As Barcelona beat Mallorca on Saturday by 0–4, which are the five positive signs that can be taken from such win?
FC Barcelona is back in business. In their first game since the lockdown, the Catalans went on to score four goals to overcome a strong competition at the recently renamed Visit Mallorca Estadi. In spite of being away from the sport for so long, the men in blue and clarinet put on a good show with a lot of good signs. But which were the five main positives from Barça in their 0–4 victory over Mallorca?
1. A Win to start well
Just as the case is with any task, beginning well was very important for Barcelona. Their lead at the top of the table was a mere two points going into this match. Any mistake therefore could have cost them in the battle for the title, not to mention the pressure that would mount as a result. As it turned out, Barça put up a good performance and began with a solid win, thereby putting pressure on Real Madrid, who are restarting their own campaign today. There is no doubt that this performance will be a boost for the blaugranes.
2. Messi, back with a bang
Call him the “medicine man” as Ray Hudson would, or Messiah as most fans would, there is no denying that an in-form Lionel Messi is vital to Barcelona. While his presence on the pitch alone has been known to boost the squad, they need him at his best as they approach the business end of the season. Things, however, looked a little worrying as it was reported that the number 10 had an injury setback in training a few days ago. All these worries were put to rest by the Barça captain yesterday, though, as he assisted his teammates for two goals before completing the scoresheet himself.
3. Different names on the scoresheet
Barça has been over-reliant on the scoring prowess of Messi for far too long. Yesterday however, there were different names on the score-sheet. While Arturo Vidal opened the scoring for the azulgranas, Martin Braithwaite scored his first goal for the team to double the lead and Jordi Alba the third. There is no doubt that manager Quique Setién would have been elated to find so many of his players on the board – especially as games are coming in quick succession henceforth and he might have to rest Messi at some point or the other.
❛ I think we controlled the game well. The first goal gave us a confidence boost and it made things easy ❜
4. Ronald Araújo’s first start
There were concerns about the defensive side of the team during the whole season. These were compounded yesterday by the fact that Clément Lenglet, Gerard Piqué’s partner in crime, was out with a suspension. With Samuel Umtiti just making his way back from the injury, Setién decided to put his faith on young Ronald Araújo, a promising talent from Barça B. It wasn’t Araújo’s first outing for the senior side, as he did make one appearance before. Nonetheless, that had lasted less than a quarter of an hour as he was given a contentious red card against Sevilla.
In spite of some dangerous plays from Take Kubo, Barça managed to minimise Mallorca’s offensive output | Photo by Jaime Reina / AFP via Getty Images
Despite the one versus Mallorca being his first start for the team, Araújo was quite composed in his positioning and on the ball. Admittedly, he was outplayed by Real Madrid loanee Take Kubo a few times. On the whole, however, Araujo managed well and complimented Gerard Piqué quite smoothly, thereby helping his team maintain a clean sheet. The performance would be a great confidence booster for the youngster and a sigh of relief for his manager.
5. An away win with a clean sheet
Barça’s away blues had become something of a curse this season with a win percent of a measly 38.4% away from the Camp Nou as they approached this match. The total number of goals they scored away from home was shockingly less than those conceded till yesterday: 18 and 19, respectively.
This was definitely not a good sign; mostly considering the fact that out of the eleven games that remained, seven were going to be away from home. A solid display and a win was therefore absolute necessity for Barcelona to get their record straight. And that is exactly what they did. Scoring four goals and keeping a clean sheet would come as a much needed breather for the league leaders.
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.