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The Curious Case of David Villa

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BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 29:  David Villa of FC Barcelona reacts during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou on November 29, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won 4-0.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 29: David Villa of FC Barcelona reacts during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou on November 29, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won 4-0. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Let me start by saying this: I love David Villa and I was one of the happiest people when he came in to replace a certain Swede we don't talk about. But Villa's recent (maybe recent isn't the correct term) form has not only me, but many other Culés worried about what has happened to our dear David.

Villa is a terrific player and is one of the hardest working people, but for some reason his goalscoring touch has eluded him in Barcelona colors. I know I have probably been spoiled by one Lionel Messi, who more and more looks like he's not from this world, but this David Villa just isn't the same one that played brilliantly for Valencia. Right now everybody is probably thinking that Villa scored two amazing goals against Manchester United in the Champions League Final and Real Madrid in the Supercopa de España and that I have no idea what I'm talking about. It's not as bad as it looks, but the stats tell quite the story, so stay with me here.

So far this season Villa has scored nine goals in 22 games. A 0.41 G/Gm (Goals per Game) would make pretty much every striker in the world very happy, but looking at Villa's career numbers this is a bad stretch for him. If you add the incredible goalscoring drought he went through in the second half of the 2010-11 season Villa's stats add up to 11 goals in 39 appearances (0.28 G/Gm). Like I said, he did score to very important goals during that stretch, however, those are not good numbers, especially when you consider that he is not playing for Real Zaragoza anymore. He's playing with some of the best players in the world who often try to make that extra pass to David, that was especially evident toward the end of last season, so he could gain some confidence with an easy goal.

Overall Villa's 2010-11 season wasn't bad, heck, if you look at the stat sheet you will say he had an excellent year with 23 goals and 8 assists in 52 appearances. However, looking deeper into the stats Villa's, dare I say, decline began against his former team, Valencia, on 2 March. Before that game he scored 21 times and assisted on five goals in 31 games; those are almost Messi-type numbers with a 0.68 G/Gm, which is right along Villa's pre-Barca career goals/game number of 0.71. Villa's late season lack of scoring wasn't because of lack of chances, he fired 44 shots in the "rainy" days of the season, but he just looked like he lacked confidence in front of the goal.

To add to Villa's frustration he was caught offside more than any other played in the league. Villa has always been prone to straying offside, but at times he reminded me of the legendary Filippo Inzaghi, who would be offside two, three times in a game in which he came on as a substitute in the final ten minutes.

To make Villa's case even more curious is his form for La Furia Roja. Villa hasn't lost a step in his play for the Spanish national side and as a member of the starting eleven for Vicente Del Bosque David is constantly finding the back of the net. In the time since Villa has been a Barcelona player, since May 2010, he has 22 appearances for Spain and 17 goals scored while also adding three assists. This adds up to an amazing 0.77 G/Gm.

And if you were thinking there weren't enough stats in this article, well, you were right. This next table should provide further evidence of David Villa's lack of form since joining Barcelona. Detailed stats for Villa's time in Asturias with Sporting Gijón were impossible to find so I started with his next club, Real Zaragoza.

Team Minutes per Goal
Real Zaragoza 179
Valencia CF 134
FC Barcelona 174
Spain 98

This shows that Villa's lack of goals per game isn't due to him playing less minutes per game.

Now we come to the last part of this analysis. What is the reason for this drop off? The simple answer is that Villa is playing on the (left) wing for Barcelona and he's not getting as many scoring chances compared to the times he played as the striker for other clubs and country. But that simply is not the case. David was playing on the wing during his amazing first half of last season, but for some reason he fell of the bus even though nothing appeared to change. But did it?

Villa was never known as a good dribbler, to be honest, he never needed to be as he played as a striker pretty much all his life. However, to play on the wing you have to beat the first man to get into open space. The league wasn't used to Villa on the wing so when Pep Guardiola put him there David might have gotten away with more because defenders didn't know his only move (quick cut inside with a run to the middle). Until defenders adapted to this, Villa was able to cut inside and play a quick one-two with Messi/Iniesta/Xavi which led to David being all alone in front of the keeper where he was one simple finish away from adding his name to the scoresheet. But defenders get paid big bucks to read attackers and steal the ball from them, and when David Villa was exposed it led to a big amount of balls lost by him which cut down the amount of clear-cut chances.

However, while that doesn't fill me with confidence it is not the part of Villa's game that worries me the most. Attackers are going to lose the ball and won't hit the target every time, and I can live with that, but Villa's lack of confidence and creativity in front of the goal is concerning. Villa made a name for himself with his precise finishing and making chances count, but not only is he now at times missing the target altogether (sometimes badly), he is no longer picking the corners and is therefore often firing straight at the keeper.

And here's comes the difficult question; with Alexis Sanchez and Pedro returning to form and the emerging Isaac Cuenca, who has become a favourite of many Barca fans, making a case for himself, is it time to bench David Villa or does he deserve more chances? Villa definitely has a nose for the net in big games and the experience he brings would be invaluable against Real Madrid in Saturday's El Clasico, but can you afford the risk of Villa having a bad game against this highly talented Madrid team? I say no and therefore Pep should start a front three of Messi, Alexis and Cesc/Cuenca. That being said, I'm 97.3% positive Villa will start the El Clasico.

Feel free to share your thoughts.

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