You can say it was a hangover from their last match and you might be right, but the reason FC Barcelona lost two to one to Deportivo de La Coruña at the Estadio Riazor was lack of fire and individual errors. Misplaced passes and poor defending on corners led to both goals for the home side. Barcelona on the other hand didn’t create enough chances and the few they did were wasted whether it was the final ball in the form of a bad pass or a lacking shot.
It’s hard to criticize Luis Enrique for his formation and lineup selection nor his substitutions during the match. As much as he wanted to he didn’t kick a single ball in Galicia. At its’ best and most effective the formation for Barça was a 4-4-2 that sometimes morphed into a more ineffective 3-2-3-1.
Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué, and Javier Mascherano made up the defensive crux of the side while Marc-André ter Stegen stood in between the posts. Sergi Roberto pinched inside and formed a midfield partnership with Sergio Busquets. The hero against Paris also ran box to box and sometimes found himself the furthest forward for Barça on the right. Denis Suárez hugged the touchline on the right side while André Gomes tried to replace the Andrés Iniesta role. Lionel Messi played a classic number 10 and Luis Suárez played as a number 9. Arda Turan occupied the “injured” Neymar spot on the Left wing.
In a best-case scenario Neymar would have started and Samuel Umtiti would have replaced either Alba or Masche. Also, starting Iniesta could have brought more offense to the club. Although who can say what those changes could have made nor if they were even feasible. A club as large as Barcelona needs a squad large and good enough to compete on three fronts.
They say the best wonder why others around them aren’t as good as they are? Moving Messi into the hole behind Luis is the right move for the club. Football is a game of movement. Movement through space, scoring movements, creating space by moving the ball with a pass or first touch. Messi is the best because he moves the ball the most effective way towards goal. He either goes through you or passes over or around you.
The club doesn’t have anyone as good as Messi at moving the ball. Hell, no club in the world possesses someone as effective. So, in a perfect scenario Barca wins the ball or transitions the ball from defense to offense and then passes to Lionel thus allowing him to create magic. Playing in a 10 role allows the Argentine to blend his dribbling and playmaking talents. All the best movements Barcelona creating in the first half came from this kind of play. Unfortunately for the club they didn’t capitalize on any chances and allowed Dépor to.
In the 39th minute Javier sent a horrendous pass in the general direction of Sergi which went out of touch. Héctor Bellerín nor Dani Alves would have been able to receive such a poor ball. Dépor capitalized and a great stop by MAtS led to a corner. The ensuing corner led to a bad clearance by Javier which Marc spilled allowing Joselu to score. It might be harsh but Luis or Sergi may have been able to clear the corner as well. A bad pass, poor defending, and rainy conditions had Barcelona down one goal at the half.
Barcelona turned things around instantly at the beginning of the second half. Denis found himself some space on the right wing and fired a good cross towards Gomes. André kept the ball alive and it fell kindly to Luis. He pounced on the ball and scored a delicious first time shot. With momentum on their side an ineffective Arda was replaced by Iniesta and Ivan Rakitić came on for Gomes in the 58th minute. Ivan occupied the right midfield role and Iniesta took the left. Denis moved to Neymar’s position.
In the 73rd minute Javier played a bad ball to Ivan in the final third that led to a Dépor counter. They forced the ball up field and Denis blocked a cross for a corner. The corner led to a fingertip save off the post for Marc that upon further inspection appeared to be a phantom touch. The next corner, Dépor made no mistake as Alejandro Arribas destroyed Jordi Alba. Arribas headed the ball into the goal in the 74th minute and put the home side up for good.
In the 80th minute Luis should have equalized after Messi fed a devastating through ball to Sergi on the right. Roberto crossed the ball directly to Luis and his shot was easily saved by Germán Lux. Either side of the Argentine and visitors would have left with a tie. Roberto ran his heart out but was a step slow all match. In the first half, his drive into the box should have been first time crossed on goal and his cut back to Luis in the 2nd half was also off target. Marc came up with another brilliant 1 on 1 save to end the match as Barcelona sent all players up field to equalize.
Gomes, Arda, and Ivan were all very ineffective during the match. Iniesta was also mostly invisible after coming on. Paco Alcácer was so invisible during the match it isn’t even worth noting that he came on for Denis. Alba may not be meant for a three-man backline. He wasn’t able to overlap nor get into the final third at all during the match. Also, most of Deportivo de La Coruña’s attacks came through him. Umtiti was needed during the match but he can’t replace two men. Javier after playing so well against Paris had a nightmare game. Most of all the club missed the drive of Neymar. A new right back, world class creative midfielder, another center back, and the recall of Munir is needed in the off season. A new coach hopefully will also bring renewed motivation to the club.