Barça season grades — coach and attackers

School’s out for summer. For some as regards the Blaugrana, to cite Alice Cooper, school’s out forever. We know how the season went as regards results, and it was fantastic. In August, as we surveyed the wreckage left by a Neymar departure and then Real Madrid laying waste to things in the Spanish SuperCopa, nobody knew what to think, except “poor Valverde.”

Then it got worse. The club brought in a talentless coot from China, a young RB from Portugal and a dazzling talent from Germany who showed up in diminished fitness, thanks to the strike he had to call to get his transfer. Then the talent broke doing (of all things) a backheel, and things looked even worse as Liverpool stuck to its guns, despite a desperately wantaway Brazilian.

And then weird things started to happen. Real Madrid saw the negative effects of sending away talented bench players, and Atleti, though strong as usual defensively, struggled to score goals as they waited for their infusion of energy in Diego Costa. Suddenly Barça had a Liga lead, and nobody quite knew what to do, what to think. And the lead kept growing, and still nobody knew. The team hit a funky patch, never losing but drawing, and the gap closed as the anguish began. Ah, now people knew what to do. DOOOOM!

Then the ship was righted, and the club sailed to a Liga championship sullied by a single defeat in the pentultimate match. The team did the domestic double, but all wasn’t right in Culerville. The play wasn’t right, formations weren’t right, nothing was right, except the results. And that was wrong. And after Roma, even those weren’t right. Draws were losses, wins were losses, everything felt like a loss in a season that in the wake of 90 crap minutes, had nothing. The Levante loss only made everything worse. The mood in the Barça social media world would have led an outsider to believe the team was about to be relegated.

And now it’s over. Isaiah will be working on a broader, deeper season in review, so let’s focus on the coach and players. How did they do? Let’s start with the coach, and attackers:

Ernesto Valverde: 7: The results were fantastic, the methods not always so. When he was signed on, it was because of his pragmatism, his ability to extract the maximum from a flawed group of athletes. And Barça was a flawed team. Valverde fashioned a system that allowed Messi to become even more decisive, through movement. If you looked at Messi’s heat map for the season, it would be easy to consider him a midfielder. But midfield was his launching point. The structure and movement of the Valverde system enabled Messi to have the freedom to move, unmarked, to positions where he could score goals or make key passes. This sounds easy, but it isn’t. In the past, Messi would have to make runs or dribbles, beating banks of defenders and making magic. This season, he would run to a spot in the box or just outside it, and there was the ball. Motion offense? Sure, if you’re into labels. But Valverde put the team in the service of its best player not only from logic, but from pragmatism. Messi is the best passer, scorer, dribbler, anything else you can think of. You don’t want him in a space where he can be controlled. Stick and move. On the negative side for Valverde, he lost faith in his own program at key moments, including his rumblefish, Paulinho. When he called for the Brazilian’s transfer, it seemed the world was going to end. Then Paulinho just did Paulinho things. Rumbling around the midfield, playing wall passes, helping in defense and running the channels into the box. People screamed about his tactical lack of discipline, like he wasn’t doing what his coach told him, because it was effective. Paulinho had a fitness and fatigue-related form dip, and didn’t get back into the rotation until it was too late, as Valverde moved away from the system involving Paulinho that helped Barça build its lead. Paulinho would have made a difference in the Roma match, where Valverde rolled out the wrong XI for the occasion, and failed to change it once the outcome and attack were clear. At times, the team didn’t seem to have a system. But there were also matches where, when an opponent didn’t cower in a low block, exquisite football. We forget that, particularly in the wake of a season defined by two matches. That is a shame.

The big knock on Valverde is that he prioritized Copa, and didn’t rotate enough. Of course, the same people say that everybody sucks, except for Messi, Pique and Iniesta, admittedly an exaggeration for effect. Valverde had a limited squad, in world where only a treble would do in evaluating a coach, particularly a new one. Gomes didn’t work out. Neither did Alcacer. Denis Suarez came on line late. Had he played the entire season as he did the back half, Valverde would have had more options. As it was, he had a short bench of qualitative necessity. Slating Gomes as worthless then slating his coach for not rotating him in more just doesn’t wash. Valverde did the best that he could with what he had even as he made key errors in Rome. Many will say not starting Messi at Levante was an error, but that defense. You can’t give up five goals. The challenge with Valverde is to not reduce the season to two matches.

Lionel Messi: 9: In considering the season of this remarkable player, week in, week out, match after match, it’s so difficult to find fault. Yes, he should have tracked back more on defense, but in big matches, he worked his diminutive Argentine ass off. He passed, moved, ran, got fouled, scored goals and went Pichichi again. He is the best player any of us have ever seen, and he thrived in a system that used him as the fulcrum to devastating, decisive effect. Think about this: Messi was Pichichi, and he hit the post 14 times. The goal that he missed, that we all knew he was going to score until he didn’t, was a massive one. You can guarantee he replays it in his head, on the doorstep in Rome as the ball bounced to him. Just as when he talked about the shot he missed at World Cup, how he struck it with too much instep, you know he knows now that he had more time, that he could have been more calm, that the moment created urgency. That one goal would have marked another time that he saved his team. Again. But like the Champions League result, that moment shouldn’t detract from what was a magnificent season. And that match shouldn’t have had to come down to that goal.

Messi’s heat map says midfielder. But opponents are going to watch game film to ask themselves how, match after match, Messi found himself in positions to wreck stuff. His reading of the game is intuitive and that, in conjunction with the structure his coach set up, meant that time after time, Messi was exactly where he was supposed to be. It was brilliant to watch. And were it not for laggardly teammates, Messi also would have had more assists, in addition to his having hit the post 14 times. In continuing the Michael Jordan analogies, this Barça team was most like the “supporting cast” that Jordan hailed when the Bulls won championships. And it worked.

What is scary is that next season, with a fully assimilated Dembele, a full season with Coutinho and other needs addressed in the forms of Alena’s promotion and the Arthur transfer, Messi could be even better, even more decisive.

Luis Suarez: 6: Statistically, Suarez had a really good year. His goal tally was almost up with Messi’s, as was his finishing percentage. Suarez scores bags of goals, but not even his family and closest friends would call him “clinical.” That is one problem. Also, his diminution of skill related to a big body aging was clear to see, and that affected his play as he spent too much of the time glowering in frustration. His movement tailed off to the extent where he was either offside or stranding runners. The quality of his first touch was at a new low, and he missed key goals even as his numbers were about what they always are. The psychological effects are knock on in that the more frustrated he gets, the easier he is to play for defenders as he seems to berate himself into ineffectiveness. He will need a part-time role next season. This season it was clear why. Too often he was the place where attacks went to die. People want to sell him, but the club never will. Not while there are 30 goals a season in that big body of his. Valverde will have to learn how to get the most from him in a part-time role.

The good things that Suarez does involve movement and aggression. He creates space for fellow attackers through his presence as he drags defenders around. Some of his ineffectiveness relates to lacking a playmate in a system that left him isolated for too much of the time. The rare occasions that he and Alcacer got to team up often led to good things. Suarez missed Neymar nore than any player on the team. Yet it is perhaps typical of Suarez’s season that one of the biggest goals of the season, a potential equalizer against Levante that would have kept Barça unbeaten, found him in perfect position for an open header and a flawless pass found him. He headed it over the net. And that was that.

Ousmane Dembele: Incomplete: It’s hard to evaluate a player who was lost for most of the season, then struggled with fitness and assimilation for the rest. His talent is clear, as are the things that he will need to work on over the summer. It’s hard to remember that he is only 20, such is the hype and transfer fee. He is electric, a player who makes you rise from your seat when he gets the ball. He has vision, the ability to pass off the dead run and the ball explodes off his foot. If any oft-broken 20-year-old can still be said to be worth 140m, it is Dembele. But he lost six months of the season and that affected the rest of it. He came back out of shape and tentative, and mostly looked a mess. When Valverde started him in the pivotal home Champions League leg against Chelsea, many wondered why, but it was clear: the way Chelsea plays means that Dembele would have oppotunities to run with the ball, and losing it wouldn’t be as expensive on the opponent counter.

This also explains why he did not start against Roma, a fast, physical, counterattacking team. The problem, and one of the biggest problems the team had was without Dembele, there was no way for the attack to threaten the defense with pace and getting in behind it. But the way Roma attacked would have made Dembele’s losing the ball expensive, particularly as he isn’t all that interested in tracking back. If Griezmann does come, that is the biggest part of Dembele’s game that he will have to improve. But like Neymar showed, such a thing is possible.

Functionally, Dembele will be a new signing next season. He will get to have a full immersion period with the team, barring the World Cup complexities in team building and structure. But he will be a much better player next season than this one, which makes next year already exciting. But Dembele’s presence and the fact that Messi is already teaching himself how to work with him, will probably make the JDP crowd sad. You don’t buy Dembele then stand around playing JDP. He isn’t that kind of player.

Paco Alcacer: 3: Sometimes made a difference when he played, but those times were rare. He never stood out enough to grab consistent playing time, which is earned in training. That is on him. And too often he subbed on and vanished. He had some key goals this season, most notably against Sevilla. But all in all, hard not to consider this a failed transfer who will move on.

When he was signed, he was a quick, mobile striker who could also play on the wing. He had a knack for being in the right place, and was a lethal finisher. Ultimately he had the same problems that Munir had, but Munir wouldn’t have cost the club 30m. Alcacer didn’t thrive in the compressed spaces that the Barça attack had to deal with, and that doomed him. A conservative coach such as Valverde will shorten his rotation to players that he can trust. Alcacer never made that list, something that affected the team. As we screamed about Suarez, saying that Alcacer couldn’t be worse, that wasn’t true. Because if it was true, he wouldn’t have been the cipher that he was.

Next up: Midfielders

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

22 Comments

  1. ChaoticReaper
    May 27, 2018

    We have nobody to blame for the champions league but ourselves. We choked to Roma and we weakened Liverpool’s squad by taking Coutinho lol…

    Hopefully in 20 years people will say Madrid won a lot before VAR but now they can’t win anymore after VAR

    Messi needs this world cup to save his legacy

    • Grindelwald
      May 27, 2018

      Messi legacy is in no threat of being diminished in any way, winning the world Cup (night impossible) would only enhance his legacy.
      Messi legacy goes beyond the Ballon d’or and the goalscoring feats, Maradona and Ronaldinho are still regarded as one of the greatest artistes ever even without the ethereal stats of Messi. Reaching the last 4 of the world Cup would secure Messi another ballon d’or and at the rate he’s going he still has atleast three more years at the very top.
      Messi will surely squash every records left held by Ronaldo before he retires then even the harshest of critics and most deluded of fanboys would have no choice than to accept he’s without equal!

  2. Víctor
    May 27, 2018

    Interesting, grading the entire team after the season. That’s seems quite a good idea…

    Myself, I think that Valverde perhaps deserves a 8. He’d have a 10, but the Roma flop takes a point away from him and the fact that the team played boring football at times takes another point from him. And I’d just take 1 point away for the boring football because it brought results most of the time.

    Suarez. Quite difficult to judge. At first I thought that a 6 was being a little too good on him, he really deserves a 5 or a 4… but then I remembered that he was injured for about 2 months at the start of the season… and that’s when the most crappy Suarez showed up. After he recovered he had a good stretch of games… from December to February… after that, he slowly declined into crap Suarez again.

    Yes, I do see that he also plays a role in dragging defenders away, but that’s also kinda psychological… that happens because opposition defenders think that he is a threat that should never be left alone, give Suarez space and he kills you, but… he is not really that Suarez right now… it doesn’t seem like it. It seems to me that even if opposition defenders give him space he won’t be as lethal as he was 1 or 2 years ago… but still a 6 is the right grade for him. The really bad thing is that I don’t see a way for him to improve that grade next season. Perhaps if he loses some weight and acts a little faster… and, yes, if he goes back to being clinical again.

    Dembele… in my opinion he played enough time to give him a grade… and mine would be a 7. Not bad, he really was a threat and can contribute lots for the team, but needs to start contributing more on defence.

    Alcacer a 3? I’d strongly disagree with that one. He needs more playing time and he has showed that he has potential for being a real threat to the opposition.

    Although I think that his time in Barcelona is almost over. If Griezmann happens without Suarez going away… then it would be better for him to leave.

  3. May 27, 2018

    You know I love being a Barca fan, but at the same time I hate. I love it because I get to watch the best team with the GOAT play week in week out, I get to watch them give their all on the pitch and no matter what the result more often than not I get to finish the game proud to be a fan. I hate it because the fan base is insufferable, I mean really ridiculously so, to the point now where I don’t bother even looking at Barca twitter anymore. This is my sole refuge for some balanced, logical writing (thank you Kxevin for keep this blog going for so long, I have been reading your writing pretty much since I started supporting Barca some 15 years ago).

    This was an amazing season, made even more impressive given the circumstances. I too would give Valverde an 8, he did incredibly well with the players he had at his disposal. I can’t see how any fan would have expected more at the start of the season. Too many Barca fans care way too much about Real Madrid and what they do. They finished 17 points behind Barca…. 17!!! Can you imagine if Barca finished 17 points behind Madrid, CL trophy or not. They do well in the CL because all you have to really do is show up for a handful of games a season. In a league where a team has to demonstrate consistency and REAL mental and physical strength they have managed 2 in the last 10. Only one more than Athletico. Barca have 7. Let that sink in. How dominant Barca has been over their fiercest rival in the league. A team has to perform first and foremost in its own league. In that regard Real are not even close.

    I have come to the conclusion that an unfortunate number of Barca fans are just spoilt brats throwing their toys out of the pram and nothing will every satiate them. The league and cup double isn’t enough, ok how about a treble? That wasn’t enough either under LE as I recall. Stop complaining about everything and enjoy this team while it lasts because at some point this team will ACTUALLY see a real downturn (happens to every great team) and fans will wish for the days of league and cup doubles. Maybe it will weed out all these fair weather fans.

    • hereiam
      May 27, 2018

      Although I don’t care that much about RM, I do see the fans’ point.

      They won four CL during the golden age of our club. At the peak of our strength. When we had Iniesta, Busquet, Xavi, Neymar, and the GOAT in their peak years.
      There’s a reason Bayern, PSG, Juventus all went to great length to get their hands on the CL trophy. It is, like it or not, the most prestigious. And also the only direct competition between top clubs across leagues.

      Yeah, the league favors consistency, but you still have to show up at important games too. That’s how most sports work. No one will remember our win vs Real in the league except the fans of the two clubs, but everyone will remember how Barca bottled against Roma.

      We didn’t waste a season, simply because of the impossibly low expectation we had for a club of our stature at the beginning of the season. If exceeding a low expectation doesn’t feel like winning, then you can’t really blame the fans.

      So for me, this is not a successful season for our club. We should look back and make proper adjustments instead of resting on our laurels and continue to expect Messi to carry us to glory.

  4. Barca433
    May 27, 2018

    If you compare with RM’s CL victory, this season was a bust. Many have said winning La Liga is more difficult because it requires more consistency. So, if you consider that Pique considered Barca inferior to RM, then the doblete was an absolute success.
    The team lost 20+ goals when Neymar left, so I do not believe the blame rests on Suarez shoulders. He put up the same quantity of goals as CR7 in La Liga and had 10 helpers. Due to problems in the MF and defense, Valverde opted for the 4-4-2 which actually was more of a 4-4-1-1 with Suarez as the lone striker against the other team’s D. Sure, he missed some goals but not more than any other player, as attested to his comparable shoting statistics (26.5% vs 22% for Messi in La Liga). He presses, recuperates balls, holds up play, assists on goals, has a lot of movement. I think he deserves at least an 8.
    Any failing grades have to go to the Barca board, due to their inability to sign adequate replacements (Gomes, Mina). Although Valverde also shares some of the responsibility, for prioritizing La Liga and not willing to lose points by playing Alcacer, perhaps D Suarez and Semedo.
    I read somwhere that part of Roma’s success lay in that they took the money earned from the Salah transfer and invested in a “second” team so their starters could rest and be fresh for CL.

    • hereiam
      May 27, 2018

      What the stats won’t tell you is how important Suarez goals were.
      Suarez didn’t score a single goal in the group stage, and he scored a grand total of one (!) goal in the CL, at min 87, against Roma, when the team was leading 3-1, at home.
      That is unacceptable for a striker role at Barca, especially considering the fact that we didn’t have Dembele for a long time, and no Neymar.
      Because of his inability to find the net, too much attacking burden fell on Messi, and the result was inevitable.

      • Barca433
        May 28, 2018

        In CL, Suarez had 1 goal and 5 assists. Messi had 6 goals and 1 assist. Even when not scoring, he is contributing.
        The blame for the CL failure was due to poor defending by FCB, first in allowing Roma important away goal and then atrocious defending on Dzeko’s opening goal.

      • hereiam
        May 28, 2018

        According to whoscored, Messi started 8 CL games and 2 as subs, scored 6 goals and assist 2. Suarez started 10, scored 1 and assist 2.
        Second, we don’t lack creator, but what we lack is a clinical finisher. That was exactly what Suarez was bought for.
        Against Roma at home, we had 17 shots at goal, and 6 shots on target. If even one of those resulted in a goal, the result should have been completely different.
        We do occasionally leak goals, but that is to be expected. Every single CL team leak goals. Juve, Liverpool, PSG, RM, Bayern, all of them leak goals, even against lesser opponents, on occasions. These people desire the cup more than us, and it shows. Barca is not famous for its defence anyway. We simply have to outscore them. 17 shots and zero goal is simply unacceptable.

  5. G6O
    May 27, 2018

    In other news, Barca B got relegated officially

  6. luisthebeast
    May 27, 2018

    Neymar loss fucked our season in offense.
    Teams had the chance to defend better without a LW threat.
    Also our RW was Deulofeu until January so yes we had serious problem.
    Our CL chances would be great if Coutinho signed in summer and Dembele was nt had that injury.
    Shit happens.
    Look at LFC,a year of great work in CL fucked by an injury of their best player.
    Alcacer is a poor player for Barca standards.
    Suarez is going older and i am afraid we have to make sell him.
    We have to buy a number 9 who can link up and also strong like Luis.
    But the question:Can we play again 4-3-3 with the squad we have?
    For me no,we need new tools at LB,RCB,DM,RCM,9

  7. ciaran
    May 28, 2018

    Thanks for this Kxevin.
    A few things…
    Valverde’s rating doesn’t surprise me, although for me it’s a tough one. At some of his biggest challenges he succeeded and in others he failed. He got through the second set of Clasicos and comfortably won the league. He won another Copa and his team played scintillating football in that final. But.
    Vs Chelsea, we were outplayed twice and came through it. We then went to Roma with a big lead and were destroyed with absolutely no redeeming qualities for anyone involved. Unfortunately, having wrapped up the league it should have led to taking the Roma match more seriously.
    Overall I think a solid 6 is as much as I could give.

    Messi I agree with comprehensively.

    I find it unusual that you give Paco a score but don’t give one to Dembele when Dembele played more minutes in both the league and the champions league than Paco. I understand that given his fitness throughout the season Paco obviously couldn’t have impressed in training and didn’t win Valverde’s trust. It’s incredible with the form, or inconsistency, of Suarez that Paco couldn’t get more minutes.
    Dembele is a very exciting prospect but is defensively very suspect for the big matches.

  8. Jim
    May 29, 2018

    If I’m honest I find it a hard season to assess. The success of the past decade or so has I suppose ( slightly) taken the edge off all but winning trophies while the downs, although few, were so spectacular ( and avoidable) that they loom large,maybe too large, in any assessment of the season as a whole.

    For me, Valverde has done the first basic requirement of enabling us to get over the departure of Neymar, injuries to Dembele and Suarez without ending up too far behind to enjoy the rest of the season. Tick.

    He has to get a formation which allowed Messi to perform and score goals which he did despite having been left the worst bench I can remember at Barca, largely by LE. Tick.

    He went further than this and won two trophies ( including the league which is still to my mind the hardest to win ( although not perhaps the biggest in the minds of most supporters across Europe.). Big tick.

    He has stayed calm and dignified during all of the above . Important to me. Dignity and grace ain’t in big supply across the world these days. Big tick.

    However,

    The team has only played really well in fits and starts. The football has often been painful to watch and we’ve been saved time and again by Messi.

    The formation with four in the middle just isn’t us. We have basically two DMs, Iniesta and a makeweight which is never gonna support the attack. It’s designed not to lose goals ( not sure it actually does that but that’s another discussion). Maybe, if he’d used it to lessen Iniesta’s workload, play him in an advanced central role or even just in the middle to join the play up it could have but that wasn’t what happened.

    The two up front which is in reality just Suarez up front relies entirely on bodies getting forward and into the box quickly enough to allow Suarez to do his thing. Didn’t happen often enough and tbh it didn’t look like EV was encouraging it all that much.

    The Roma game. Ugh ! There’s a basic question to be asked of EV and the board here. Do we want to be hard to beat or hard to stop? Before I deleted them I looked back over both Roma games, the home game was slightly better than I’d remembered. In particular, we got bodies forward a little better which caused them problems and a lot of last minute tackles. Rakitic was often up with the attack and we looked better for it. The away game was there for us to put the same pressure on them . . . but it was if anything worse than I’d thought. I found myself still shouting at the TV for us to get forward but there were obviously strict orders not to do so. Worst example was their first goal where Rakitic actually retreated in front of their midfielder giving him all the time in the world to pick his ball but no courage at all that night and we got what we deserved. I’m not gonna claim that I know what EV said but that’s just about the most meek performance I’ve ever seen from us until it was too late.

    Other major error was leaving Messi at home with an unbeaten streak and only a coup,e of games to go. That is so close, Messi is so competitive and EV was badly needing something to wash away the taste of Roma. What was he thinking? Yes, the team could have played better but it’s not like there haven’t been precedents. What was he thinking of ?

    Rightly or wrongly I found both of those hard to take so for me he’s about a 6 or 7. I have a feeling that will either go way up or down next season. He’s not getting a pass from me for the type of football again but I’m just not sure he had a real option this year.

    The attack. Well, this bit will be a lot shorter because it was just Messi and Suarez with honourable mentions to Paulinho ( early on) and Alba. The rest were nowhere and that’s a big issue. Not gonna waste time going on again how stupid it is leaving Suarez up front on his own but I have to take issue with the constant downplaying of his ability and achievements .

    This was a player who was vilified at the start of the season when he suffered a knee injury, came back early to help his NT and stayed on because we had no alternative and needed him . He played with constant pain in his knee. I don’t need to tell anyone who has played the game that changing direction when you don’t know if you’re knee is going to support you is one of the worst feelings you can have. So, he didn’t play well but still assisted through clever movement.

    Within a week or two all his previous achievements were gone and he was finished, lost all his pace, carrying a huge ageing body around, had no control and would never be the same again.

    And then we had the November, yes NOVEMBER international break where he finally emerged from it saying for the first time he no longer felt any pain. And off he went. We saw, intelligent movement, hard pressing, goals galore and heaps of assists. All this with a diminished forward line due to the formation. It all went quiet while a new narrative was sought. Then it became he was playing well but they could see he wasn’t the player he used to be and this would be his last season . . . And he kept on scoring.

    Finally when a superb season is statistically undeniable and you wouldn’t want to deny it if you really, really watched his constant clever movement, he is now not clinical. Yes, I know he scored the same as Ronaldo with three months less, assisted as many as Messi, an alien – and more than anyone else in La Liga – but he’s not “clinical” . Watch games such as his hat trick of assists to Messi against Depor, his finish against RM , his CDR performance including ball winning, and tell me he doesn’t have great touch vision and finishing ability. Anyone remember Eto’os drought, when everybody tried to lay it on a plate and let him walk it in and he still kept missing with a terrific front three ?

    It’s not just Barca fans not appreciating what they have won, there are a few who don’t know how to appreciate a world class forward delivering yet again, despite being isolated for long periods up front through no fault of his own. If, and I agree with those who suggest it’s a big if, Dembele can pull his stuff together, Griesmann arrives and Coutinho can get into games a bit more in the middle just watch Suarez go next year.

    However, let’s get real. That ain’t happening. Largely because we don’t have good enough mids, and certainly not the right kind, but that’s for the next discussion.

    Btw, did I mention I hate Ramos ? Read an article by Graeme Hunter last week in which he was going on about Ramos. Sounded a little to me like he’s still looking for clicks by being controversial. No, Ramos didn’t know he was going to tear the guy’s shoulder but deliberately refusing to let go was reckless when he knows that if they land wrong it could do damage. No different than a reckless lunge. And he forgot to mention that yet again Ramos cost them a goal when he was nowhere on the header at the goal.

    Final well done to Pep and Klopp. Both have produced teams playing great football with poorer players than we have and neither have emphasised defence. Just sayin’

  9. luisthebeast
    May 29, 2018

    Ramos is a scumbag but he is the best CB for big games.
    They want to sell Marlon so Pique will be again starter next season.
    Good luck with that Barca.
    The president must always be a starter and forwards like Djeko would keep toying with him.

  10. luisthebeast
    May 29, 2018

    Pep have poorer players?Ok lets see.
    Great GK.
    A better RB than Barca.
    Better CBs pair.
    He had no Mendy at LB.
    Great and fast DM.
    KDB at MF.
    Sane as LW.
    Silva at MF.
    Silva and Sterling at RW.
    We have Leo,Suarez when he is on form,Alba when he is nt stupid and who else better?
    The only position when we have the best in the world is Messi and Suarez when he is on form.
    Some years back we had the best in many positions.
    Now we are nt and we pay for that in CL.

    • georgjorge
      May 30, 2018

      “now we are not and we pay for that in CL”

      As does Pep, however ; )

    • hereiam
      May 30, 2018

      We have Leo. Obviously.
      City have a great team, but they don’t have a game changer who can win games for them even when the team play like shit.
      Again Liverpool away leg, they had 11 shots, zero on target. Zero.
      The return leg City had 20 shots, and 2 on target.
      That was just pathetic.

      Our problem was fatigue. Messi is the surgical blade, but we used him like a butcher knife. He is outfield player who clocked the most minutes in our entire team, and only MaTS has more minutes.
      At times I thought that the only thing that kept him going was his competitive streak.

    • Jim
      May 30, 2018

      Well Pique and Umtiti / TV are way better for a start. Certainly than Stones, Otamendi or Mangala. Kompany can’t stay fit or he’d be close. It’s only here that folk confuse tackling with good CB play. He’s been one of top three for years now.

      Our keeper is easily as good, Fernandinho isn’t close to Busquets, Silva is a poor man’s Iniesta and their forwards aren’t as good as Messi and Suarez.

      I’d take Kyle Walker until Semedo learns the ropes and KDB any day of the week. Pep too, come to think of it.

  11. luisthebeast
    May 29, 2018

    I said it now,if next season our starters would be Pique Umtiti Alba Busquets we will not make it again in CL.

  12. luisthebeast
    May 29, 2018

    We need a LB like Abidal and better than him.
    A RCB like Puyol to pair with Umtiti.
    RB is Semedo,i hope he will be much better but we need a back up too.
    A new DM like Lobotka or Jorginho.
    Thiago Pjanic Arthur Alena Fabian Ruiz for MF.
    Martial for LW.
    Griezman.

    • georgjorge
      May 30, 2018

      In other words, a completely new team? I don’t buy this.

      Pique has done really really well this season, as has Umtiti most of the time. Alba was outstanding, Busquets as well. The only liability in defense is Sergi Roberto, who is played for his offensive abilities more than his defensive ones.

      What about the players you listed here? They are either unproven at this level, or have been erratic in their performance (Thiago, Martial). The only exception is Griezman. I don’t see how you think they would magically be so much better than players like Busquets (who has played incredibly well at Barca) or Coutinho (who was very good at Liverpool, and starting to find his feet at Barca). And no club in the world can afford a complete overhaul of the team every season, not only financially but also because those players take time to integrate.

  13. hereiam
    May 30, 2018

    What we urgently need is a clinical striker who can get into position and do the dirty work. Mo Salah, Harry Kane, or even Vardy. Suarez needs some competition, urgently, and I’d gladly take even the 31 years old Vardy for two or three years to keep Suarez on his toes. Vardy has probably the highest goal conversion rate that won’t bankrupt us, and he is properly built to lead the line too. Also probably won’t break our bank in term of salary department.
    Other than that, we should look for a potential understudy for Pique. and some competition for Busquet. We should take a very very close look at Rúben Neves, The kid is both combative and a passing maestro, who can score from midfield, and can play both as pivot and as central midfielder. Cross my fingers, but hopefully we can snap him up before someone else does.

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