It’s a marathon not a sprint, that is the motto for this years edition of FM. Historical form would see me at least a few seasons down the line at the festive period and here I am on Christmas Eve starting to write my review of season two in charge of Villarreal.
My update of season one was an in-depth focus on Yeremy Pino, the player which I have chosen to hopefully become a club legend with The Yellow Submarines (one of my objectives).
Therefore, it is on the subject of Yeremy that I will open this blog, consistency is key right? Looking at the above progress visualisation shows how the Spaniard is continuing to progress in relation to his development. At the end of season one he was labelled as a ‘Wonderkid’ by the media, he now has the media description of ‘Elite winger’.
The training process has not changed since I covered it earlier in my thread over on the SI Forum, in which I have a weeks training for when we play stronger opposition and another schedule for when we play weaker opposition.
The training schedule has had a positive impact on Yeremy’s attributes and he has seen significant progress in the following areas. *Note I have only highlighted attributes associated to the role of Trequartista which have seen an increase.
Technical Attributes: Dribbling +2 and Passing +1.
Mental Attributes: Anticipation +2, Composure +1, Decisions +1, and Off the Ball +2.
Physical Attributes: Acceleration +1, Agility +1, and Balance +2
You will also note that Pino has adopted the traits ‘Tries Tricks’ and ‘Tries Killer Balls Often’.
These improvements have lead to Yeremy having a standout season in both La Liga and in the UEFA Champions League, the above visualisation helps to demonstrate how effective the Spaniard has been. First and foremost, let’s take a look at his creative outputs, Yeremy has an open play expected assist per 90 of 0.28, this is 0.19 more than the La Liga average for creative forwards.
His actual output of 17 assists across all competitions (3192 minutes) equals an assist per 90 of 0.48! We can thank Fer Niño for helping Yeremy’s assist figure as the striker scored 39 goals across all competitions (31 in La Liga and 8 in European competition), this led to him securing the ‘Pachichi’ and the ‘European Golden Shoe’ beating Karim Benzema (28) of Real Madrid and Arnaud Kalimuendo (26) of Rennes.
Secondly, looking at his attacking output Yeremy has a non penalty expected gaols figure of 0.31, again this is 0.18 higher than the La Liga average. Yeremy managed to hit the back of the net 16 times across the campaign (13 in La Liga and 3 in Europe).
His outputs for the season were higher than in season one (13 goals and 10 assists), scoring and assisting double figure numbers also meant that the following statement which I made in ‘THE CROWN OF ARAGON — FANTASISTA’ was met.
Whilst I am happy with this, I would like to see him secure a greater number of assists compared to goals scored, although I would like both outputs to be stay in the double figure realms.
The below spreadsheet which compares statistical outputs across seasons for individuals, produced by Ben on the SI Forum shows that Yeremy has improved across all attacking statistics.
It is this improvement which has helped Yeremy to pick up the second best average rating in La Liga, topped only by teammate and fellow countryman Fer Nino.
The simply magnificent performances, which spanned across the duration of the season from both players, secured them both slots in the La Liga Team of the Season, the first non Real Madrid/Barcelona players to secure places in the select group since starting the save.
Yeremy demonstrated his ability to perform in the UEFA Champions League, securing the third best average rating and leading the charts for assists (6) with teammate Gerard Moreno. For those of you who haven’t been following along in the thread we secured top place in the Group Stage before being knocked out to eventual winners Manchester City.
I am opening this section with a quote from Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski.
Clubs spending on salaries was extremely telling, the size of the wage bill explained a massive 92% of variation in their league positions. In short, wages buy success.
You will see from the above ‘Salary per annum’ that we currently hold the seventh highest salary in La Liga. Therefore, using the above quotation, our media predication of finishing in fourth place was already outperforming our positioning based on salary.
Our second place finish was exceptional and honestly after looking at the results, I have got to say that I simply could not have done more. Season two has been smashing and some might say if we didn’t win it then…will we ever?
Comparing our general performances from season one, it is clear to see that we have become a little more aggressive in attack. This is reflected in our increased goals per game and shots per game, the quality of shot has not decreased (note our expected goals per game). However, we have conceded more, although the expected goals against per game has decreased. It was always going to be hard for Rulli to maintain such a high save percentage across two campaigns.
Despite having improved from season one, there is one trend which has continued across both years, a trend of significant value in our attempts to be crowned ‘Kings of La Liga’.
Our inability to secure results against the ‘Big Three’, this is clear for the world to see, if we are going to secure the title then we MUST improve when facing the Super-clubs of Spain.
LA FURIA ROJA
Yeremy Pino now has a worldwide reputation, this paired with his consistency on the pitch has secured him a call up to La Furia Roja, the Spanish national side.
He joined four other Villarreal players in the squad selected to play in the UEFA European Championships in Germany 2024.
Here is a little update on how the quintet performed for Roberto Martínez side.
Unlike the World Cup of 2022 in which both Gerard Moreno and Pau Torres both played peripheral parts in Luis Enrique’s side, four of Villarreal’s player played over 52% of the total minutes which Spain accumulated in the tournament, one which they ended up winning.
Yeremy Pino was the only Villarreal player to start the tournament as Spain hit Wales for five goals. Pau Torres was introduced on the 59th minute, replacing Thiago, Pino assisted Rodri in the 34th minute and picked up an average rating of 7.6. The other goals were scored by Ferran Torres (Brace), Ansu Fati, and Aymeric Laporte.
Portugal were up next and again the only player to start was Yeremy Pino, with Aymeric Laporte and Eric García favoured in defence, whilst Ferran Torres leads the line in the Spanish 4–2–3–1. Gerard Moreno and Pau Torres entered the action in the 75th minute for Rodri and Ansu Fati, the final score was 1–1 after Rafael Leão scored a very late equaliser after Ferran Torres opened the scoring early on.
Slovenia were up next, starts were handed to both Torres (Double Pivot role in CM) and Gerard Moreno lead the line. Despite Spain’s dominence (2.24 xG plays 0.24) the deadlock could not be broken. Yeremy Pino was introduced for the last 15 minutes to see if he could find the killer pass to beat ‘Man of the Match’ Jan Oblak. Spain topped the group thanks to goals scored and progressed to the knock-out stages. (0–0)
Serbia were Spain’s opponents in the second round, a game in which Moreno was trusted with the starting birth up top, the Villarreal player walked off with the match ball after scoring a 20 minute hat-trick. Pino played the full 90 minutes along with Torres who partnered Rodri in the double-pivot. Jorge Cuenca secured his first minutes in this match, coming on in the 71st minute for the other goal scorer Aymeric Laporte. (4–1)
Gareth Southgate’s England were up next in a game which seen the lead exchange hands three times. Foden opened the scoring before Yeremy Pino assisted Pedri to level the score. Pino secured Spain the lead before Jude Bellingham took the game into extra-time. The result was secured by Gerard Moreno in the first period of extra-time, Pino played 120 minutes, Moreno replaced Ferran Torres after the first-half, whilst Pau Torres partnered Laporte, this time at centre-back. (3–2 aet)
Fer Nino made his first appearance against the Netherlands, as Roberto Martínez opted to start Gerard Moreno from the right-wing. Pau Torres was the only other started as Pino didn’t feature and Jorge Cuenca was brough on for extra-time, Pedri scoring the decisive goal to take Spain to the Final.
Roberto Martínez again made wholesale changes for the Final against Germany, adopting a 3–4–2–1 formation with Pino the only starter. Our boy scored Spain’s second after Marc Cucurella opened the scoring as Spain were crowned Champions. (2–1).
The plan is to have one more stab at La Liga, if we are to be crowned ‘Champions of Spain’ then I needed to make a number of changes to refresh the squad, given the ageing side which we had, along with players who were in the final year of their playing years.
There were quite a few players out the door, 10 to be exact, which generated the club an additional £57 million to spend.
- Jorge Cuenca (24) to Arsenal £32 million.
- Boulaye Dia (27) to Real Sociedad for £6.25 million.
- Manu Trigueros (32) to Real Sociedad for £6 million.
- Dani Tasende (24) to Betis for £3.8 million.
- Ivan Martin (25) to Getafe for £2.2 million.
- Francis Coquelin (33) to Zenit for £2 million.
- Aïssa Mandi (32) to Leicester for £2 million.
- Kiko Femenía (33) to Rayo Vallecano de Madrid for £1.5 million.
- Johan Mojica (31) to Galatasaray for £900k.
- Adrián De la Fuente (25) to real Valladolid for £425k
We also had the following three players make the decision to hang up their boots.
- Raúl Albiol retired at 38.
- Étienne Capoue retired at 36.
- José Luis Morales retired at 37.
The defence is as good a place to start as any, we sold Jorge Cuenca to Arsenal, our back up and only other left-sided centre-back other than Pau Torres. Our primary target Mario Gila opted to join Monaco, stating he felt they had a better squad than us. His signature would have cost £7.25 million, therefore the signing of both Víctor Chust and Rodrigo Tarín was made for a combined fee of £3.7 million.
- Álex Centelles was signed for £14 million from Almeria, the 24-year-old will provide competition for Alfonso Pedraza as our wing-back down the left flank. Centelles is a slightly more technical player with better decision making skills. However, he most likely wont be as effective without possession.
- Víctor Chust was signed from Cadiz for £1.9 million, at 24 we have signed a player who is about to enter into his prime. Chust is the more defensive player when comparing him to Tarin, his concentration and decision making skills paired with strength and jumping reach leads me to believe he will be an effective presence at the back.
- Rodrigo Tarín was signed for £1.8 million from Real Oviedo, despite playing in the second tier I believe the 28-year-old can be utilised as a back-up to Torres (no side preference when playing in a defensive duo). There is also potential for Tarin to be re-trained as a defensive midfielder.
Moving onto the midfield, we have two big names to announce at the club, both of which will no doubt show that we not only mean business but absolutely improve this unit when comparing to last season.
- Pablo Fornals was transfer listed by West Ham after the English side felt he was of no use to them (madness). This mean that the midfielder and model citizen was available at a cut price (£30 million), which is still a club record fee. Pablo is a player which I have wanted to sign since setting my eyes on the list of players which are available within the realms of ‘The Crown of Aragon’. I am hoping that his first touch paired with his technical ability and agility will make him a handful to play against in the role of inverted winger on support.
- Sander Berge is another player that needs no introductions, the 26-year-old joins us from Sheffield United after failing to agree a new contract. The Norwegian is 6′ 4'’ and will add some additional height to the side (our tallest player), he has a strong mental profile, along with an exceptional pivot (Passing 14 , Technique 14 , and Vision 14) along with great Strength (15), I think he can operate in the role of SV similar to a prime Michael Ballack.
Last but not least the attack, we lost José Luis Morales to retirement and therefore needed a player to play as the complete forward (support) and second string to Gerard Moreno.
- Abel Ruiz is the man who we opted to bring in from Football Club København for £11 million. His traits of ‘Moves Into Channels’, ‘Plays With Back To Goal’ and ‘Plays One-Two’s’ goes a long way in highlighting how he can operate on the field of play. At 24 years of age there is still room for him to develop and take Moreno’s spot as the 32 year-old declines.
THE CROWN OF ARAGON
The above visualisation goes to show where our eleven players in the first-team come from within the realms of the crown.
We have 48% of the senior squad from within the region and 70% of the squad are Spanish nationals.
As I enter Season Three we are one signing away from having the majority of the squad from the realm. To those of you who have yet to try a regionnaire save, I highly recommend it as it stops you from signing players which you/other normally gravitate towards and provides a nice challenge.
Thanks for taking the time to read this longer update, again for those who haven’t read the detailed updates the link to the SI Forum thread can be found here.