A thrilling game where every man in the blaugrana shirt showed his quality; these are the ratings for each Barcelona player in their 0–5 away win over Deportivo Alavés.
After a shocking defeat against Osasuna in midweek, Barcelona were able to cap off a less-than-convincing season with one of their displays of the season with a 0–5 win over Deportivo Alavés at the Estadio de Mendizorroza. This win served as nothing more than compensation as the league was done and dusted on matchday 37 as Real Madrid displaced Barcelona for the La Liga title.
The blaugranas were quick to put the hosts on the back foot as they hit the post thrice in the opening 15 minutes of the game. After this series of poor finishing, Ansu Fati opened the scoring through a Lionel Messi lobbed cross. The captain doubled the lead after 10 minutes, with Luis Suárez adding the third just before the halfway mark. Nélson Semedo came on and scored his first goal of the season as Messi put the game to bed with the fifth. Barca Universal takes the responsibility of rating those in the garnet and the blue.
Birthday boy Neto started in goal in place of Marc-André ter Stegen, who was rested to avoid fatigue. The Brazilian was completely untroubled in his box and had to make no saves. He did, however, complete 19 passes with the accuracy of 95%.
Sergi Roberto: 8/10
Starting on the right-back spot, all Sergi Roberto had to do yesterday was make timely runs on the right flank for overlap. He was heavily involved in the first goal, finding Messi inside the box, who went on to assist Ansu Fati for the first of the game. The Spanish international also did a stellar job in midfield after moving there when Clément Lenglet picked up an injury.
Ronald Araújo: 8/10
Araújo had a colossal job laid on his shoulders, replacing Gerard Piqué as the centre-back in the heart of the defence. He showed he could serve as an able deputy to the Barcelona number 3 and even take over the position in the future. The Uruguayan completed 4 out of 6 of his long passes, committed no fouls and lost the ball only four times – the least among starters. His best moment of the game came when he sprinted back 40 yards to dispossess Alavés striker Joselu.
Clément Lenglet: 7/10
Lenglet was given the responsibility of marshalling the defence in the absence of Piqué, and delivered quite seamlessly. There was no threat to the Barca backline for the 50 minutes he was on the pitch. He was then subbed off for Nélson Semedo after picking up a knock, which may make him unavailable for one or two weeks but thankfully not for the Champions League.
“Lenglet had a discomfort and this is not a time to take risks. So, he got off the field”
Jordi Alba: 9/10
Barcelona’s left-back Jordi Alba has returned to his world-class ways since football resumed. Yesterday was another example of why he’s still among the best in the continent. Messi played Alba through just before half time and the Spaniard delivered the most satisfying first-time cross you would ever see on a volley. His pass was served on a platter for Suárez, who could not help but head it home. He then added to his tally as he whipped in a delicious cross in the middle of the box which was tucked in by Messi. An inch-perfect display.
Arturo Vidal: 8/10
Arturo Vidal started the game on the right side of the midfield three but moved down the pitch to act as a makeshift centre-back after Lenglet was subbed off. In 45 odd minutes he played in midfield, Vidal struck the post once through a brilliant volley and was then denied by Roberto Jiménez after an acrobatic header. He did a commendable job while defending, though. Was calm, composed and nearly impossible to get past.
Sergio Busquets: 7.5/10
Sergio Busquets returned as the anchor in Barca’s trio replacing the suspended Iván Rakitić. He controlled the game’s tempo and was able to play through Alavés’ press with ease. He completed three quarters of his long balls, 3 out of 3 of his aerial duels and made an incredible block halting Luis Rioja in his tracks.
Riqui Puig: 10/10
Another game, another masterclass from Riqui Puig, who seems to have become a mainstay in Quique Setién’s midfield. He ended the game with two assists, one for Messi and another one for Nélson Semedo. Apart from these two assists, Puig made four key passes and another goal creating chance.
“Ansu Fati, Araújo and Riqui Puig are the club’s future. They showed it today”
after the win against Alavés
He also came incredibly close to registering his first goal of his senior career as he struck the post from thirty yards out with a stunning finesse shot. The youngster was also hard working in defence, and made two tackles, and committed three fouls. We can expect more of him in the Champions League.
Lionel Messi: 10/10
Barcelona’s number 10 dropping 10s has become a casual affair and it happened again yesterday night. Lionel Messi hit the post early in the game with a solo curled effort that nicked the far post before going out. He then went on to assist the opener, his 21st assist of the season, making him the highest ever assist provider in a single season in the La Liga and the join highest in the top 5 leagues along with Thomas Müller, who set the record himself this season.
While this has by no means been Lionel Messi’s best goalscoring season, he continues to break records | Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce via Getty Images
Messi also scored twice yesterday, the first of which was the result of a top-notch move which included a defence-splitting pass and a fake on the goalkeeper. His goals also sealed the Pichichi trophy for him – the 7th of his career, and the joint highest top-scoring seasons in the top 5 leagues – as many as Gerd Müller in the Bundesliga.
Luis Suárez: 7/10
There is little explaining what Luis Suárez does in-game. The man misses the easiest of chances only to score some brilliant goals. Yesterday was more of the same as he initially hit a one-v-one right at the goalkeeper and then scored a sublime header as the second of the game. Suárez was also crucial in the fifth goal of the game as he dummied Jordi Alba’s cross which reached Lionel Messi.
Ansu Fati: 9/10
Ansu Fati started the game on the left of Luis Suárez in the attacking trio and played 78 minutes before being subbed off for Martin Braithwaite just before the 80th-minute mark. During his time on the pitch, Fati scored the opener and then created two chances for his teammates, neither of which was finished. He did, however, did a stellar job in defence constantly shifting spots with Alba on the wing.
Nélson Semedo: 8.5/10
Frenkie de Jong: 7.5/10
Martin Braithwaite: 7/10
Koeman’s system in the Barcelona 4-0 Villareal
With a 4-0 victory at the Camp Nou, Koeman’s side has started the season on a positive note. Find out more about the tactical aspect of the match in this tactical analysis of Barcelona’s match against Villareal.
La Liga is finally back, and it’s back in full swing. We saw many high-scoring matches, with even Atleti scoring 6 goals against Granada. A very entertaining start to La Liga was capped off by Barcelona’s 4-0 Victory over Villareal. Koeman’s first La Liga game in-charge of Barcelona was a resounding success. The mindset of the players involved was clearly different from the mindset under Setien. With many players looking rejuvenated, Barcelona put in a performance which was desperately needed considering the fact that the wounds from Lisbon haven’t yet healed. Find out just how Barcelona managed to dominate a strong Villareal side in this tactical analysis.
Barcelona started out in a 4-2-3-1 as expected. The only surprise was that Messi’s starting position was more central than usual and Griezmann occupied the right-wing. Messi does eventually drift towards the centre anyway but the starting position is usually wider.
Villareal were in a 4-4-2 which later transitioned into a 4-4-2 diamond in the second half after the substitutions. Right from the start, Villareal looked to press from the front, with Chukwueze and Moi Gomez cutting out passing lanes to the full-backs and the two Villareal strikers pressing Barcelona’s center-backs. Here, an advantage of the 4-2-3-1 Koeman deployed was immediately visible. De Jong would drop back to receive the ball and then play it forward to Busquets, who was the other pivot. Had Barcelona played a 4-3-3, the pivot would have dropped back to receive the ball and build-up from the back in this case. But the midfield would be stretched vertically which we saw many times last season.
In midfield, Barcelona were prevented from playing through the centre by Parejo and Coquelin. The distance between Villareal’s midfield and defense lines was not much which forced Barcelona towards the wings. This strategy came back to bite Villareal in the form of Ansu Fati. The 17-year-old left-winger was unplayable against Villareal. Gaspar was unable to contain him. Jordi Alba was much better than in a long time. The work-rate Koeman demands and the many extra training sessions were really showing. After a 2019/20 season which wasn’t the best for Barcelona, yesterday’s performance was very impressive.
Both wingers would regularly tuck-in between the full-backs and center-halves. This allowed Barcelona’s full-backs to advance up the field much more. With the full-backs attacking and the wingers tucking in, the Villareal defensive line would be occupied. This allowed Coutinho more space than usual. Along with this, Busquets and De Jong would be available to either stop the counter, or to act as passing options. This assortment of many attacking roles allowed Barcelona to have sustained attacking possession.
Villareal had a clear game plan as well. Considering the fact that their two strikers are performing well and are well-synchronized, the wingers were instructed to cross the ball often. The full-backs would advance, but not overlap frequently. This could either not be a part of the game plan or because of the attacking threat, Barcelona posed from the start. With Dani Parejo in midfield, Emery would ideally be able to continue playing the possession-based football his teams play. Coquelin would offer a bit of dynamism in midfield along with the Spanish midfielder.
However, Koeman took an interesting decision and gave Busquets the role to man-mark Parejo. Though both were surprisingly not the best on the ball on the day, Busquets did well to restrict Parejo to lateral and back passes. In the second-half, Vilalreal’s game plan was executed better in the 4-4-2 diamond. This allowed Parejo to get on the ball more, wit him playing a major role in the build-up. Emery knows his players’ strengths very well. Parejo in the defensive mid role, with pacey wingers on either sides means fast transitions. For Barcelona s well, the transitions were key. Coutinho’s mediapunta role and the freedom Messi has both contributed to this.
We already saw the many benefits this formation has offered, taking the strengths of the players Koeman has into full consideration. The ease during build-up with one pivot dropping back, being able to sustain the attack with the mediapunta getting more space, the freedom Busquets had to man-mark Parejo, which would have been difficult in a single pivot, etc. Another one of the advantages is in defense.
Barcelona were vulnerable in defense throughout last season. Jordi Alba looks like refreshed and fitter than usual, and with Dest potentially joining the Blaugrana, the full-backs are looking promising. In case that Barcelona does get caught on the counter, Koeman does have a solution to one of the problems. When Barcelona are on the backfoot, De Jong and Busquets would need to make sure their positioning is immaculate. They were instructed to plug the gaps between the center-halves and full-backs, which would have a two-fold purpose. Firstly, through-balls against more creative players would be much more difficult, with the gaps being reduced and Coutinho and Griezmann helping in defense. Secondly, the opposition would be less likely to crowd the box, since Barcelona can now afford to get at least 4 players into the box if the pivots were to position themselves as such. However, this would be very dependent on the split-second judgment and whether the players decide to press or track-back.
For Koeman’s first La Liga match, the performance was quite promising. Barcelona looked better tactically and in terms of hard work than Villareal as we saw in this tactical analysis. The latter being something that Barcelona desperately need, what remains to be seen is how Barcelona will fare against teams that rely on individual ability more than Villareal and the unpredictability that follows. Apart from this, will the players be able to sustain the intense work ethic Koeman demands? If Barcelona do decently in these conditions and some others, we might see a much better season from them than expected.