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Performance analysis: Villarreal 2011-12

Villarreal had a disastrous 2011-12. They are relegated to the Spanish Segunda Division in the dying minutes of the season.

The obvious question was “What went wrong?”

The easy answers are the exit of Santi Cazorla and the long-term injury to Giuseppe Rossi. But that doesn’t fully explain how a team that featured in the Champions League group stage could get relegated.

This post compares the 2011-12 season to the 2010-11 season statistically to try and answer the question.


  • Publicly available Player rating, Opposition, Formation and results of every La Liga game of Villarreal in the seasons 2010-11 and 2011-12 from
  • Whoscored rating is based on custom algorithms that use in-game stats collected by Opta.

Data Shortcomings

  • The rating is a single number where we don’t really know how it is calculated.
  • However it allows us to make relative comparisons.


  1. Compare the ratings of the goalkeeper, the defense, the wing backs, the midfield and the forward lines of 2012 to those of 2011.
    *Excluded the games vs. teams that got relegated (Almeria, Hercules and Deportivo) and promoted (Rayo Vallecano, Granada and Real Betis) at the end of the 2010-11 season. This allows for comparing performance on a per opponent basis.
  2. Demonstrate that the results are statistically significant (T-test)
  3. Compare the overall team ratings with 4231 and 442 in the 2012 season
  4. 2012 progress chart with major events.

Midfield (Attacking midfielders + Central midfielders)

Figure 1 – Average midfield rating in 2011 and 2012 seasons by opponents
The opponents are sorted (left to right) based on their final position of the 2011-12 season.

Figure 2 – Delta in midfield rating between 2011 & 2012 by opponent
(negative means the rating was worse in the 2012 season)

2012 better than 2011 (delta >= +0.2) 8
2012 worse than 2011 (delta <= -0.2) 17
Almost even in both seasons (Delta between -0.2 and +0.2) 7

Figure 3 – Most frequent midfield starters in 2011 & 2012


  • Figure 1 shows a drop-off of 0.2 points in the average midfield rating from 2011 to 2012 (significant at the 95th percentile).
  • The Standard deviation (-1, 1) bands indicate that the 2012 midfield was consistently worse than the 2011 midfield.
  • Figure 2 shows that Villarreal midfield played poorly against a lot teams that finished in the bottom half of the table. Getafe, Espanyol, Málaga and Athletic.  They took just 8 out of the 24 points available against these 4 teams.
  • The midfield fared better in 2012 than in 2012 vs. Valencia but gave up late goals and took only 1 out of 6 points vs. their derby rivals.
  • Against Sporting and Sevilla, the midfield has improved from last year both home and away. ( took 10 out of 12 points against them this season)
  • Villarreal’s midfield played better against Real Madrid & Barcelona at home than they did last year.  Earned two draws in 2012 vs. 2 losses in 2011.
  • Figure 3 shows Santi Cazorla left a huge gap in the starting line-up for 2012.

Wingbacks (Leftback & Rightback)

Figure 4 – Average wingback rating in 2011 and 2012 seasons by opponents

Figure 5 – Delta in Wingback rating between 2011 & 2012 by opponent

2012 better than 2011 (delta >= +0.2) 10
2012 worse than 2011 (delta <= -0.2) 17
Almost even in both seasons (Delta between -0.2 and +0.2) 5

Figure 6 – Most frequent Wingback starters in 2011 & 2012


  • Figure 4: The average rating at wingback dropped only slightly from 2011 to 2012 despite using six different players for at least 6 games in 2012 as opposed to only 4 in 2011 (only significant at the 80th percentile). (Figure 6)
  • Figure 4: Standard Deviation band implies that the performances at wingback were more inconsistent in 2012.
  • Figure 5: The worst performance at Wingback was against Barça in a 5-0 loss at the Camp Nou. Joan Oriol and newly signed Cristian Zapata were the starting wingbacks in that game.

Defence – Centerbacks

Figure 7 – Average Centerback rating in 2011 and 2012 seasons by opponents

Figure 8 - Delta in Centerback rating between 2011 & 2012 by opponent

2012 better than 2011 (delta >= +0.2) 10
2012 worse than 2011 (delta <= -0.2) 19
Almost even in both seasons (Delta between -0.2 and +0.2) 3

Figure 9 – Most frequent Centerback starters in 2011 & 2012


  • Figure 7 shows that Center back average rating has dropped 0.3 points (significant at the 95th percentile)
  • The biggest drop off at the Center back position was against Osasuna at home in a 1-1 draw. In the 2011 season Villarreal won this fixture 4-0.
  • The center-backs have performed poorly against teams that finished in the bottom half of the table.


Figure 10 – Average rating of Forwards in 2011 and 2012 seasons by opponents

Figure 11 – Delta in Forwards’ rating between 2011 & 2012 by opponent

2012 better than 2011 (delta >= +0.2) 7
2012 worse than 2011 (delta <= -0.2) 20
Almost even in both seasons (Delta between -0.2 and +0.2) 5

Figure 12 – Most frequent starters at Forward in 2011 & 2012


  • Figure 10: Unsurprisingly, Villarreal saw the worst performance drop-off at the Forward position with a 0.6 points drop in average rating (significant at the 99th percentile).
  • Figure 12: The team hasn’t been able to find a serviceable replacement for Giuseppe Rossi all season. Nilmar’s injuries and lack of form didn’t help the matters at all.
  • The team switched to an unfamiliar 4-2-3-1 formation with Marco Ruben as the lone forward. He to missed significant time due to niggling injuries.
  • The two worst drop offs in the performance of the forward line were against Levante and Espanyol, both at home. In 2011 Villarreal beat Levante 2-1 and beat Espanyol 4-0 at home.
  • The best rises in the ratings of the forward line were against Sevilla (home draw & away win) and the relegated Sporting (2 wins).


Figure 13 – Average rating of Goalkeeper in 2011 & 2012 seasons by opponents

Figure 14 – Delta in Goalkeepers’ rating between 2011 & 2012 by opponent

2012 better than 2011 (delta >= +0.2) 12
2012 worse than 2011 (delta <= -0.2) 9
Almost even in both seasons (Delta between -0.2 and +0.2) 9


  1. Villarreal’s goalkeeping saw the least drop-off in the rating from 2011 to 2012 (no significant change)
  2. Based on the Standard deviation bands, Diego Lopez was more consistent in 2012 than in 2011
  3. Diego Lopez’s worst drop-offs in performance came against Málaga (away loss vs. an away in 2011), Sevilla (Home draw vs. a home win in 2011) and Athletic (Away draw vs. an away win in 2011)
  4. Diego Lopez’s best performance was against Sevilla (away win).

Formation comparison: 4-4-2 vs. 4-2-3-1 in 2011-12

Figure 15


  1. Figure 15 shows that despite playing 4-4-2 against tougher opposition (with Barça and Real Madrid home & away) Villarreal has performed better in 4-4-2 than 4-2-3-1/4-3-3
  2. This underlines:
    1. the importance of a serviceable 2nd forward in the squad
    2. Villarreal performs more optimally in 4-4-2.

Season Progress & major events

Figure 16


  • 2 – Longest winning streak
  • 4 – Longest undefeated streak
  • 14 – Draws
  • 3 – Coaches
  • 14 – Villarreal failed to score in 14 games this season
  • 26 – Villarreal scored 1 goal or less in 26 games this season
  • 39 – Villarreal only scored 39 goals this season.

Nervous endings – the struggles of Villarreal to close out games

Figure 17


  1. 15 – Villarreal lost 15 points in the last 10 minutes. The lost leads in 10 games (lost 5, drawn 5).
  2. 6 – Villarreal was able to gain only 6 points in the last 10 ten minutes. They came back in 4 games (won 2, drawn 2)

Whoscored Ranking vs. League position

Figure 18


  • Villarreal’s average rating at the end of the season is at #11 despite finishing 18th in the league.



  • Rossi’s absence and Cazorla’s exit were huge. But there was a drop-off in performances in the other areas of the pitch, most notably at the Centerback position.
  • Injury to Rossi and the lack of an in-form 2nd forward also forced the team to change their optimal formation. They lined up in 4-4-2 only in 33% of the games (13/38)

Conceding late goals

  • Losing a lead after the 80th minute in 10 out of 38 games a season (26.3%) is very bad. They missed avoiding relegation by 1 point. Needing one point to stay up, they lost the last game of the season to an 88th minute goal by Falcao.
  • This possibly explains why Villarreal’s overall rating at the end of the season is 11th despite finishing 18th in the league standings.

    • Could this be a fitness issue?
    • Did players get tired mentally or physically towards the end of the games?

 I would love to explore further to find answers for these questions. But I don’t have data to work with.


Lack of goals

  • Villarreal failed to score in 14 games. The best result possible in such games is only a draw.
  • Villarreal failed to score more than 1 goal in 12 games. It is hard to win a lot of games 1-0 with an inconsistent defense.


  • The longest winning streak of the season is 2. The longest positive streak  of the season is 4 (WDWW)
  • There was a drop off in performances in all positions except at GK. Most acute drop-off was seen in the Forward and Centerback positions.
  • Poor performances against teams in the bottom half of the table.


  1. bart says:

    What about the 11 De Guzman starts in midfield?

    He was supposed to be a alternative for a creative midfielder who can score … he did very well with Real Mallorca the season before and netted 5 goals, unfortunately he played kinda terrible for Villarreal, not sure why.
    Anyway, I think he needs a mention in your chart if you also put in Camuñaz and Pérez.

    Otherwise an excellent post, clear to read and easy to follow.

    • Ravi Ramineni says:

      Thanks for the comment. Good point about De Guzman. But there were very few games where De Guzman started in the midfield. Insufficient data to analyze and draw conclusions.