La Liga 2019/20: Three things Barcelona must do to get back to winning ways vs Villarreal
Defending champions FC Barcelona travelled to Granada and came back empty-handed after facing the newly-promoted side in a shock La Liga defeat last weekend. Barca registered only one shot on target over the 90 minutes in what was an underwhelming performance by the 26-time La Liga Champions. Despite going down by a goal in the first minute, the Catalan side showed very little desire to attack. The home side outplayed Barca and earned three well-deserved points from the game.
Barcelona last won an away game in April. That was five months ago. Since then, they have had very sore results with that Anfield game vs Liverpool on the Champions League in particular. In the current season, the Catalans in away games have got only one point of a possible twelve. Combined with their worst start to a La Liga campaign in 25 years, the Cules have had a tough time watching their beloved team play.
In games at home this season, Barcelona have scored ten goals and conceded four. But, this form drops drastically when away from Camp Nou as they have scored only two goals and conceded five.
Here are three things Barcelona must do to get back to winning ways vs Villarreal tonight.
#1. Use proper wingers
Barcelona broke the bank in the summer to buy Atletico Madrid's star forward Antoine Griezmann. Since then, Griezmann has struggled to adapt to the surroundings at Barca. His positioning on the pitch is one of the main reasons for his struggle. Often deployed on the left side of the front three, he finds himself away from the goal most of the time. In the last match, he participated in more defensive duties than attacking ones.
Either Luis Suarez or Griezmann should play and in the middle. Playing both of them together has not worked. Ernesto Valverde should find a proper balanced front three and not go on all-out attack as he did in the second half of the last game.
With Ansu Fati, Barca have a proper left-winger who can dribble and take-on the opposition. He gives the pace that the Barcelona frontline severely lacks and can make runs behind the backline. The 16-year-old has taken the world by storm by breaking records and can continue to do so with confidence instilled in him by the manager.
With Ousmane Dembele back in the squad, Fati can be subbed off to prevent overloads.
#2. Start Arthur Melo to bring stability in midfield
Ernesto Valverde started Ivan Rakitic for the first time this season alongside Frenkie de Jong and Sergi Roberto in the game vs Granada. With de Jong in the deep-lying role, this midfield provided very little creativity. They were unable to break lines and create chances for the forwards. With Arthur Melo left on the bench, there was no one in the field to absorb the pressure aside from de Jong. Granada pressed Barca out of the game due to this.
The Brazilian was at his very best in his cameo against Osasuna and was one of the silver linings in the match vs Dortmund. He brings the calm to the Barca midfield and can help in transitioning from defence to attack. In just 110 minutes of gametime in the league this season, he has an average of two key passes per 90 and an impressive passing accuracy of 95%.
With him not playing a single minute vs Granada, he must start the game vs Villarreal.
#3. Defend more compactly as a unit
Barcelona have conceded in all the matches they played this season except for the game in Dortmund. The Gerard Pique-led backline have let in nine goals in just six games this season. With the attack not firing in away games, the defence needs to step up.
Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet leave too much space between them due to the high line they maintain. With pacy forwards and with one through ball, it is quite easy to beat the pair. The full-backs, when high up the pitch, leave gaps behind them and the centrebacks are not fast enough to cover them.
With Jordi Alba out for two weeks, Junior Firpo must step up his game and must not repeat the same mistakes he made vs Granada. Nelson Semedo has shown glimpses of his potential but has never played consistently in a Barca shirt. The defence as a whole must work together and improve their understanding to reduce mistakes and avoid conceding easy goals.