Barcelona find themselves in a dicey position, as they currently sit 3rd in the league standings after previously undergoing a rough patch which provoked the ire of the club’s supporters.
They seem to have come out of their slump with the players back to their very best following wins against Las Palmas and Eibar, Neymar, on the other hand, is seemingly yet to fully recover from his dip in form.
It’s no secret that Barca are reliant on the famed MSN trio for a significant portion of their goals. They’re more of an individual-based team than they’ve been in recent times regarding their goals, thus; with one key player failing to score, the team’s overall strength tends to decline as a dissonance occurs in the attacking third.
With Neymar proving to be ineffective up front, Barca have been somewhat hit by a perfect storm. They’re on course to end the season with their lowest points tally since 2008 – the season Pep Guardiola took over from Frank Rijkaard.
Many factors have been speculated to be the cause of Neymar’s relatively poor showings in front of goal including off-pitch concerns and reduced service from midfield, but that’s far from it.
Neymar has been attacking less and creating more goalscoring opportunities for his teammates which has translated to his inability to find the back of the net on a consistent basis. Many might argue that he’s scored three goals in his last three appearances in all competitions, but it’s worth noting that two of them came from the penalty spot.
Neymar hasn’t been able to reach the heights; he attained in his previous seasons at the Nou Camp.
He’s got just five goals to his name in La Liga after 15 games with a 0.33 goal per game ratio which is a stark contrast to the 0.71 goals per game he achieved last season.
His apparent dip in form can be attributed to him assuming the mantle of Barcelona’s main creative force with six assists in the Spanish top flight. His assists ratio, which currently stands at 0.40 per game, is the best he’s had since he arrived at Barca.
He’s also been creating more chances per game this season than he’s ever done at Barca with 3.01, he only managed 2.97 per game last term and 1.82 in the 2014-15 campaign.
Goal-wise, the Brazil international is currently experiencing his least productive season for Barca, while on the other hand; the creative side of his play has seen dramatic improvements.
The pet peeve of his new found creative prowess is the fact that it’s somewhat unnecessary. Iniesta is capable of being the Blaugrana’s primary creative outlet, as he’s done many times before, but Barca’s reduced fluency in the middle of the park has affected the Spaniard.
How Neymar’s Creativity Has Affected His Scoring Form
With Neymar evidently putting in more efforts to create chances for his teammates, he isn’t creating enough scoring opportunities for himself.
Compared to his previous seasons, Neymar has been attempting more shots from outside the box, with an average of 1.20 long range efforts per game. He averaged 0.82 and 0.63 outside shots per game in the last two league campaigns respectively.
He’s also now taking significantly fewer shots inside the box due in large part to his reduced presence in the opposition’s 18-yard-area.
Neymar currently takes an average of 1.87 shots per game inside the box, last season, though, he averaged 2.83.
Attempting more long range strikes while hitting fewer shots from inside the 18-year-area has contributed massively to Neymar’s diminishing prolificacy.
What’s the Way Forward?
It all boils down to Neymar reverting to his usual mentality. He’s got to get in and around the 18-yard-area more often while shifting his focus to getting on the end of things rather than cracking off long shots.
The last two seasons within which Barca won their 24th, and 25th La Liga titles saw Neymar play a pivotal role in attack. He wasn’t focused on creating chances then, thus, there’s really no need for him to do so now as it’s proven to be detrimental to Barca’s title hopes.
Neymar’s quandary is relatively complicated; he needs to switch his focus from creating chances to scoring goals, and that involves changing the pattern of movement he’s adopted this season, and playing more direct.