La Liga 2019-20: Barcelona beat Celta Vigo 4-1, but was it really a convincing victory?
If you looked at the scoreline, you'd be forgiven if you thought it was just another day at the office for FC Barcelona in La Liga. Beating Celta Vigo 4-1 at Camp Nou is nothing to be scoffed at, even if the Galician side may lie in the relegation zone at the moment. It is the manner of the victory which should concern the fans and the technical staff.
While Barca have had glaring issues in away games this season, they are known to be prolific at home. In that regard, a 4-1 victory appears to be routine. However, even a glance at the match summary would show that there was only one goal from open play, coming from an unlikely source in Sergio Busquets. Lionel Messi tucked in a penalty along with two brilliant free-kicks to complete his hat-trick early on in the second half.
Without downplaying the two majestic free-kicks and Messi's prowess from dead-ball situations, they were set-pieces in the end. A line-up consisting of Arthur, Frenkie de Jong, Ousmane Dembele, and Antoine Griezmann shouldn't be relying on Messi to beat a team lying in the 18th position in the league table.
As Arsene Wenger pointed out in an interview earlier, the Catalans are known for their collective play and Messi is the X-factor, providing that extra bit of quality and moments of genius. However, ever since Valverde took over in 2017, there has been a feeling that the playing style which has served the club so well all these years has been compromised.
While Valverde gave the team some much-needed stability and solidity after Neymar's departure, he also took away some of the fluidity and vibrancy which characterises Barcelona's game. The strategy seems to be to pass the ball to Messi and hope he pulls something out of the hat, the magician that he is. More often than not, he delivers. It's for nights like Rome and Anfield that you need a cohesive team playing with a particular philosophy. Some would argue that he showed up at Anfield as well, but his teammates didn't.
There has been no sign of the combination play from the days of Pep Guardiola or the ruthlessness of the front three seen from MSN under Luis Enrique. Arguments can be made for new signings like Griezmann and De Jong as they're only in their first season. Unfortunately, the fact is that there are systemic issues which need to be resolved as soon as possible to avoid another European humiliation.
The goalless draw against Slavia ended a run of scoring in 45 consecutive home matches in all competitions. It may have been a similar story against Celta had Messi not stepped up, again.