Following the first part of Barça’s squad analysis, published on Martí Perarnau’s blog, below we take a look at the engine of this team: the midfield, as well as alternatives for attack. The original piece, written by Rafael León, is available here.
For Sergio Busquets and Andrés Iniesta it looks like it will be another memorable season, as they are set to retain their places as the best in the world in their positions. However, there are some question marks on the other positions: Xavi showed some certain decline in his fitness, something that is natural, which will bring more challenges in order to balance game time for him to remain fit. Iniesta, Fàbregas and Thiago Alcantara are, however, more than qualified to replace some of his characteristics on the football field. However, Cesc will have to come back to his best, or be good in the attack, forcing Andrés to move back. Thiago needs to recover from his injury and then, continue his progression, learning defensive concepts as he brilliantly did last season, and then step up a bit in his role of creative midfielder.
- Player out: Seydou Keita, who left the club after four seasons, was great as a sub, giving breathing space to the always busy line of three midfielders.
- Probably out: Jonathan Dos Santos. He was going to become Busi’s sub, but he didn’t have a good season, so another player was signed for that role (Alex Song).
- Signing: Alexandre Song. Barça has signed, for 19 million euros, a midfielder that is probably, alongside Busquets and Touré Yaya, the best defensive midfield in the world right now. He is also young (25), which makes him a very good signing, if he accepts that his role might be secondary at the beginning, except if Busquets gets injured. However, his qualities make him suitable for different positions, such as interior (attacking midfielder) and centre back. He was excellent as an attacking midfielder for Arsenal last season, and he will most likely have to follow a complex adapting process to become a centre back that Barça could use.
- B Team: The only reason why Sergi Roberto has not been promoted to the first team is that there are four attacking midfielders already. He could perfectly take part in the team as he is well prepared and has immense talent. His performance improves when he plays for the first squad. He will get into the team if any of the four gets injured. Behind him, Rafinha first, and then Espinosa, have qualities that make everyone think that, one day, they will have the opportunity to become first team players.
- Other alternatives: In case of emergency, Messi could even take a position in midfield, being fantastic at it as usual. At centre midfielder (Busi’s position), Mascherano proved he wasn’t the best option there, but Piqué or Bartra might be, as well as Muniesa when he comes back, as he played in that position most of the last season with Barça B.
- Overall analysis:
Complemented with Song’s signing, Barça probably has the best midfield in the world, even with a couple of absences. However, it will be necessary to have the best Xavi, or that Cesc or Thiago start to take his place if he’s not available. That being said, there are also Messi and Alves, who often transform themselves into brilliant midfielders, which makes the centre of the team even better. More so, the characteristics and talent located in midfield, help the team to have a lot of different tactical alternatives to damage rivals.
As for Barça’s attacking line, Messi himself makes it one of the most dangerous in the game. However, it will be necessary that the others improve their performances, and that they can manage to stay injury free, which didn’t happen last season. In this case, the pressure they can apply to recover the ball quickly and free Messi from defenders, is much more important that their scoring abilities. One of them, Cuenca, has proven he can play as a winger at a great level, no matter the competition. That will be something to watch when he comes back from his injury.
- B team
Today, Tello is still a member of the B squad, despite having played regularly last season in the first team. His rise means that Afellay will most likely leave the club. The only other forward from Barça B that is set to play in the first squad is Gerard Deulofeu. However, given his game and character, the staff know they have to be careful with him.
- Other alternatives: For those (we hope) rare occasions where Messi is not available, Cesc might take a spot in the forward line as a “false 9″. It wouldn’t be odd to see Iniesta on a wing too, as well as Alves, Jordi Alba or Adriano in that position.
- Overall analysis
If Messi continues being Messi, and his teammates in the forward line stay injury free, the situation is under control. But the team wouldn’t have a plan B, which is not necessarily needed this season.