The Barcelona defence is hampered with injury concerns at the moment, with Lenglet the latest name in that list. However, two B team players – Arnau Comas and Santiago Ramos Mino can tow Barça out of this situation.
In the 66th minute against Osasuna, as French defender Clement Lenglet fell clutching his ankle, there was visible nervousness on the face of manager Ronald Koeman. As Lenglet contested for an aerial challenge against Ruben Garcia, the forward caught the defender on his leg, followed by a twisted ankle after an unbalanced landing for the Frenchman.
While there is much to speculate regarding the Lenglet injury, it is being reported that he will miss nearly 10 games. With Gerard Pique out injured for a few more months at the very least, Ronald Araujo, who is yet to be given complete medical clearance, remains the only available centre-back alongside La Liga debutant Oscar Mingueza. So, what are options for Barcelona in defence for the time being considering the many injuries?
Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong slotted in at centre-back after Lenglet was subbed-off. Even when Gerard Pique was substituted off against Atletico Madrid, de Jong was temporarily deployed at centre-back. From the latest squad, that is, the squad-list released for the match against Osasuna, he remains the only player who can be trusted to fill the empty spot in the defence.
Ronald Araujo suffered an injury against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League around a month ago. He has started training with the team again but is yet to be given the green light. He certainly has the trust of Koeman and upon returning, will certainly start alongside Mingueza in defence. The two 21-year-olds will be expected to cover for the absence of the other two centre-halves.
Clement Lenglet’s injury means Barcelona’s defence is completely hampered in terms of quantity. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)
However, a squad with just two central defenders is not a complete squad. Players will have to be called up from Barcelona’s B side. Who are the players which we can expect to be called up in the coming fixtures?
Santiago Ramos Mingo
Argentine defender Santiago Ramos Mingo is a new signing for Barcelona B. Leaving Boca Juniors in mid-January, he joined Garcia Pimienta’s Barcelona B side. Though the team has been struggling recently, just earning their first victory yesterday, the defence has been impressive at times.
Alongside Arnau Comas, Ramos Mingo has formed a good understanding as part of the backline. He is a reliable defender, who plays on the left side. Similar to Oscar Mingueza, he is someone who likes to progress with the ball at his feet.
As Barcelona possess attacking full-backs, this suits the team and allows for the platform to build upon to be higher than it would usually be with a rigid defence. Dribbling forwards and looking to surpass the first line of pressure regularly, the 19-year-old is a courageous defender, and his performance against Prat stands out for the same where he was solid in defence as well as in progressing the ball forwards.
Mingo is available to fill in the Barcelona defence if push comes to shove. (Photo via Imago)
The sharp and incisive passing required from a Barcelona centre-back is present in his skillset as well. Though Arnau Comas is more adept at playing the “Barcelona way”, it is only natural considering the many years he has spent at the club.
The Argentine defender is someone who is reliable in defence. No rash decisions, no unnecessary tackles, he relies on well-timed, calculated tackles most often.
Ramos Mingo is also competent in the air. Though 186cm isn’t extraordinarily tall for a central defender, he boasts of a spectacular leap and comes out as the victor in most aerial duels.
Unfortunately, as Ramos Mingo is not registered in the squad for the UEFA Champions League, Barcelona will be unable to count on him for the time being against Ferencvaros.
A typical Barcelona center-back, 20-year-old Arnau Comas was sent on loan to Olot last season, where he developed rapidly. A decade ago, he joined the U-12 Barcelona side, after which he went on to grow well leading to a loan after progressing from the Juvenil A. Since returning from loan, Comas has been excellent in defence.
Comas is a very intelligent centre-back. Part of Garcia Pimienta’s UEFA Youth League winning side, the Spaniard is very adept at tackling cleanly, but rather, at winning the ball without having to tackle. His positioning is excellent, meaning he rarely lets passes pierce the defence. Koeman’s Barcelona play a high-line, and Comas’ brilliant reading of the game will be a crucial peg in this.
Comas is the next big thing to come out of the Barcelona B defence. (Photo via Imago)
An often-overlooked part of Comas’ repertoire is his pace. Though he isn’t incredibly fast, he is agile enough to warrant playing in a high-line. His ball-carrying is greatly benefited by this, which he has displayed this season. Someone who likes to carry the ball forwards and play incisive passes, he resembles Gerard Pique in this aspect. To complement this, he is capable of playing on the back-foot and against dribblers as well.
The 20-year-old has also become an aerial threat, even scoring a goal with a header recently. With Pique and Lenglet out, it seems like Comas should be the one chosen to play alongside Mingueza. Considering the many injuries Barcelona face, with the defence being most impacted, changes are imminent.
As he isn’t registered in the UEFA Champions League, it leads us to conclude that neither B team defender will be included in the squad. In La Liga however, rather than playing de Jong in defence, Comas deserves a chance to impress the coach at the very least.