Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 triumph against Almeria turned out to be a tale of two halves, with the Catalan giants facing an uphill battle in the first 45 minutes, only to orchestrate a comeback after proceedings.
While Sergi Roberto had to pull off a late winner to certify victory, an array of chances were created in the second half, paired with an overall elevation in fluency.
Had the Catalan giants not constantly fired blanks in front of goal and fallen victim to individual errors in defense, the three points would have been far easier to come by.
Nonetheless, a shake-up by Xavi in the dressing room during the half-time break proved to be key.
And apart from giving the players a drubbing for their lack of effort, the inclusion of Ferran Torres, for the umpteenth time this season, rejuvenated the team.
The difference maker
Replacing Joao Felix, who was largely a non-impact for the majority of the first half, Ferran immediately engendered a greater threat in the front line.
The Spaniard’s versatility up front has been well-documented by now, and fielded as the left-winger on this occasion, he uplifted Barcelona’s spirits with courage on the ball.
Driving forward from deep, he was unafraid to take men on, cut inside, and take aim at goal. For a team that was desperately craving such a spark up front, his dynamic style of play injected much-needed vitality into the attack.
The energy and intensity shown by ‘The Shark’ evidently rubbed off onto the rest of the players, too.
However, apart from his bravery on the ball, the former Manchester City man proved to be a breath of fresh air without it.
Compared to Joao Felix, whose work off the ball was incredibly limited, Ferran’s mobility not only allowed Barcelona to find him in behind the opposition defense; but liberated Robert Lewandowski, who started to see more space on the pitch to exploit.
Barça could go long with Ferran sneakily beating the offside trap, while also depending on him to apply pressure on the Almeria defense to win the ball back.
Moreover, the Catalans finally had a presence who attacked spaces with regularity, which was not the case with Lewandowski, who excessively dropped deep, or Joao Felix who was a bystander in all phases of play.
Ferran could not conclude his night with a direct influence on the scoreboard, but the Spanish international’s presence rekindled Barcelona’s synergy as cracks in Almeria’s defense were being identified, instead of ignored, as was the case in the first half.
Worthy of more playtime
Admittedly, Ferran Torres’ best games this season have come off the bench, with a knack for making an instant impression in brief cameos.
Nonetheless, on the basis of meritocracy and given the overt imperfections in the finishing department, it is clear as crystal that Ferran has warranted more involvement.
Having scored a great goal against Royal Antwerp in the Champions League, in a game which once again shed light on Lewandowski’s glaring decline, Ferran’s reward against Valencia was a place on the bench.
After the clash against Almeria, Xavi argued: “The players in the best form will play. That’s always been the case with me as a manager.”
If that were truly the case, Ferran’s contribution as of late should have translated into a starting position against Almeria.
The 23-year-old has suffered from lapses in front of goal; but, at the very least, he makes up for missed chances with movements that aid his supporting his cast and force the opposition to make errors.
That said, his output is still worthy of more playtime. In the first half of the season, Ferran has recorded an impressive 12-goal contributions, for both club and country, despite largely being availed as an impact substitution.
In the Champions League, where the lights shine brightest, his positive influence has been most visible, with a game-winning goal against FC Porto away from home, a goal and assist against Shakhtar, and finally an equalizing goal against Royal Antwerp.
Moving forward, it may be in the squad’s best interest to rely upon Ferran Torres more frequently.