With Lionel Messi’s departure, many predict that this Barcelona team stands little chance of winning any trophies in the foreseeable future. Barca fans even anticipate the team won’t make it into the top four this season. This article evaluates FC Barcelona as a contender for the league title. Proving why they are not only capable of being competitive but also winning.
The Save and Grace
Memphis Depay and Frenkie De Jong are currently perhaps Barcelona’s best players. Depay looked lively in the pre-season, and in the two matches in La Liga, he has a goal and an assist. If he can keep this up, he will probably be the focal point of Barcelona’s attack. His Dutch compatriot, Frenkie De Jong, is arguably the most lovable player in Barcelona. He has, time and time again, performed heroics for the team both defensively and offensively and proved to be one of the very few good decisions made by Bartomeu.
The centre back roster composed of Ronald Araujo, Gerard Pique, and Eric Garcia appears quite strong. The defence has been the glaring weakness over the past few seasons. But with these three, things seem much more secure. Araujo and Pique’s only challenge will be staying fit. In particular, Araujo is unquestionably the best defender. If they hope to compete for silverware, Barca will need him at his best. With his leadership and defensive skills, many are hailing him as the next Carles Puyol. Pique’s off-field activities are creating headlines frequently more so than his sporting accomplishments. He is still among the World’s best on his day, but it’s time for him to step aside for a younger La Masia graduate to replace him. That La Masia graduate, being Eric Garcia. In the Euros, Garcia impressed former Barca coach Luis Enrique so much that he was placed in the starting lineup in the semi-final against Italy. In his first two matches for his boyhood club, he has shown great promise and could partner Araujo for years to come.
Ansu Fati and Pedri are the brightest gems in Barcelona’s treasure trove and will hopefully be the club’s future for many years to come. Particularly now that Messi is gone, they are no longer just the future but also the present. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not fair to expect so much from 18-year-olds. However, given how well they’ve performed in a Barcelona jersey, these young Spaniards might be able to handle the challenge.
The Ones Who Need to Step Up
The first name to spring to mind here has to be Marc Andre Ter Stegen. For several seasons, the German was among Barcelona’s best players. In the months following his surgery in August, but particularly after the Bayern Munich defeat, Ter Stegen has looked like a shell of his former self. While he is still one of the world’s best, he is no longer the match-winner he once was.
Now the big money players, namely Antoinne Griezmann and Phillipe Coutinho, who were the stars at their former clubs and now have been inconsequential. The biggest problem has been that throughout the duos’ time at Barcelona, their preferred position was always occupied by a certain Argentine. With 13 goals and 12 assists in 2021, Griezmann has proven he can perform in this Barcelona squad. Phillipe Coutinho has the biggest job of all and might be capable of it. The number 10 shirt of Lionel Messi is most likely his, and he must wear it with honour. Many people don’t think Coutinho can contribute anything to the team, but they may be forgetting what happened at the start of last season. He had two goals and two assists in 5 matches before his first injury, and his chemistry with Ansu Fati went under the radar. During a time, when Lionel Messi was not performing well for the team, perhaps due to the whole Bartomeu-Burofax fiasco, Ansu Fati and Phillipe Coutinho stepped up and helped Barca score goals and win games. If they can conjure up some similar magic, Coutinho might redeem his name in the football world.
Time to Show What You are Made of
Ousmane Dembele’s time at Barcelona has been many things successful is not one of them. With his contract ending this season, Barca started negotiations with the Frenchman. However, they are now on hold, with the winger asking for a raise in these dire times. However, when he comes back, it will be a new beginning and, if he performs well, Barca might be inclined to give him a raise to keep him. Dembele has shown sparks of how dangerous he can be, but that is his biggest problem. Dembele keeps showing glimpses of what he can do, but he hasn’t shown any consistency. Coupled with his off the pitch controversies and shenanigans he has not made many fans. The player must prove his worth now, or else he might have problems next season finding a team that will take a high earnings winger with an injury history and attitude problems.
Sergino Dest and Emerson are now fighting for the starting berth at right-back, and whoever will win this fight will probably be playing at that position for years to come. They have both shone at their previous clubs, and Dest had some great matches last season with Barcelona. In this leaky Barcelona defence, there is no margin of error now. Messi’s departure leaves less scope for the attack to compensate for the back-line, and whoever makes a mistake will probably lose his spot.
Sergi Roberto has been under a lot of criticism, and arguably deservedly so. He has not shown the quality to be a starter and to justify his astronomical wages. His getting, the captaincy over Marc Andre Ter Stegen has also not gone down well with some Barca fans. But in Ronald Koeman’s eyes, he still holds some respect and will be getting some minutes. This might be his last chance to get back into the Culers good side, and he might be able to do so. He is another player who has shown glimpses of being a useful swift player but inconsistency and playing at right-back has hampered him a lot.
The Old Must Make Way for the New
Under Ronald Koeman, Sergio Busquets has played sensational football. However, how long he can sustain his form remain to be seen. Apart from that, one of his greatest assets was picking out long passes over the top to Lionel Messi. Now others like Memphis Depay and even Martin Braithwaite can make those runs and score goals beating out entire defences. Despite all his prowess, Busquets cannot outrun time. He was already getting old before Ronald Koeman came, he transformed and improved his game under the Dutchman, but his time to pass the torch is approaching soon. Frenkie De Jong and Nico Gonzalez both have played in the pivot position and played quite well. In a 4-2-3-1 set up the partnership will be one to watch.
Jordi Alba has been a staple in FC Barcelona’s lineup for around a decade, and like all good things, this also must come to an end. Although his offensive numbers are along with the best in the world, his defensive lapses are just too costly to ignore. When Koeman shifted to a three at the back, he was much better. Now with Messi gone, Barca cannot afford the extra defender, and a four at the back system is needed. The change in the system should see the end of his stint as a first-team player, and in his stead, will rise Alejandro Balde. He has impressed in the pre-season, his time in Barca B was also a roaring success, and he looks set to take over from Alba this season.