Three games, three wins, 9 goals scored, 0 conceded. It’s been a pretty good start for new Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde. Despite all the rumblings online about the club’s failing hierarchy, the players on the pitch did the real talking and set the record straight. They’re a team not in the midst of a crisis; they’re in the midst of a title challenge.
The transfer of Neymar and the club’s inability to capture Philippe Coutinho left the fans in disarray but Barcelona’s start to the season has silenced many critics. Add to that Real Madrid’s faltering start to the season and Barcelona fans couldn’t be happier.
Here’s how Barcelona are already proving their critics wrong.
Paulinho was a smart signing
Much of the footballing public raised their eyebrows when the signing of Paulinho was announced. But upon deeper analysis, the signing seems to be a shrewd one by Ernesto Valverde. What many don’t seem to know is that Paulinho has been in the form of his life recently, in China he re-invented himself.
The 29-year old is not only a defensive midfielder; he’s now adapted to being able to play the box-to-box midfielder role. He’s a perfect late substitution that can inject energy into the midfield that Sergio Busquets can’t. He offers versatility for Barcelona and generates confusion for the opposing team as he overloads defences. Paulinho is not just an energising figure, and he also works hard off the ball as he presses every player and seeks to intercept most passes.
In his short cameo against Espanyol, the Brazilian came on for Sergio Busquets, but instead of sitting in front of the defence, he operated as the most advanced of the midfield trio. This confused the Espanyol players as they were unsure of whether to mark him or not. What an asset to have.
For most of the last season, the ‘declining’ powers of Lionel Messi were often highlighted as many felt the passing of the torch had occurred before our very eyes. The young Brazilian had now been hailed as the best player in the world after his coming of age performance against PSG at the Camp Nou. Neymar was now seen as the man, and without him, Messi couldn’t shine any longer.
In three La Liga games, the Argentinean has scored 5 goals, with 1 of 2 attempted shots hitting the target. On top of that, he’s maintained an exquisite 84% pass accuracy creating 8 chances in the process. Lionel Messi is thriving, and the absence of Neymar has hardly been noted, the 5-time Ballon d’Or winner has stepped up to the plate and shown the world why the club solely revolves around him.
The addition of Ousmane Dembélé has also eased the pain of the mega-transfer. On his debut, the 20-year old assisted with one of his first touches, that bears well for the future. The talents of Gerard Deulofeu also haven’t gone unnoticed as the Spaniard has worked his tail to the bone in the opening three league games, creating 6 chances in performances. All in all, Barcelona look like a well-oiled machine that will hamper Real Madrid’s efforts to retain their title.