by Lewis Ambrose
Each year there is one European side that travels all the way to London in order to play in the Emirates Cup but not face Arsenal.
This year that team is Villarreal CF but, as they will be at the tournament hosted by the Gunners and will face the two teams that Arsenal face over the weekend I thought they were also worth a preview.
An impressive 10 game unbeaten run included a win away from home against Atlético Madrid and saw Villarreal looking safe in their charge for European football by February. Another trip to Madrid brought a draw against Real but a lack of killer instinct and the sale of Gabriel Paulista to Arsenal saw Villarreal ‘only’ finish sixth, a huge 14 points adrift of Sevilla.
The Yellow Submarine further displayed their pedigree last season with a number of impressive Europa League displays. Two games against Borussia Mönchengladbach ended in draws before the Spanish side knocked Red Bull Salzburg out of the Europa League. Eventual winners and fellow La Liga side sent Villarreal packing in the round go 16.
Last season Villarreal focussed on playing through the middle. When the game suited it they looked to soak up pressure and attack on the break and they may have to implement that kind of style more often once again this season. Manager Marcellino had his team set up in an organised 4-4-2 but that may change ahead of the new season with a defensive 4-5-1 a possible option.
Well, Luciano Vietto has been sold. Last season’s second top goalscorer Gerard Moreno will be crucial and pressure will be on captain Bruno Soriano to guide a young squad through the season. Villarreal relied on having a strong defence last season and Mateo Musacchio is an important member of the back four behind Bruno.
Gabriel signed for Arsenal last summer and now star man Luciano Vietto has signed for Atlético Madrid, Villarreal will struggle to be as strong this season.
Victor Ruiz has made his loan move from Valencia a permanent one and wingers Samuel and Samu Castillejo have joined from Malaga, suggesting two wingers will be used in a 4-5-1 (or 4-3-3) more often than the 4-4-2 that was used last season.