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Hinchas y Jugadores - Villarreal with Allen Dodson (7th May, 2017)

Allen Dodson runs the VillarrealUSA.com blog, a SBNation blog dedicated to all things Villarreal and the official penya of Villarreal in USA. You can follow it on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

A bit about yourself and your background...

I live in central California, have been a football (soccer) fan since the early 1970’s. We didn’t have youth soccer anywhere when I was growing up so I’ve had to satisfy my craving for the game by writing about it rather than playing it.

How long have you been a fan of Villarreal and what made you support them in the first place?

I started following Villarreal when they had that incredible Champions League run in 2005-06. Ironically, what started me following their results was that I had grown up a Liverpool supporter and Villarreal defeated Everton, Liverpool’s rival, in the qualifying round, so I liked them immediately!

But what really got me following the team in earnest was that Marcos Senna, who was just incredible in the 2008 Euros, played for Villarreal - he and Juan Capdevila were pretty much the only players not from Madrid or Barcelona. I liked the story of a team from a small industrial town taking on the big boys and doing pretty well.

Given the transfer windows and the squad that was assembled at the start of the season, is Villarreal where you want it to be?

It was a difficult summer - we lost our sporting director to Monaco, we lost Roberto Soldado to injury, and then Marcelino was fired just before the season started. I thought we’d be more like 9th or 10th, frankly, so I am OK with how we are.

Of the signings made this season, which one worked out the best/had the most impact and why?

Hard to say - Roberto Soriano has had some incredible matches for us, so I would go with him. Álvaro Gonzalez has been an important player as a third center-back, too - Ruiz and Musacchio have both missed a good deal of time and Álvaro has filled in capably.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Villarreal this season? Any standout players?

Strengths: midfield, and until Asenjo went down, goalkeeping.
Weaknesses: lack of a consistent finisher, lack of a really physical defender who can close down a star forward consistently.
Standout players: Manu Trigueros, Mario Gaspar, Bruno Soriano.

List some things you appreciate and some things you can’t stand about the club management. Rant away :)

I appreciate the management’s commitment to the project - not just the first team, but all of our teams, from the youth on up. And I appreciate their fiscal responsibility. We don’t have any external debt, we own our stadium, and we have a balanced budget every year.

Things I can’t stand: Well, I don’t have any significant ones, and they are more personal than anything else. I think the biggest thing is just that because the club is so provincial, they haven’t really interacted with overseas fans very much, or figured out good ways to do it - especially if you’re outside Europe. When you visit Vila-real, everyone is great - but it’s hard to keep things going when you’re back home.

For instance, it’s impossible to order stuff from overseas on the club website - they need to set up PayPal or something so it’s easy to pay from the US.  That’s probably my biggest complaint! I’d love to see the team play over here some summer - that would be nice. The club is doing a lot more in English now on Twitter/Facebook/official website, so that is good.

What has the mood among the fans been during the campaign? Do you generally agree/disagree with them?

The fans have been all over the place this season. I think a lot of the younger local fans have grown up with Villarreal always doing well in Europe and the league (they conveniently skip over our relegation season) so they tend to expect too much.

Are there any talented youngsters at the club that you expect to have a big future?

We’ve got some very talented players. Rodrigo has played a decent amount in midfield and is the future Bruno Soriano I feel; Adrián Marín has been on loan and has had some injury issues but is going to be an excellent back-line player. I think Alfonso Pedraza is an outstanding talent and I hope he stays with us; Leeds United have an option to sign him if they get promoted though. And Leo Suárez is an excellent player as well - has had some injuries this season playing with our second team but is a quick player, can shoot and pass very well in the final third.

If you could make one realistic signing for Villarreal this summer who would it be?

We need a strong young central defender - Emanuel Mammana (Lyon) would fit the bill. And another striker or two would be good - how about Monaco’s Guido Carillo or Valère Germain? Or a young player like Adama Niane from Troyes? Only 23 and has scored a passel of goals in the French second division.
Of course I would love Mbappé from Monaco or Lacazette from Lyon but those may not fit the ‘realistic’ requirement.

Finally, predicted finish for Villarreal?

I think we will hang on to 5th place.

A huge thanks to Allen for taking the time to do this.

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