Barcelona’s December has been hectic, to say the least. The Catalans dropped many points in the final month of the year and even managed to lose top spot in their Champions League group.
In their six December La Liga fixtures, Barcelona only won three games. They also lost 3-0 at home to Juventus in the Champions League earlier in the month. However, the 26-time La Liga champions are unbeaten in their last five games.
From their eight fixtures in December, a few players stood out. Frenkie de Jong, Ronald Araujo, Lionel Messi, and Pedri continued to impress despite a disappointing run of fixtures. Pedri, however, stood out more than the others.
Pedri, who turned 18 on the 25th of November, has become one of the most indispensable components of the Blaugrana side against all odds. From a month of mixed results, Pedri is one of the few satisfactions and is Barça Universal’s Player of the Month for December.
Cadiz 2-1 Barcelona
Pedri could not change Barça’s fortunes
The first game of the month came away to Ferencvaros on the 2nd of December. Pedri did not feature in the thumping win for fitness reasons. Against Cadiz, Ronald Koeman did not pick Pedri either but got he did get some time off the bench.
Barça could not get through the promoted side’s backline. Having Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé on the bench was an amateur decision by Koeman, even criticised by Alvaro Cervera, the Cadiz coach. At half-time, both the players came on, replacing Oscar Mingueza and Philippe Coutinho respectively.
Pedri slotted in the double pivot with Frenkie de Jong deputising at centre-back. Despite it not playing in his favourite position, the youngster still had a bit of an impact. In the end, it turned out to be too little too late as Barcelona fell to a 2-1 defeat against Cadiz.
Barcelona 0-3 Juventus
Old Lady too strong for young Pedri
Barça lost 3-0 to Juventus at the start of the month in what was the last game of the UEFA Champions League group stage. Barcelona needed to hold out Juventus to a 2 goal deficit at best to finish top, but alas. That game meant that the Italians would top the group and Barcelona ended up being paired with Paris Saint-Germain in the Round of 16.
In that game, no Blaugrana outfit shone above anyone else. The best player for the locals was Messi, and even he spent the night shooting straight at Gianluigi Buffon. Pedri started on the left side and was ineffective.
This game was one of Pedri’s most underwhelming ones, yet. The Canarian midfielder was out of his depth as Juve ran riot at Camp Nou. Admittedly, Andrea Pirlo might have studied Pedri’s game in the reverse fixture where he was the Man of the Match. At 18, having an off-game is normal., but Pedri upped his game in the next fixtures.
Barcelona 1-0 Levante
An uneventful cameo
Pedri would start on the bench against Levante, which is key to balance the management of such a young player. Barcelona had a dull game, perhaps one of the dullest from Barça at the Camp Nou as Aitor Fernandez continued to come up clutch in the six-yard box.
The 18-year-old came in for half an hour and did not have the best cameo ever. Apart from a few passes, and runs, Pedri did not change the game, and Mesi salvaged a win for the home team.
Barcelona 2-1 Real Sociedad
Pedri came, saw and conquered
After three games spent on the bench, Pedri would return to the lineup against one of the league’s best sides. Real Sociedad came to the Camp Nou as league leaders with the same number of points as Atlético but lost the game narrowly.
It would be Pedri’s best display of the whole term. The new signing was everywhere. He created three chances, including a sublime through ball to Martin Braithwaite who skied it.
However, his best moment came in the 74th minute. Alexander Isak broke through the defence and was through on goal. The Swedish striker opened his body to shoot, but Pedri came in sprinting and made the perfect tackle to save Barcelona. The young star then hit his ribs on the goalpost and Koeman subbed him off. Pedri was a hero at Camp Nou and won the game for his side, without assisting or scoring a goal.
Barcelona 2-2 Valencia
Pedri shines in an unconventional lineup
Three days later, Barça would host Valencia. Frenkie de Jong had some discomfort and started on the bench. The coach decided to trade Dutch midfielder for Coutinho and used Pedri as an attacking midfielder in what looked like a 4-1-4-1.
Pedri showed that he could compete with the big boys in this top-heavy lineup. He dropped deep when needed, got the ball forward as quickly as possible, and ran the show in the first half.
A few minutes after going 1-0 down, Pedri took the ball from the middle of the park and ran at full speed to reach the final-third, before passing it to Antoine Griezmann in a good position. Pedri might have overhit the pass, but he was the only one looking to overturn the deficit. In the second half, he created many more chances, ending the game with two key passes.
A less heroic display from Pedri, but an impressive one nonetheless.
Real Valladolid 0-3 Barcelona
The Pedri-Messi connection on display
Then came Real Valladolid. Koeman went for a three-at-the-back formation, and it worked a charm. Culés worldwide enjoyed the display with Pedri putting in a man of the match worthy shift.
This game showed what Barcelona might have in store for the future, as Messi and Pedri slit through Real Valladolid’s defence. The two stars were on a different planet. Passing the ball to each other as if they had been playing together for the past 17 years. Seeing them laugh together on the pitch was the most cheerful sight. Pedri was Barcelona’s Christmas present.
His assist to Messi was a joy to behold. After a smooth passing sequence, the teenager found himself in front of the defence. In a matter of seconds, he spotted the Argentine’s run and weighed his backheel pass perfectly. It was a historic goal for the club-captain, who broke Pele’s record. A goal which had Pedri’s name all over it.
Barcelona 1-1 Eibar
Pedri started in the same formation that took on Valladolid on the left-of-centre slot with Antoine Griezmann replacing Messi.
Barça did not create much in the absence of Messi and often looked to Pedri to get the ball behind the defence. Well, ask, and you shall receive. Pedri was at the heart of the main chances for the Catalan giants. In the first half, everyone was too static, but Dembélé’s entry in the second helped Pedri a lot.
Even though there was not much movement in the first part of the game, Pedri still managed to be decisive. The midfielder managed to squeeze through a sublime pass to Junior Firpo, who set up Martin Braithwaite for a goal, but it was not to be as VAR called it off.
After Dembélé’s entry, the runs in behind multiplied. The Frenchman was the most dangerous Blaugrana player and showed it just before Eibar’s opener. Pedri picked the winger from the left side of the pitch.
Pedri was Moses, and the Eibar defence became the Red Sea. His ball found Dembélé in the perfect position, but the World Cup winner scuffed his shot, denying Pedri a sensational assist. Pedri was the Man of the Match without being rewarded on the pitch for his efforts.
This game summed up a defining month for Pedri. The young signing became indispensable in this Barça side, and his influence could not be summed up with stats. If Barça nurture him well, it seems like they have a player who can take over the mantle from the last of the golden generation.