Not too long ago Barcelona’s defence department was roiling in a crisis. Two centrebacks- Umtiti and Vermaelen, out of four were injured. One of the remaining two – Gerard Pique, was out of form and drew all kind of flak from the disgruntled supporters. In fact, even Umtiti, until he was fit after the world cup was off the mark mostly when he played.
To add to this misery, Sergi Roberto, the midfielder turned right back wasn’t contributing defensively the way he should. He was repeatedly getting exposed in the matches which allowed the opposition to attack more freely from the flank. Barca’s match against Real Betis is a classic example where the before mentioned weakness led to one of the goals in simple fashion.
Roberto has been serving the RB role regularly since Lucho era but you cannot expect a midfielder to have the defensive instincts that would guide him better when playing as a fullback.
So, all these frailties in different areas culminated into obvious consequences. The team was conceding goals frequently and that put them into the list of top 5 teams conceding most goals in the league. That list is something you can hardly ever associate with Barca.
However, their attack still boasts the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele who did not let the adversities affect them much and their goals were enough to outnumber the opposition’s tally on most occasions.
At this juncture only two of the defenders were protecting the goal by performing their duties properly – Clement Lenglet and Jordi Alba. The former, a new signing from Sevilla who seamlessly blended in the team in little time has served Umtiti’s role in an unexpectedly good manner.
And the latter who needs no introduction, is in his prime and has developed a telepathic communication route on the pitch with his favourite partner in crime Leo Messi. So good is their chemistry that your brand new phone might not work but the Messi-Alba connection always does. Undoubtedly, their combination is the most sought after sequence in the game because it more often than not creates either goals or big goalscoring chances. Alba is one of the most integral players in the line up right now and ironically his attacking threat this season has been even more than that of Coutinho.
After witnessing months of disturbance in the defence at this point Barca’s fortunes have turned for the better. To start with, Gerard Pique has regained his form and has returned to being a stalwart at the back. Next, it has been discovered that Barca are better off with Semedo as the RB when defensive strength is called for. Semedo has improved a lot and is settling in the team rapidly- so well that Barca might are somewhat closer to cement his position in the starting lineup than they were before.
On top of all those rosy things happening to them, there’s more to add as Vermaelen is fully fit and Umtiti is now on the brink of making a return.
Besides, the transfer window has resulted in some good acquisitions. Barca have roped in Jeison Murillo, a CB from Valencia on loan, acquired a young CB in Jean Claire Todibo (from Toulouse) on free transfer and also a RB Emerson for 12 million euros. Emerson will join the Catalans in the summer as the Atletico Miniero player will first wear the colours of Betis in La liga as part of a loan deal.
If you thought this is the end of it, then I am going to surprise you even more. Senagalese Moussa Wague, the RB who plays for Barcelona B is set to be promoted to the first team next season. Thus, another addition is likely to be made to the basket of defenders.
On the back of all these players who form the part of the current defence, Barca is set to challenge for the treble once again this year as the team’s progress in all three major tournaments is spectacular.
PS: Control your hearts because Barcelona might also want to pursue Mathhijs De Ligt in summer to help his team mate Frenkie De Jong feel more at home in Barcelona next season.