Barcelona and Valverde have a lot to reflect on as we head into the November international break. The Catalans have not been at their dominating best this season and it’s been a fluctuating series of impressive and disappointing performances.
Frankly speaking, a number of injuries to key players at different points have surely played a part in the team’s dynamics so far but regardless of it all, there is a sense of under-performing from some members of the Barcelona squad. Big money signing Antoine Griezmann has been the scapegoat in that regard and as it stands more is still expected from him in terms of team-play and contributions to the team as well.
In pursuit of a 27th La Liga title, Barcelona have lost three games in the league already this season, which is as much as they did throughout the whole of their last campaign. Surely, that is room for much concern but in the wake of that, there are still positives for the Nou Camp faithful to look back on as we approach the first half of the season.
Top of the La Liga and Champions League group
Despite the stuttering form in the league, it’s positive that Barcelona still lead the top of the pile and it’s a good sign if the sides supposed to be capitalizing on Barca’s shortcomings are inconsistent themselves.
Real Madrid look to be finding their feet once again but that’s it with Los Blancos squad. They can become so good real quick and switch down below par the next game. However, It’s not a clear cut lead for the Catalans as only a solitary point separates first-place Barcelona and fourth-place Sevilla. Meaning any further slip-up can prove to be deadly in the circumstances.
On the attacking front, Barca have scored 33 goals so far in the La Liga- which is seven more than the second-best scoring side, Villarreal, who have 26 goals to their name (Skysports).
In the Champions League as well, Barcelona top a group that comprises the likes of Borussia Dortmund and a resurgent Inter side. Despite lacklustre performances as well, Barca remain unbeaten in the competition with two more fixtures remaining in the group stages.
Of course, the Spanish champions would have to up their game going into the second half of the season but so far they still remain top of their standings without hitting full potentials yet.
Frenkie De Jong has impressed
With big-money signings, there’s a lot of pressure to impress from the very start and only a few ever crack it to a bright start (Griezmann knows). It’s a lot harder when you’re a young player as well. When Barcelona announced the £65m signing of 20-year-old (at the time) Frenkie de Jong, the jury was on to see what he would become in Blaugrana colours.
However, since joining in the summer, the Dutchman has been a revelation for the club.
Commended for facing the media during difficult moments, attempting to integrate in his new city and going over his performances with backroom staff analysts, he has also impressed his teammates with athleticism and fitness that has been described as being of an Olympic long-distance runner’s standards.
Putting up impressive stats during his first 10 games in Blaugrana colours, he has continued to wow across 16 appearances in all competitions prior to the international break.
With only goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and Nelson Semedo matching him in this department, he is second in total minutes (1308) to Gerard Pique – 1350 via Whoscored and has apparently impressed his teammates with not just his fitness and stamina, but also his eagerness to learn.
The Dutchman can only get better with time and so far so good, he has been a joy to watch.
Lionel Messi remains ever-green
Not much needs to be said about Lionel Messi. In any time and era, the Argentine remains a positive and just when you think he has nothing more to give, he always finds a way to unleash more from his tank.
Despite missing some of the early fixtures through injury, Messi has climbed his way through the scoring charts (as usual). 12 games into the season, but Messi has only played in seven of them (Whoscored) and yet he’s just one goal behind Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema in the top scorers charts.
With his free-kicks becoming more like penalties to him, expect him to score more goals with ease and probably finish the season as the league’s top scorer – playing in whatever position upfront.
On a team level, nine goals and five assists in only 542 minutes (Whoscored) means he is the teams’ top contributor once again. Valverde recently conceded that Barcelona are dependent on him and based on any evidence from any perspective, that is a totally honest statement.
Ansu Fati: One for the future
Fati has been a revelation for the Catalonian giants of Spanish football this season.
In a season that has seen an indifferent start from Barca, in which they have been infuriated by the Neymar transfer saga and then attacking injuries.
Fati has been a shining light for Ernesto Valverde and his team.
The sixteen-year-old, started with an impressive cameo role after Valverde was without Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.
He was granted his first start in the next game, only to go along and bag himself a goal in the process too.
AND THE 16-YEAR-OLD ANSU FATI STRIKES IN MINUTE 2! OMG!! pic.twitter.com/2GcnDT5iGE
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 14, 2019
His story is one of rags to riches, as the cub had to buy the player football boots when he first arrived. Regardless, without a doubt, the La Masia prodigy has some immense talent.
Just recently, the 16-year-old got his Spanish nationality sorted and in no time head coach Robert Moreno went far to claim the teenager could be picked for Spain’s EURO 2020 squad. Such is the level of his talent right now.
Ansu Fati has been pleasant on the ball and is one for the future.