Don't take one defeat as a sign of decline, after ten straight years in La Liga, the Yellow Submarines show no sign of relenting. Welcome to IBWM Ross Mackiewicz.
It is normally Barcelona who are related to the infamous tiki-taka football that has been expertly mastered by the aforementioned to perfection. However, another of their adversaries is making a fine job of it themselves and it’s not Real Madrid.
Villarreal have been a breath of fresh air this season in La Liga. The Yellow Submarines mode of football has been nothing short of superb as they continue to impress in a quest for UEFA Champions League football next season. Last weekend’s victory over Espanyol thanks to a Giuseppe Rossi stunner was a culmination of their flair and efficiency. In a game of such magnitude and their desire to dine with Europe’s elite next season, the men in yellow battled against a resolute opponent and came out on top. The visitors became only the second team to defeat the Catalonian side in their backyard this season – the other being Barcelona.
Coach Juan Carlos Garrido has done a sterling job since taking over the reins last year and his philosophy to play an attractive brand of football has worked wonders. He implements similar methodologies into his team that relates to that of Barcelona. His midfield quartet of Santi Cazorla, Ruben Cani, Bruno Soriano and Borja Valero has conjured up an understanding similar to the midfield that’s playing its trade in Catalonia.
Borja Valero, who was on loan from West Bromwich Albion, is one of the league’s unsung heroes. His ability to fill in the hole just behind the front-two of Giuseppe Rossi and Marco Ruben has allowed him to express his technical expertise and utilise his vision. The awareness of the stocky Spaniard to receive a ball into feet before participating in a neat one-two with one of his peers mirrors that of Andres Iniesta. He has come on leaps and bounds this season and his involvement has played in integral part in the Submarines rise to the top-three.
Santi Cazorla is another who has been in riveting form. The European Championship winner has battled his way back up the football spectrum after various injury problems plagued his development in the last eighteen months. He has been flawless in terms of passing prowess and the ability to construct a match-winning piece of play. He did it again last weekend against Espanyol as it was his assist that allowed Rossi to smash home the winner. It was typical of Cazorla as he sought after the ball before continuously viewing his options and subsequently making his move. He is ever so composed on the ball and has the attributes to produce jinking runs that bamboozle his opposition.
The club from Castellon have been a credit to themselves. Their failure to beat the giants such as Real Madrid and Barcelona has been their hindrance but that didn’t deter their evident quality, especially from Barca coach Pep Guardiola who lavished them with praise.
After the Catalan’s 3-1 win back in November he said:
"I was very impressed with Villarreal in every sense. They play really, really good football. The rival was immense. They are a top team. They play so, so well. We have beaten one of the best teams in the world."
For a statement like that to come from the lips of a man who has participated in the Johan Cruyff philosophy of ‘total football’ for nearly two decades is a glowing testament to the football club.
What is really impressive with Villarreal is their intelligence and understanding. The movement is continuous as every pass is constructed with the front-two of Rossi and Ruben jockeying for space and dropping deep to assist their teammates. The clinical nature of Rossi in particular has been an integral part of the clubs success in front of goal. He has already netted 12 times and his exploits last weekend against Espanyol lead to a reported £35million bid from Tottenham Hotspur that was subsequently knocked back.
Maybe the confidence in the Villarreal ranks was being coasted on as they succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at El Madrigal to relegation battlers Levante on Saturday. A lapse of concentration perhaps along with the underestimation of their opponents contributed to their downfall - perhaps a flaw that needs to be addressed by their coach, Mr Garrido.
Nevertheless the club has made big strides in the last ten years since their promotion from the Segunda Division - even finishing as La Liga runners-up back in 2008. Juan Garrido has revealed his desire to match the best in the game, therefore learning from their policies.
In a recent interview with Sky Sport’s Revista De Le Liga he explained how Barcelona’s philosophy has became the inspiration into his tactical methodology – one that can win titles.
"I try to learn off everyone, I was talking to Rafael Benítez, Carlos Queiroz and Alex Ferguson and I think they are all very impressive people and are a very good reference for me. I think in a club you have to learn off everybody.”
"Barcelona is a reference for us, too - they are a team who play perfectly. They have the best players in the history of Spain.”
"They have a style. Yes they have fantastic players but their style is fantastic, too. The teams who play like that are teams who win titles."
The correlation is evident between Garrido’s team and that of the Spanish champions. Although the Yellow Submarine are some way off the standard of their counterparts, there is no doubt they heading in the right direction and at this rate will rise to the service as one of the games most revered teams.
Ross writes regularly for goal.com and Soccerlens. You can find him on Twitter @RossMackiewicz.