players as possible. Three wins and a draw would normally see you through the group stage, but a final game 1-1 draw with Nice saw us knocked out of the group stage on head-to-head results! Gutted is an understatement, one of our ingredients was to treat every European game as important and maximise the opportunity to progress (Point 8). In hindsight I should have played a stronger starting eleven in these games which may have given us a better chance of qualifying, I won’t make that mistake again.
Copa del Rey
As current holders of the Copa del Rey many would believe that we should honour the reputation of the cup by playing our strongest side, that wasn’t quite the case, I want to give game time to the likes of Manu Morlanes, Alex Robles and Lincoln and the cup games give us that opportunity. We’ve managed to make it to the semi-final where we’ll face off against cup specialists, Sevilla.
We’ve had a solid start in the league which sees us sitting third behind Real Madrid and Barcelona. A semi-final tie against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey gives us a great opportunity to retain our trophy. The Europa League performance is the only disappointing news we’ve had in the first half of the season, but freeing up those Thursday nights will allow us to focus on the league and the important Champions League money. Personnel-wise there have been some encouraging performances from our new recruits, Xadas, Benedetto & Lukaku have been first team regulars that have returned great ratings, goals and assists. Our free transfer of Danny Welbeck has proven to be a great investment, when Benedetto got injured he stepped in and filled the Argentine’s boots comfortable and has a goal return of 15 in 19!
In other news, Manuel Pellegrini has spent more time watching Villarreal than looking after his West Ham side:
The second half of the season will be interesting, there has been some good transfer activity in-and-out that I’ll post about separately, the 4-3-1-2 is working wonders and the hunt for the new Riquelme might be complete.
Thanks for reading. Vamos Villarreal.