totalBarça is pleased to collaborate with Rafael León, a regular contributor to Martí Perarnau’s news site and blog (www.martiperarnau.com). He will be sharing his thoughts and analysis about FC Barcelona with the totalBarça community on a monthly basis. This is Rafael’s first article of the series.
From most to least minutes played:
1. Valdes – 4
Participation: 5 matches played, 450 minutes, 7 goals allowed.
He has stopped being part of the collective game due to a lack of short passes coming through his feet, but surely this is the coach’s decision. Perhaps this is the cause of the poor level he has shown, confirmed by the fact that three of the goals he has allowed were the result of big mistakes. However, in the last matches there are some indications of improvement.
2. Messi – 9.5
Participation: 5 matches played, 450 minutes, 7 goals, 3 assists.
In the Clásico and at the Riazor he reached his highest levels, though maintaining a very high level in the other matches. He has always been more than transcendent, although being Messi we always ask him for a little more. Best of all is that he seems to be maturing: mistakes present no problem to him and he seems to be making better choices for the good of the team.
3. Jordi Alba – 8
Participation: 5 matches played, 440 minutes, 2 goals, 1 assist.
His progression is constant. In attack, he is essential. In defense, he has been sober and hard to beat. However, he must correct his habit of losing the ball by making incorrect decisions in dangerous areas. By correcting this problem he will become outstanding.
4. Busquets – 8
Participation: 5 matches played, 412 minutes.
He is always there. His work is easier when the team attacks together, but he does not disappear in bad defensive transitions that occur when the team is dispersed. In other words, his creative skills are a little missed when the team shows its new vertical version. He has also offered good performances when he has been used as a defender; not his natural position but he is putting the work in.
5. Mascherano – 6
Participation: 5 matches played, 409 minutes.
He is gradually coming back to his best version despite the fact that he has a long way yet to go. Penalized by the transitions and, above all, by the absence of the TAO (tactical-air-organizer, ex. Piqué) centre back supplementing him (when he has played with Bartra he has appeared much more comfortable), he has been progressing and surpassing the slump that fell after his mistake in the Super Cup. The trend is upward, however.
6. Xavi – 8
Participation: 5 matches played, 383 minutes, 1 goal, 1 assist. Last season physical problems were made history so both he and the team are happy. He is able to be more decisive when the style is more vertical and his performance is on the rise. However, his influence will not be as momentous as it was when the model of play was always orthodox.
7. Cesc – 9
Participation: 5 matches played, 372 minutes, 3 goals, 5 assists.
Without a doubt, this has been his best period since he arrived at Barça. He has done great as a false 9, alone or accompanying Messi, and, for the first time, as a play-maker He also seems more comfortable (or less uncomfortable) when the style is less vertical, so it seems that he is also beginning to assimilate the pause. Thus, only his poor performance in El Clásico means that he hasn’t been perfect this month.
8. Pedro – 8
Participation: 5 matches played, 371 minutes, 1 assist.
The Canary returned once he regained his physical form. Facing him is martyrdom for defenders, when they don’t have possession and also when they do. Finally, Messi again has an indisputable partner, someone who assists and who can combine, or simply someone who can free Messi from defenders. That said, Pedro has not scored any goals. This is probably because he has spent more time giving the ball than receiving, and also because he hasn’t found his scoring streak that all forwards need. However, his great performances despite not having scored show that the main mission of Messi’s teammates up front is not just scoring goals.
9. Iniesta – 7
Participation: 5 matches played, 348 minutes, 2 goals, 1 assist.
Buried on occasions by the sprinters, this has not been his best period. Despite this, when he has come more into play the team has improved. The mere existence of any doubt about his fitness has been dispelled after two excellent displays as the best player on the pitch in the last two games that he has played.
10. Montoya – 8
Participation: 4 matches played, 333 minutes, 1 assist.
He is where he should be: he sits well in defense and raises his game when he has to create danger. He helps maintain the possession and typically makes good decisions. There is still room for improvement in certain aspects, but for now, considering his level and that of his competitors, he only needs two courageous decisions (first, from Tito, and then from Del Bosque) to become the undisputed right back of Barça and the Spanish national team.
11. Song – 2
Participation: 5 matches played, 319 minutes.
“Lost in translation” goes little way to describing his situation, though he is mostly not to blame. A defensive midfielder who likes to go forward being used as a centre back in a different football culture is not a pretty picture, which has been confirmed on the pitch. Now it seems that Tito has rejected this option, returning him to his natural position. However, in midfield he has seemed uncomfortable, sitting too far back and being insignificant with his passing. Nothing is definitive, but if it started from scratch to suit Barça’s style his experience in defense has certainly put him at a starting point “below zero”.
12. Alexis – 6
Participation: 5 matches played, 316 minutes, 1 goal.
While his mistakes before the goal can be charged against him, his performance was not as bad as it is thought. No doubt his confidence is diminished but this month he has experienced a marked improvement based on previous performances. His un-payable work against defenses made us call him El Niño Escoba, but a greater success in the definition (because he has good occasions, thanks to his good moves) would make everybody call him El Niño Maravilla again.
13. Adriano – 8
Participation: 4 matches played, 307 minutes, 1 assist.
His performance has been high in a month that has been only used for 10 minutes in his natural position, the left side. Regardless of which match that he played on the right, it has curdled three very good performances as central defender, something that only Tito Vilanova could imagine. If he was already a replacement of guarantees in four positions in the field, now he is in six. He is definitely the Joker that any team would want to have.
14. Alves – 3
Participation: 3 matches played, 207 minutes, 1 assist.
The fact his injury has been considered good news for the team’s performance says it all. Without his spark in attack, disoriented and indolent in defense, Dani seems more a player of the decadent Barça of Rikjaard than one of the current hungry Barça. Even in his return, against a 2nd B team and having seen that Montoya is more than ready to unseat, showed signs of a greater defensive attitude (although during this time he added in attack). In the absence of a radical change, everything indicates that it he is the biggest problem for Tito Vilanova. The rotten apple of the team.
15. Villa – 7
Participation: 5 matches played, 204 minutes, 2 goals, 1 assist.
Turning into the shoehorn of the team falls short for the decision that was taken with him. Despite the fact that fans prefer the rush, this option is revealing useful, because David gives one further step towards his best level every minute played. Fully recovered his scoring smell, probably only missing a plus of intensity to get fully into it. Everything indicates that he will become increasingly important.
16. Bartra = 7
Participation: 3 matches played, 190 minutes.
Against Celtic, Tito finally decided to give input. Marc responded with interest, as he has done in following games showing all his virtues: positioning, speed, ball outlet cleaning, air and even strength. However, the evidence of the matches he has played have been less demanding make us having to wait to assess his true level. As in the case of the Guaje, despite having antagonistic circumstances, he is being introduced as another shoehorn which could end up being a very important factor.
1. Tello (3 matches played, 91 minutes, 1 goal). After starting the season with lots of participation, now he should wait for new opportunities. He has shown a good level, but in order to remain important, will have to be an understudy to a fully recovered Villa.
2. Pinto (1 match played, 90 minutes, 0 goals embedded). He played well against Alavés, although there was little required from him. He will continue playing when required, in principle likle only in the Copa.
3. Sergi Roberto (1 match played, 90 minutes). The fact that the first team has four first-level offensive midfielders makes it continue to dip into Barça B. In Vitoria, he returned to prove that, if he is needed, he is more than ready.
4. Puyol (1 match played, 77 minutes). Despite already returning from injury at the start of the season, against Benfica we returned to see the great captain. Pity that misfortune occurred in the same encounter depriving us from seeing him more.
5. Jonathan Dos Santos (2 matches played, 23 minutes). Tito didn’t want him on the team, but he didn’t want to leave. He is still giving everything to find one opportunity at a time rather than to complicate things with the club. Against Rayo Vallecano, even though the game was already won and he only had 7 minutes, he showed his best performance with the first team. For this reason, he was an alternate behind Sergi in Mendizorroza which could be considered a setback for him. Probably after that he will decide that it might be better to follow the path of Fontàs and continue to grow in another club.
DID NOT Play Due to Injury
Pique, Abidal, Muniesa, Thiago and Cuenca.
* Rafael Leon Alemany (Follow on Twitter @_rafaleon_)