Why Roberto Soldado Deserves Praise for his Start to Life at Villarreal, Despite a Lack of Goals
Posted on 24th October 2015
For a man who scored 16 goals in 76 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur, Roberto Soldado’s late-career revival never seemed as it would happen by a mere switching of settings – even if it did include a return to his home region of Valencia.
At 30 years of age, the best version of Soldado is likely already in the history books. His international prospects have been and gone, as has his chance to affirm himself as one of Europe’s most feared sharpshooters. However, what now remains is an opportunity to rubber-stamp his status as one of the finest domestic strikers in Spain’s recent memory, following on from his time with Valencia and Getafe previously. And even with a modest two goals in eight games, the early signs are good.
It took him just 30 minutes to find the back of the net in the league opener at Real Betis, while in the corresponding weeks, Villarreal also rocketed to the summit of the table thanks to a string of free-flowing attacking performances. Nine goals were notched in three games, while for added effect; Marcelino’s team took the scalp of Atletico Madrid in September. In a team headed by Soldado, one would thus assume that the 30-year-old has remained a centrepiece of their successful start. And he has, albeit in a rather covert manner that has seen remnants of his true impact lost within the flurry.
While Villarreal’s overall statistics may make for pleasant reading, Soldado’s contribution of two league goals within the team’s 13 appears rather meager. After scoring in week one and two, the goals have dried up. And as of week eight, the Real Madrid youth product has now gone 450 minutes without finding the back of the net, to draw parallels with the two-year dry spell which he appeared to have emerged from.
To look beyond his goal tally however, a much different picture quickly reveals itself. Nobody has assisted more goals in Spain than Soldado so far, and when coupled with his own strikes, it means that his contributions have accounted for just under half of Villarreal’s production in the final third.
The blistering start made by the Yellow Submarine has gone some ways to masking their underlying deficiencies, and it has been Soldado who has taken it upon himself to help cover them up in the name of their cause.
In the 4-4-2 that Marcelino remains loyal to, much of the team’s product comes from wide areas due to a lack of a central creative source. Although midfield pairing Bruno Soriano and Manu Trigueros are exceptional players in their own right, the link between midfield and attack through the middle isn’t an innate feature of Villarreal’s game, meaning the buck has somewhat fallen with Soldado.
Given the 30-year-old’s ability in protecting and distributing the ball with his back to goal – which has been consistently on show since he returned to Spain – a large feature of his game has been based around his willingness to occupy the space between central midfield and the tip of Villarreal’s attack. And while that has facilitated the team’s serenity in the final third, it has come to the detriment of his own goalscoring exploits.
Instead of being the man Villarreal look to for the final touch of the attack (as many had expected), Soldado has been doing very much the opposite due to the nature of his skillset and the team’s immediate options. Unlike strike partners Leo Baptistao and Cedric Bakambu who have cashed in on the goals more than Soldado, neither possesses the ability to occupy spaces in between the lines like he does. And as a result, it means the former two find themselves bearing down on goal at much more regular intervals than the former Spurs man, who in turn is doing much of the foundation work for his teammates.
In many ways, the variety of his attacking attributes has sentenced him to a role which doesn’t reflect his contribution in its full essence – at least to the naked eye. At the moment, Soldado is doing positive work for the team that flies under the radar of tangible notoriety and leaves him susceptible to the recurring jibes of his loss of a ‘goalscoring touch’.
For a man who is imaginably desperate to recapture just that before further time elapses on his career, he should be commended if anything.
About the author – Jamie Kemp
Jamie is a freelance sportswriter, who writes on English and Spanish varieties of football in the main. He is also the creator of the popular blog El Rondo; a spot where you can find regular musings on the world of La Liga.