And 10 Players Barcelona May Sign In The Summer Transfer Window
The 2018/19 season is a curious one for FC Barcelona.
Despite winning LA LIGA in a title race, the Catalan Giants failed to make their presence count in cup competitions. They were dumped out of the Champions League in stunning fashion by a resurgent Liverpool side while Valencia were handed a shock defeat in the final of Copa Del Rey.
Going forward, then, they have two options.
First, they could not have anything to do with their opposition. FC Barcelona is routed at Anfield by Liverpool.
Or, with Messi now 32, Barcelona could opt for a shake-up. One that would make a plan to take an early lead or when things start to go wrong – as they did at Anfield. This option seems better for the Catalans considering that Jurgen Klopp – the man who put Barca to the sword – had a plan.
Therefore, it is now in the hands of Ernesto Valverde as to why he or she wants to rebuild the squad now or postpone it until after the retirement of Messi. Whatever option is going to take, one thing is for sure: the future of the club depends on it.
Ever since his inauguration as Barcelona manager in 2017, Ernesto Valverde has tried various playing systems.
In his first season at the club, Valverde employed a conservative 4-4-2 system which saw Barcelona conceding the 2nd lowest goals in the league. However, with fans demanding style over substance, the Spaniard has reverted to the traditional 4-3-3 formation ever since.
This system saw Barcelona relying on the speed of Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto to unleash attacks on the opposition. Though the backbone of the side lay in its midfield with Busquets pulling the strings to create an optimal balance between defense and attack.
Further forward, Messi played on his usual right-side role – though he occasionally sauntered to the center to trouble opposition defenders. Suarez played in the middle with either Ousmane Dembele or Philippe Coutinho providing cover on the left flank.
Most Barcelona fans would be forgiven for not remembering the games in which Valverde employed this formation – as it was used in only 3 games throughout the season. Despite its apparent conservativeness, this formation yielded good results as Barca managed 8 goals in three appearances under it.
With both Suarez and Messi forming Barcelona’s attack line, this formation saw Arturo Vidal shifted to the left side of midfield. Sergi Roberto was given a free hand to play in the right midfield role – with Semedo deputizing as the right full back.
In the Barcelona transfer news that is linking every player under the sun with the club, it is easy to forget that the Catalans have won more trophies than any other club in the 21st century. So there obviously are some players in their lineup who are living up to the hype.
Given the fact that Barcelona finished their season on a low – as they lost two of their last 4 games to see their hopes of a treble being snatched away from them – it was only logical that the ire of the club’s fans would be directed at their defense.
However, while their performances were anything but great in the last few games of the season, all three of Barcelona’s center backs – Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti – had a season of their lives in 2018/19.
For, had it not been the case and Barcelona’s defenders were woeful – as some of their fans alleged after seeing their team put to the sword by Liverpool – the Catalan giants won’t have conceded a mere 31 goals in the entirety of 2018/19 LA LIGA.
What’s more, in addition to getting assured performances from both Pique and Lenglet – both of whom are Valverde’s first choice center backs – even Samuel Umtiti proved his worth when he was given the chance to play last season. So there’s no reason why Barcelona should enter the transfer market in search of a center back.
If there’s one player in the current Barcelona side – bar Lionel Messi – who show no signs of aging, it has to be their 30-year-old left full-back Jordi Alba. The Spaniard was once again in top form last season as he joined his forces with both Coutinho and Dembele to cause havoc in opposition’s defenses.
In addition to his mazy runs in the opposition final third – which helped Alba provide 8 assists to his teammates last season – it is the chemistry of the Spaniard with the likes of Messi and Suarez which makes him an indispensable player for the Barcelona side.
Furthermore, if Barcelona fans want to know how crucial Alba has been for the team of late, all they have to do is to just ask the likes of Messi and co. Without the service that Alba provides from the left flank, Barcelona’s attacking force might not be as potent as it has been for quite some time now.
In the summer of 2018, right-back Sergi Roberto attracted interest from a host of clubs. The Spaniard put paid to rumors of him leaving the club by penning a new, long-term contract. Since then, his performances haven’t looked back as the 27-year-old went on to provide 7 assists last season.
On the rare occasion when Roberto was either injured or ruled out due to suspension, his deputy in Nelson Semedo did well to provide cover. So fruitful were his performances that Semedo managed 26 appearances for Barcelona – compared to 29 made by Sergi Roberto.
Therefore, in addition to having in form players, Barcelona also have a depth which many teams lack in their right-back role. Consequently, they have no need to spend money and bring in a new right full-back in the summer of 2019.
For Barcelona fans who have been watching the club for the past few years, it should come as no surprise that Sergio Busquets was the best passer in 2018/19 Champions League. The midfielder topped UEFA’s leaderboard by achieving a passing accuracy of 93% last season.
So dependable was Busquets for the club last season that he featured in all but three games for them in LA LIGA – while not missing a single game for Barcelona in the Champions League. Another reason why Barcelona may not need a new defensive midfielder is that they already brought one.
That’s right; with Frankie De Jong joining the club once the transfer window options, Ernesto Valverde might be spoilt for choices when it will come to the defensive midfield department of his team next season. Hence the contention that Barcelona already have enough steel in this department.
For those of you who need to convince themselves that Barcelona could do without bringing in new faces for this position, assure yourself by telling that the club has the likes of Lionel Messi making this position his own. That should be enough to assuage your concerns.
Messi was being himself once again last season as the Argentine ended the campaign with 50 goals and 19 assists to his name. In addition, he created more chances, scored more hat tricks and won more fouls for his team than any other Barcelona player last season.
Also, while Messi wasn’t able to take his team across the finish line in the Champions League, the Argentine wasn’t to blame for the club’s exit at the hands of Liverpool. He managed 12 goals in the Champions League and contributed another 3 to his teammates.
Unfortunately for both sides, Coutinho has not been able to conjure the shape which made him a fan favorite at Anfield. Granted, the animosity is shown by some Coutinho’s premature exit from the club.
Of all the Barcelona attackers that started over 20 games for the club last season, Coutinho required more minutes (404) to find the net than anybody else. That despite the fact that when Ousmanne Dembele went out injured, the Brazilian was given a long run-in in the side – which he was unable to make count as these stats make clear.
Having identified the areas where Manchester United are already well-stocked, let’s turn our attention to the weak points in their squad which need addressing in the summer transfer window.
The 2018/19 season was a highly commendable one for Ter Stegen as he went on to keep 16 clean sheets in LA LIGA. His commanding performances are the back were a major reason behind Barca conceding only 31 goals during the entirety of the season.
However, even though Barcelona might not have liked to splash the cash for this position, the situation surrounding Jasper Cillessen – their number two goalkeeper – paints a different scenario. The Dutchman has been itching for game time which Barcelona can’t provide him as long as Ter Stegen is in the side.
Therefore, while the Spanish Champions might not be needing a new number 1 in the upcoming season, they might want an under-study to Ter Stegen at the club. One that could warm the bench and come on if/when the first choice goalkeeper is out injured.
When he arrived for a hefty price tag of 140m last January, there was hope among the Barcelona faithful that Coutinho would recapture his form after a full pre-season with the club. They were thinking that once the Brazilian had the time to adapt to Barcelona’s style of play, he would come good.
Except that Coutinho’s career at Barcelona hasn’t turned out that way.
During his first full season at the Camp Nou, the poor form of the 27-year-old made sure that he was never guaranteed a starting XI spot. And that despite the fact that his main rival for the position – Dembele – was out injured for much of the season.
In addition to his poor form in front of goal – Coutinho went for 9 games without scoring, it was the attitude of the Camp Nou crowd towards the Brazilian that further highlighted his woes. Therefore, if Barcelona want to challenge for the Champions League next season, they couldn’t rely on the Brazilian.
To highlight the need for new central midfielder at the club, a mere glance at the number of goals which Barcelona managed last season would be enough. In a season in which the club managed to score 90 goals in the league, none of their central midfielders managed more than 3 goals apiece.
Luckily for the Catalans, they weren’t too dependent on their midfield for goals as the likes of Messi, Suarez and Dembele managed more than 65 goals between them. However, while they were fortunate last season, Ernesto Valverde would do well to not test his luck next season.
For, while Suarez had an age-defying campaign last season, chances are that the best days of the Uruguayan might be past him now. That means that the central midfield would have no choice but to share the goal-scoring burden, or to see a resurgent Real Madrid side overpower them even in LA LIGA.
To his credit, Suarez wasn’t far behind as only Messi managed to score more goals for Barcelona than the Uruguayan last season. The 32-year-old also managed to provide 7 assists to his teammates and won the 3rd most fouls of any player in LA LIGA during the campaign.
However, ask any Barcelona fan about the potential form of Luis Suarez in the upcoming season, and their answer might not be able to satisfy you. Throw into the mix the fact that the Uruguayan would be 33 next season, and it takes no rocket science to determine that Barcelona might need a new striker.
Another thing which should force Barcelona to sign a new striker is their recent history in the transfer market. For every Luis Suarez that the club has signed, there has been a Kevin Prince Boateng too. So it seems only logical that the club learns from its past mistakes and bring in a new striker before showing the door to his predecessor.