?Despite some wayward performances in the early months of 2019/20, Barcelona currently top both La Liga and their Champions League group.
The club have endured a difficult period as protests in Catalunya rumble on, yet Ernesto Valverde and his recruits have done enough to keep their season on track, with the treble still a very real possibility for La Blaugrana.
Here’s a look at what’s been good and what’s been bad at Camp Nou so far this year.
Positive – Ansu Fati’s Emergence
At the beginning of the campaign, the name Ansu Fati would have been unfamiliar to almost anyone outside of La Masia. Aside from his coaches and the well-informed, no one knew what the 17-year-old was capable of this term.
Valverde handed him a debut as the teenager came on for a brief cameo against Real Betis in August, before he was introduced at half time during ?Barça’s 2-2 draw at Osasuna the following game.
Fati made an instant impact when he nodded home a delightful leveller in Pamploma, and has never looked back. He’s now made ten appearances for the Spanish champions, collecting two goals and an assist in a thrilling beginning to his senior career.
Unsurprisingly, Valverde and his seniors in Catalonia have high hopes for this fearless forward.
Negative – Lack of Consistency
La Blaugrana can go from the sublime to the ridiculous within a matter of minutes, and the aforementioned clash with Osasuna highlights this.
The visitors were dire in the opening 45 at El Sadar, yet a devastating start to the second half saw them turn the game on its head after Roberto Torres had given Los Rojillos the lead.
Then, Barcelona went and shot themselves in the foot as foolish defending from Gerard Piqué let Osasuna equalise in the dying embers of the match. Such erratic displays have defined the side this season.
They have the ability to crush quality teams like Sevilla, who they beat 4-0 in October. They came back from an early setback to defeat an impressive ?Inter outfit in the ?Champions League. And yet, they can also draw at home to Slavia Prague or go down 3-1 at Levante.
Positive – Strength in Adversity
As we’ve just discussed, Valverde has failed to coax consistent performances out of his recruits. That’s clearly an area that needs to be worked on, though it’s important to remember the turmoil surrounding the club at present.
El Clasico was ?delayed due to the riots going on in Catalunya over the region’s independence from Spain, with tensions reaching new heights over the course of 2019.
The significance of the fact Barcelona are still in the hunt for silverware should not be overlooked. Their campaign could have been ruined by the situation, but they have instead shown they can rise above their problems – for the most part, at least.
Negative – Strange Decisions by Ernesto Valverde
Valverde has been a divisive figure at Camp Nou for the entirety of his tenure, and this year has demonstrated why he is rapidly losing the good graces of the Barça fanbase.
There have been some truly perplexing decisions from the man in charge, who has been ?excluding summer signing Junior Firpo from many of his squads, despite the loss of first-choice left-back Jordi Alba to injury.
It’s hard to understand why he’s so averse to playing the €30m Brazilian, which has worsened what was already a strained relationship with the Blaugrana hierarchy.
This is just the latest in a long line of bizarre actions from Valverde, whose time at the helm is surely coming to an end in the next 12 months.
Positive – Midfield Unit
Forking out €75m for Ajax playmaker Frenkie de Jong was a small risk for Barcelona to take, but a risk nonetheless. It’s proved a savvy purchase for leaders of ?La Liga.
The Dutchman has been a standout in the heart of the midfield, forging an excellent partnership with Arthur and Sergio Busquets.
One-time fan favourite Ivan Rakiti? has been peripheral, such has been the form of de Jong and his counterparts.
The youngster and Arthur are blossoming together and look to be the long-term successors to Xavi and Andrés Iniesta. They may never reach the levels of that delightful duo, but the future of Barcelona’s midfield is no doubt a bright one.
Negative – Weak Underbelly
Clément Lenglet was impeccable for much of the 2018/19 campaign, yet his second season on the east coast has seen the Frenchman struggle for form.
He has not filled teammates with confidence, further destabilising a fragile backline. Throw in the defensively suspect Nelson Semedo and an ageing Piqué, and you have a weak underbelly for opponents to expose.
Fortunately for Valverde, Samuel Umtiti has returned from injury this month and Alba is not far off full fitness. Nevertheless, the boss needs to address the issues in his defence soon, or they will once again fall short in the Champions League.
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