Who’s right at right back?

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The selection of Barça’s first eleven isn’t all that complicated if everyone’s healthy. Rarely on a team as talented and full of quality as Barcelona is any position really in doubt. The team is stacked from top to bottom, with depth that wasn’t present last season. In this respect, the team is probably better than it was last year.

There’s a big difference between this team and last year’s, though. Dani Alves, the first choice right back for years, has left to join Juventus, leaving a hole at right back and a conundrum for Luis Enrique and the coaching staff. While they bought good new players, they didn’t buy a right back. Alves is a player that can never be replaced, but Aleix Vidal and Sergi Roberto are the choices at Barça’s disposal, and while the right back position might come more naturally to Vidal, there is a better option.

 

Vidal, while fluent in attack, has sometimes looked lost and slow defensively. While it has only been preseason, he hasn’t looked like a sort of defensive right back Barça need. He can do the offense part, but opponents, even if it is preseason, have found marvellous success attacking down his side.

Luis Enrique obviously feels the same way, according to numerous reports that say he’s had reservations playing Vidal at right back. Preseason was an unofficial test for Vidal, and he hasn’t looked that impressive. Promising plays would often die at his feet, and his passes and crosses left plenty to be desired. He struggles defensively and gets caught in bad positions often, opponents slipping balls in between him and the center backs and wreaking havoc.

A perfect example of this is Liverpool’s first goal versus Barça in their preseason defeat. The through ball went to Sadio Mané and Vidal was caught in no man’s land. Not in position to intercept the ball, defend the shot, or help Ter Stegen on the line, Liverpool scored the first of four.

Luis Enrique has spoken a lot about Sergi Roberto, too, saying “You need to be intelligent, in Sergi’s case it is extreme, as in the Bernabeu (last season) he played as a winger, he has also played as an interior midfielder, a defensive midfielder and right-back… You need to be in great physical shape, footballing awareness and quality.” He even went so far as to say he is “one of my favorites”.

Based on his play last year and this preseason, as well as the first game of La Liga, it isn’t hard to see why. He was quietly impressive in defense and offense in that one. He gave no ground to Betis and was always available for a pass to break the pressure. He combined wonderfully with Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitić several times. He had two assists, to Messi and Luis Suarez, and could have had more on dangerous balls into the box. Five chances created for a defender shows he’s capable of offensive production reminiscent of a player like Alves. He’s shown a real understanding on that right side, something Vidal just doesn’t have yet.

Roberto is also two years younger than Vidal, and has played the Barcelona style for longer. He has more sticking power in the side as well, as his versatility and being able to shift positions make him a more valuable asset right now. Roberto is also capable of the occasional magic trick, pulling off unexpected passes and great balls for assists, like this one to Suarez.

Vidal hasn’t shown that quality yet.

This isn’t a knock on Vidal, who is a fine player. It’s just been clearly shown so far that Sergi Roberto is the best choice going forward into the new season. Vidal might be under the same affliction that beset Arda Turan, who has been great this season after suffering the last. It simply takes time to become comfortable playing on this team, and Vidal might need more time. However, until he can prove to Luis Enrique and the rest of the staff that he’s good enough, Roberto is the first choice right back and the player that will give us the best chance to win this season.

There will never be another quite like Dani Alves, and it’s a shame he’s had to move on. But regardless of transfers, life goes on for teams, and sometimes tough decisions must be made. If we have to have a new right back, why not pick the best one we’ve got?

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  • Jason Rodriguez

    Roberto is owning that RB position! His darting attacks and linkup play is excellently executed! He simply exudes exuberance anywhere they put him in!

  • Jonathan Stemmler

    The RB debate is false. It can change, but at this moment. Sergi is the best right back on the planet. IF you have been watching what he does. It may not continue, but if it does, it is a miracle. His skill and instinct at both ends have been nothing short of astounding.

  • Eivind Niclasen

    The confusion and inconsistency regarding Arda was a combination of match fitness caused by the transfer ban and not playing him in the right position. Turan is beginning to reward the coach for believing in him, while Vidal is yet to make any real progress. The transfer ban is in the past, so it no longer applies as an excuse for Aleix Vidal, who at the moment does not look likely to have several seasons ahead of him at the Camp Nou.

  • Victor Gusila

    Meantime, things are getting interesting. Cillesen is in, Bravo is apparently out, Samper is off on loan to Granada, and Munir is possibly going to Celta, while Paco Alcacer is actively trying to come to Barca.

    • Eivind Niclasen

      We can always take comfort in an entirely predictable Champions League draw earlier today. The easiest group is, as usual, headed by Real Madrid, while Barca is at the other end of the spectrum. Obviously a total coincidence – yet again.

      • Rinus VR

        I was thinking the same. When I saw that Man city was in our group, I had an immediate feeling of “what an odd coincidence (sarcasm)”. real madrid’s group is much easier (accept for dortmund) but…If we can win this group, than we know that we have a really good team. I also hope that Real underestimates their opponents and get a real whooping from dortmund or so.

        • Eivind Niclasen

          Dortmund has been weakened considerably in recent years, mainly thanks to Bayern. Lewandowski is gone, Hummels is gone and Gundogan is gone. Mario Gøtze may be back, but in a very deflated state. They outplayed Bayern in the German Super Cup, but still managed to lose. Thomas Tuchel is as adamant at playing attacking football as Pep is, so don´t expect them to hurt Zidane´s Real Madrid, who have a strict safety first approach.

          • Alexis Sanchez

            Eivind, As a Dortmund fan myself I will tell you that you are about to see the new Dortmund this season. Sure they have lost 3 players from last season, but I think they have won this transfer window hands downs with some excellent signings. Hummels was bad last season a lot of goals were conceded because of him. Gundogan hardly played last season because of his injuries and seems he is always injured. Mkhitaryan I think he is a big lost, definitely the bigger out of the three.

            As for the new season this is where Dortmund have done well and that is the signings of some good young players. Ousmane Dembele and Emre Mor are 2 fanatics young players both 19. I dont know why they signed Mario Gotze back not sure where he will fit into this team. Look out for new Dortmund this season hopefully a champions league final showdown with Barcelona.

          • Eivind Niclasen

            That makes two of us, since I also support Dortmund in the Bundesliga. How could I forget Henrikh going to ManU? Must have blocked him from my memory when he decided to go to the Premier League club, that I despise even more than Chelsea. I hope you are right about Dortmund making life difficult for RM in the CL, but I honestly don´t expect it. Zidane is as unadventurous as it gets; you will never catch his team off-guard, since all big matches are approached in the same manner. Park the bus, keep all men behind the ball, win the ball and hoof it out to either Ronaldo or Bale speeding down the flanks. Sort of a glamorous Mediterranean version of Leicester.

          • Alexis Sanchez

            I guess Real Madrid will still qualify from the group even if Dortmund were to beat them.

          • Eivind Niclasen

            I doubt if they will ever be challenged. UEFA is going the same way as FIFA with regards to corrupt leadership. With Real Madrid´s success being founded on political connections rather than what they can do on the pitch, officials will make sure that they will be gently carried through every competition. They also play a style of football, that is hard to defend against. Lots of long aerial balls hoofed into the opponent´s area, mixed with catenaccio. If you want to beat RM, you have to score first. Preferably more than just one goal.

          • Alexis Sanchez

            Some good signings from Dortmund.

    • yaofengchen

      I will be sad and happy at the same time if Munir gets loaned out. He is too good to play for another club than Barca. But at 20 he won’t be getting enough playing time to develop his career. It is good for him to spend a few years away from Barcelona. This is why Luciano Vietto declined to come to Barca because he knows he won’t be playing full time. Heck, he did not even play full time in Atleti last season. Dennis Suarez spent a couple seasons away and came back more matured. I think and I hope he stays for good.

      • Victor Gusila

        Done deal, it seems. Munir out to Valencia, Paco Alcacer in. Looks like a loan with a buy option for Munir, no idea if a buy-back clause will kick in if Valencia decide to buy.

  • yaofengchen

    Finally we find another Adriano Correia, a five tool player who can play almost any position. Excep Sergi is good enough to play everyday.