While the global performance was nothing out of this world, Barça managed to get the job done at home. This analysis will provide a deeper look at how the two goals from Barcelona were scored in the 2–0 win against Leganés.
In the first match back at the Camp Nou since La Liga’s restart, Barcelona were able to get another crucial three points with a 2–0 triumph over Leganés. There wasn’t as much excitement or goal scoring as in the Mallorca game, but the two goals still left much to be analysed.
Barcelona 1–0 Leganés
It took Barcelona until the 42nd minute to break down the deep-lying defense of the Madrid side. This caused some nerves to grow among culés, as Barça were having far more trouble creating chances than they did against Mallorca. That is until Ansu Fati, the phenom, stepped up once again and grabbed a crucial opening goal.
After searching unsuccessfully for a breakthrough for over 40 minutes, it was Sergio Busquets who provided the initial spark for this goal. After receiving the ball from Lionel Messi, Busi played it out wide to Junior Firpo. This gave him just the time he needed to scan the field and find his next pass. When Firpo returned the ball to Busquets, he used his brilliant vision and technique to play a first-time, line-splitting ball to Messi.
The ball from Busquets was perfectly weighted for the Argentine to receive it in a space between four Leganés defenders – and even the referee. Messi settled the ball with one touch and opened his body towards the sideline in the same action. This allowed him to spot the run of Junior Firpo, who had already began to drift behind his marker.
With his second touch, Messi relayed the ball on to Firpo. As Firpo arrived to the pass just inside the box, a scramble occured as two Leganés defenders fought to win the ball away from him. But, the left-back showed great tenacity and perseverance to retain possession in the end. After showing his grit, Firpo showed some quality.
With the two previous Leganés challengers now behind him, Firpo forced the opposition centre-back, Chidozie Awaziem, to step to him. This left Ansu Fati with plenty of room to receive the ball. Junior was able to recognise this quickly, and with a deft touch he laid it off to the seventeen-year-old. Fati took one touch, opened up to goal, and fired his shot into the bottom right corner.
If it is deemed that Junior Firpo did not lose possession and then regain it, but simply fought off the tackles, then the sequence leading up to this goal included ten passes between six players. Busquets showed his quality and importance with his line-breaking pass to Messi, who then registered the secondary assist with his through ball to Firpo. The goal serve as a massive confidence-booster for both Junior Firpo and Ansu Fati going forward. This also made it two straight matches in which the opener was assisted by Barça’s left-back.
Barcelona 2–0 Leganés
In the end, this goal will go down as penalty, but the creation of it was truly remarkable. Another pretty long build-up, there were seven connected passes, involving seven players before the penalty was won. The sequence began all the way at the back, when Marc-André ter Stegen gathered the ball following a Leganés clearance. The keeper played Clément Lenglet, who then looked to move the ball forward. The Frenchman was able to pick out Iván Rakitić, then playing as the pivot, between the lines.
Rakitić received the ball between the two strikers of Leganés and their midfield line. This caused one of the opposition midfielders to press the Croatian. But Rakitić stayed composed and did well to progress the ball again to Arturo Vidal. The Chilean then played a simple lay-off to Lionel Messi, and what ensued was pure genius.
When the ball was travelling to Messi, there was already a defender coming in hot. Messi, as always, stayed calm and anticipated the weight of the pass, allowing it to roll across his body before taking a touch.
The defender was completely thrown off, and Messi had created space to begin his march forward. Of course, there were still six Leganés outfield players between Leo and the goal, but he was not going to be denied.
Messi chose the route to the right, seeing the space available if he could beat the next defender. To do this, Leo tapped it through his legs, leaving him on the ground while the Argentinian continued forward. He was then grabbed by another Leganés defender, and could have gone down to win the free-kick. Nonetheless, that is not the Messi way. Instead, he quickly stopped to get out of the grabbing defender’s reach, before re-accelerating past him and leaving him in the dust. It would have been a great run if it had ended there, but Messi continued.
He was then back up to top speed, approaching the edge of the box. Leo knew that at this point he couldn’t continue dribbling, but he also knew that the speed he had built up would not be able to be matched by the static defenders. So he tapped the ball off to his partner in crime, Luis Suárez, and continued his sprint into the penalty area. The Leganés defenders had no choice but to foul him, and Messi was brought down as he was going after the return pass played by Suárez. Composed from the spot, the number 10 got his goal, and continued his 100% penalty conversion rate for this season.
While the first goal showed the quality of several players as a collective, this one was all about individual brilliance. It did start with Barça playing out from the back and breaking the lines quickly, but from there it was all Lionel Messi. Even at 32, Leo is still capable of those incredible runs, and this was just another testament to his excellence.
Since the restart, a clear majority of Barcelona’s goals have come from the left side. Ansu Fati’s goal was created down the left, and so were three of the goals in the Mallorca match. Additionally, none of the goals have been created by playing down the right wing. Lionel Messi did dribble to the right before winning his penalty, but there was never any combination with someone out wide, and he had started off in a central area.
Maybe the right side has been unlucky – Sergi Roberto played well and got into many dangerous areas against Mallorca, and Semedo had an assist called back by an offside of inches – but the blaugranas do appear to be stronger when attacking from the left.
Another observation would have to be the rejuvenation of Messi. Before the break, it seemed as though he dropped a level from his usual performance. Now, Messi is fully energised. No, his last two performances haven’t been his best ever, but the fire is back in him, and he has been much more dynamic. Heavily involved in the goals again today, opposition defences should now be getting even more scared of La Pulga.
Can Alexander Isak be the firepower Barcelona need in their attacking arsenal
With incoming presidential elections and the resulting anticipation of a rebuild, more and more players are being linked to Barcelona. Besides big names like Erling Haaland and David Alaba, Real Sociedad centre-forward Alexander Isak is reportedly on the Catalans’ radar. A new striker is an absolute must for the club and Isak’s €70 million release clause is turning heads. His stock is rising and he has a bright future ahead of him, but should Barcelona pursue him?
Isak is currently in the midst of his second season for Basque-outfit Real Sociedad. The 21-year old started his career at the Swedish club AIK before moving to Borussia Dortmund’s youth setup in 2017. Lacking first-team opportunities, he was loaned to Dutch club Willem II, where he tallied an impressive 14 goals and 7 assists in 18 appearances. Isak then moved to Sociedad in the summer of 2019 and scored 16 goals in his debut season. This season, he has 12 goals in 29 appearances.
He has been dubbed the “next Zlatan Ibrahimovic” by some, and with the Swedish national team, Isak has scored five goals in 18 appearances.
Tactical and Statistical Analysis
Isak has all the attributes of a classic “target man”, one whose main role is to win aerial duels and play off of creative teammates, but his game is much more than that. He stands tall at 190 cm, or 6 foot 3 inches, but has incredible speed and balance. Despite his height, however, he is only winning 42% of his aerial duels this season.
Isak likes to play off the shoulder of the defence, eagerly waiting for through balls from creative midfielders like Mike Merino or David Silva. Alternatively, he can also hold the ball up. With his combination of speed and dribbling ability, he is a constant threat on the counter-attack, capable of getting past defenders or dragging bodies and creating space for runners. He also has decent vision and passing acumen for a centre forward, but Sociedad’s set up doesn’t allow him to maximize these qualities.
Statistically, he is averaging 1.36 dribbles per 90 minutes this season at a clip of 64.8%. According to fbref.com, when compared to forwards in Europe’s top five leagues (Spain, England, France, Germany, and Italy), Isak stands out in terms of his successful pressures rate (93rd percentile), pressures in the attacking third (81st percentile), and carries into the penalty area (87th percentile).
In front of the goal, Isak is dangerous with both his feet and his head. He is unpredictable with his finishing, always keeping defenders and goalkeepers on edge. This campaign, his 12 goals are fairly evenly distributed: six with his right foot, three with his left, and three with his head. Most of his goals have come from through balls or passes over the defence. He carries the ball in his stride and finishes with confidence.
His goalscoring record was rough to start the season, scoring only four goals across 20 appearances, but he’s picked things up in 2021. The forward has been in rich vein of form, already scoring nine goals this calendar year. Furthermore, in La Liga, he has scored in each of his last six appearances, not to mention a hat trick last time out against Alavés. He could have a breakout season if he continues scoring at this rate, attracting offers from teams across Europe.
Where would he fit at Barça?
Naturally, Isak fits a need for the Blaugrana at centre forward. The team has no natural “number nine” –other than Martin Braithwaite — and with Messi entering his twilight years and potentially leaving in the summer, they desperately need goal-scorers. The Swedish international is well adapted to playing as a lone striker in a 4-3-3 system and is already accustomed to playing in La Liga, so Barça won’t need to worry about adaptation along those lines.
Tactically, his height and runs into the box could bring a different dimension to a fairly one-dimensional Barça attack. While he could fit in well with the team’s patient and possession-oriented approach, his game is more suited for runs into open spaces and spearheading counter attacks.
The question is, would he start for Barcelona? Messi is best suited for a false nine role, and Isak would not displace Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembélé, or Ansu Fati in the front line. On the contrary, he could be an extremely productive squad option, but his potential transfer fee would be too high to warrant such a role.
Should Barcelona pursue him?
There are plenty of intriguing reasons for Barça to pursue Isak, but he should not be their number one transfer target. He undoubtedly has a bright future ahead of him and is showing immense quality this season, but he might not be ready to carry Barcelona’s front line.
There will be a lot asked of him, and he will be expected to perform on the biggest stages in world football, and his zero goals in the Europa League this season are not reassuring. Despite his incredible form over the last few games, Barça need to see more consistent output if he is to be their number nine for the next decade.
He would also cost the club around 70 million euros, and that money could serve the team better by investing that in other areas like centre back or centre defensive mid.
While he is still young and has time to improve, Barcelona should focus on more refined and finished products.
On the one hand, Isak could bring a lot to the Blaugrana and offer much-needed variation to their attack. On the other hand, there are signs pointing to the fact that he is not yet the calibre of player Barcelona need to lead their frontline, especially for that sum of €70 million. He could be a more than sufficient squad option and someone who could develop in the long term, but once again, that transfer fee warrants caution.
Also, facilitating his move could be quite difficult given that his ex-team Borussia Dortmund have a reported €30 million “buy-back” clause attached to his name. If (and when) the German club are to lose Erling Haaland, they could easily opt for Isak as his replacement.
Isak is a solid striker and has a lot of potential, but he is not yet the player capable of leading Barcelona’s front line. That paired with his potential transfer fee means the club should focus on other transfer targets first.