Last La Liga match for Barcelona in the 2019/20 season. They did not disappoint. Showtime as visitors as, despite not being able to win the competition, the team left positive sensations before the Champions League. These are five takeaways from the Deportivo Alavés 0–5 Barcelona.
A victory, three points, clean sheet, manita and confidence recovered as visitors. Against Alavés, Barcelona radically changed compared to the previous and disappointing encounter with Osasuna. The azulgranas came out from minute 1 to look for goals, to play with intensity, and to put on a show at Mendizorroza. Although the result will not take away the league trophy from Real Madrid, it will return smiles to culés and restore the team’s confidence and motivation. With a 0–5 win, this is how Barça officially ended the 2019/20 season in La Liga. These are five things we learned from the Deportivo Alavés 0–5 Barcelona.
1. Riqui Puig masterclass
Riqui Puig was part of the starting eleven and played all 90 minutes at Vitoria, doing a magnificent job in all facets of the game. In attack, by delivering endless key passes, moving from side to side and being very involved, as usual. In defence, he was impeccable in recovering balls and going to press with great intensity. Fans probably witnessed Puig’s best display with the first team. Multiple key passes and many chances generated. He not only gave his first assist in La Liga, but he did it twice.
❗ This was Riqui Puig’s first ever assist in La Liga.— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) July 19, 2020
Many more to come! pic.twitter.com/hncqP4c5sP
Riqui’s first assist came in a counter-atack in which Sergi Roberto sent a great pass to number 28. The youngster calmly controlled the ball and read very well the movement of Lionel Messi, who scored the second of the match. Later, in the second period, Puig received a pass from Messi and had the vision to spot Nélson Semedo arriving into the opposing box, delivering a subtle pass for the Portuguese to score the 0–4. Moreover, the 20-year-old did not stop creating opportunities, as he could even had had two more assists after beautiful balls for Luis Suárez and Arturo Vidal that unfortunately did not end in a goal.
2. Not many available players, but versatile ones
A list of 16 footballers at first glance looks dramatic, especially considering that there were only five men on the bench, two of whom were goalkeepers. For these chaotic situations, it is always necessary to thank Barça for having versatile players capable of playing in multiple positions. This has already been proven more than once this season with Sergi Roberto, Nélson Semedo, Frenkie de Jong and Arturo Vidal.
In the second period, Arturo Vidal acted as a centre-back, as he had done on a few occasions at Juventus | Photo by Ander Gillenea / AFP via Getty Images
During the match against Deportivo Alavés, with a limited squad, Clément Lenglet suffered slight ankle discomfort, forcing him to request the change at the beginning of the second half. With a suspended Gerard Piqué and an injured Samuel Umtiti, Quique Setién had to make an emergency decision to maintain the four-man defensive line. For this, it was Arturo Vidal who acted as centre-back throughout the second half, doing more than well enough. It is always important to have these type of players on a team because you never know when that valuable versatility will be needed.
3. Ansu Fati shows his talent once again
Ansu Fati covered almost all areas of the left flank, as his mobility, reading of spaces and positioning helped the team to create the required width. With the ball, his control, agility, decision making and explosiveness were important for Barcelona to comfortably beat Alavés. 17 years and Ansu continues to shine.
“Ansu Fati doesn’t surprise me at all. He is an assassin from the area”
Ansu Fati’s attributes allowed him to be Lionel Messi’s best partner, as he anticipated the Argentinian’s chipped pass to the centre of the area to come out of nowhere and open the scoring. Undoubtedly the teenager has to be essential in the Champions League this year and be permanently promoted to the first team in the following season.
4. Lionel Messi’s Pichichi and new records
Lionel Messi’s inclusion in the initial line-up was criticised for him needing rest, but you can’t talk about resting the number 10 when he is on the verge of achieving new feats. Messi was pressured by Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema in the race for the Pichichi trophy for the most goals in La Liga. Before matchday 38, Messi had a lead of only two goals. However, a hungry Leo filled with energy secured his seventh Pichichi in his career to become the first player in history to win this many.
❗ RECORD — Messi has now been involved in 1000 goals in his career (703 goals, 297 assists), having played only 867 games. pic.twitter.com/hhmn42YRAn— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) July 19, 2020
Messi was not only about to break a record related to goals, but also to assists. This term Lionel has become less of a goalscorer, but more of a contributor to the team’s chance-creation through assists. Against Alavés, La Pulga detected Ansu’s run from behind and sent him an almost perfect pass for Fati’s opener. Thus, this allowed Messi to break the record previously held by Xavi Hernández for the most assists in one season in La Liga, and to tie Thomas Müller’s achievement for the most assists in one course in a European league with 21. Messi never ceases to amaze us.
5. A smile before the Champions League
This victory does not mean anything or change the fact that Real Madrid have won La Liga, but it does increase the motivation and confidence in the team before the Champions League. Against Osasuna in the previous matchday, the azulgranas were totally out of shape, incapable of threatening the opposition. Nevertheless, on Sunday afternoon against Alavés, Setién’s men delivered an excellent performance collectively and individually.
Finally, what better way to regain that self-belief than with a 0–5? Such game improved the reputation of Barcelona in the league and allows it to end this season on a positive note. We could more or less draw conclusions about the future of the team in the European tournament and which players will be crucial to progress in it. For now, though, Barça will have enough rest to regain their fitness and be ready for the magical nights of the UEFA Champions League.
Debating on Barça’s victory over Villarreal
Barcelona managed to get their first win of the season against Villarreal. Our editors share their perspectives on the game, and choose their man of the match.
by Nassif Muhammed Ali
Barcelona has begun the new season well. In a league season where each team plays thirty-eight matches, across a period of eight or nine months, beginning well doesn’t always count for much. However, when one takes into consideration the circumstances that this team had to maneuver through in the run-up to this game and this new season, it is more than obvious that the four-nil victory last night was anything but an easy feat; that too against Villareal, who finished fifth in the league table last season.
The team has had a good pre-season, in which the new manager Ronald Koeman tried to bring in a different formation. However, there has been a cloud of pessimism altogether even as the new La Liga season was underway. One of the major concerns was with regard to the attempted rebuild of the squad. The club has already let go of a few stalwarts. Even as most of these departures were necessary both in terms of the sporting project and the financial situation, there was one important question being thrown about – how would they replace the thirty plus goals that Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal contributed last season. As it turns out, indications are that they already have the players to do just that.
Barcelona dominated the game yesterday and in doing so, they also brought back two important elements that have been uncharacteristically missing from their gameplay for the last two seasons. Firstly, there have been several instances in the recent past where they led by a couple of goals only to take their foot off the pedal and concede points at the end of the day. Yesterday, they were ahead by two goals within twenty minutes. And then, rather than slowing down, they went on to double that lead by the end of the first half. Another important factor was the number of available players involved in the offensive moves. At any given offensive move, including the counter-attacks, there were plenty of Blaugrana shirts available as options. Koeman’s modified formation passed its first test, quite successfully.
The biggest take away from this match, in my opinion, is the fact that it afforded good playing time to young debutants Francisco Trincao and Pedri – both of whom made the most of the opportunity. Barca might go ahead and reinforce their squad further in the few days that remain in the transfer window – they need to, especially in the defense. But make no mistake; there is enough talent in this squad already to make it an exciting season.
Stand-out performer: Ansu Fati
It was predicted to be a closely fought game. But two classy finishes from the young Spaniard all but killed the game within twenty minutes. Fati’s finishing was stellar – the first was a one-touch shot at the top corner, whereas the second a guided placement. Even the penalty that led to Barca’s third goal was actually won by a dribbling Fati, who was clipped down inside the box. Apart from the goals, Fati also made some key passes, including the beautiful lob that he gave to Messi in the 49th minute, from a close-range, above two defenders. With the most number of completed dribbles in the game (3), and a solid 10 touches inside the opponents’ box, Fati celebrated his official promotion to the first team in style. The ceiling is high for this kid and he has a long way to go, but it does look like he is on the right path.
Photo by David Ramirez via Imago
Unexpectedly pleasing start to the campaign
by Prajas Naik
Ronald Koeman’s first official game as a Barça manager went off to a flying a start with the team 4-0 up by the time they reached half time. There was more intensity in the team pressing than that seen under both Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setien. Everyone was giving their level best and the team played brilliantly. The team looked confident going forward and the transitions were simple and fluid. But the right side did not see much of the ball, and this could be a major cause for concern if the arrival of Dest fails to go through.
The team dropped off in the second half but were it not for Asenjo, the Blaugrana could easily have scored more. Even though its too early to judge, the signs were very positive and it feels like then the attack is somewhat rejuvenated with all of the options the team has. But the defense continues to be a grey area and despite a good performance from both center halves, you can’t help but feel like some better finishing could have made the game a tighter affair.
Stand-out performer: Ansu Fati
Who else can it be? The seventeen-year-old prodigy ran riots down that left flank alongside a revived Jordi Alba. Always looking extremely confident on the ball, Ansu showed maturity and calmness well beyond his age. Many questioned how Barcelona will cope with the departure of Luis Suarez, but if Ansu continues to perform at this level, the future is indeed very bright.