You don't have to be a genius to see how much Barcelona depend upon Messi and his creative intellect. Messi's creative intelligence is unparalleled and unrivaled in the whole world, let alone in the Barcelona squad.
In the 2017-18 season, Barcelona did not have too many attacking options up front, and Neymar's departure, Dembele's injury, and Suarez's declining form added nothing but more misery. Barcelona were playing on all three fronts, La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey but did not have much depth in the attacking department.
It just added more pressure on Lionel Messi's shoulders. Most of the fans were sceptical about Barcelona's future when Neymar left. Add the humiliating Supercopa defeats against Real Madrid and no one would have imagined that Barcelona would win the league in such a magnificent and historic fashion.
Most of the credit goes to Lionel Messi as he single-handedly carried Barcelona throughout the season. Although, Messi is human after all, and when he was not on the pitch, as in the match against Levante or Sevilla, or had a bad day, Barcelona struggled and looked toothless in attack.
Without Messi, Barça looked beaten; with him, they look unbeatable- Sid Lowe
The 4-2-3-1 formation in attack
In the upcoming season, Valverde has an alternative Messi-less lineup which Barcelona wanted to employ last season as well.
It will allow Messi to take rest in the second half of the season and will help Barcelona in crucial Champions League and La Liga fixtures as proper rest will surely boost Messi's performance.
Malcom's addition to the squad offers Barcelona a chance to play in the 4-2-3-1 formation. It will be an impressive Messi-less attacking lineup which can be extremely effective against mid table and lower table La Liga teams.
The presence of four attack-minded players provides attacking flexibility to the team. The 4-2-3-1 lineup can comfortably revert to 4-5-1, and hence in addition to the potency in attack, it also adds defensive stability to the team.
This arrangement also increases the number of passing options as it spreads the game and therefore enables the formation of various passing triangles around the pitch.
Unerstanding the role of different players
Coutinho plays as number 10, and everything flows through him. Coutinho is an excellent passer of the ball. He has outstanding dribbling skills which allow him to take on players.
He empowers the attacking play with quick one to one short passes, but he also possesses the ability to find a defense-splitting pass out of nowhere. He is lethal on dead balls and has destructive long-range shooting skills.
Dembele offers a goal threat and provides creativity on the left wing. Dembele also does his defensive duties well, and he contributes solidity at the back. Dembele can dribble past multiple players and create goal scoring opportunities. He has killer speed which can terrify the opposition fullbacks.
Suarez starts as a lone striker in his preferred center-forward position. Suarez ideally fits the position as he is an archetypal, modern, ball-winning center-forward. He hounds the opposition defense and does not allow them to slow down.
Malcom plays on the right wing in a more dynamic role. He provides an instant threat. With his speed and skill, he can tear apart the defense and make quick runs into the final third and feed Suarez with goals scoring opportunities.
This formation makes Barcelona look menacing on the attack. Then you add a well rested Lionel Messi, who is better than all four of these attacking options to the fold and witness the attacking wizardry on display. This formation and decision could very well impact the outcome of Barcelona's long season.Published 30 Jul 2018, 01:03 IST