Last night, the La Liga campaign for the big two started off with defending champions Real Madrid hosting Valencia while Tito Vilanova’s official coaching debut would begin with a game against Real Sociedad. While Mourinho’s men were held to a 1-1 stalemate, it was Barcelona who impressed with a 5-1 thrashing of Sociedad. Christian Tello was the star of the match and it appears he has matured from last season and able to make a serious push this year for a first-team spot.
What caught the eye more was his partnership with Jordi Alba, which almost seemed telepathic. Barcelona’s tiki-taka passing system and dominant possession of the ball also depends on their full-backs to act as auxiliary wingers to provide width and spread the defense until they use their passes to get into the box. That is why Dani Alves has been used to devastating effect with his pace, positioning, and attacking prowess proving a vital asset to the Barcelona machine.
Needless to say, Barcelona have not been so lucky on the other side of the field. Abidal didn’t have the pace or attacking ability of Alves, though his defense has proved vital at times. And while Maxwell was an excellent left-back, he didn’t fit in the system perfectly and his opportunities were too few as Abidal was preferred over him. Adriano was more of a jack-of-all-trades player who was signed to cover the right and left wing spots as well as both full-back positions, but he is not the solution.
In Jordi Alba, Barcelona appears to have found a solution to their left-back problems for many years. Alba is a former La Masia graduate, so he fits almost seamlessly into the Barca system. The Sociedad game is only one example, but one only has to look at his performance in Euro 2012 to see how well integrated he is for the system. In the tournament his form made it appear as if he has been playing with Spain for years, not in his first senior international tournament. His boundless energy also showcases his ability to play in offense and still cover for his defensive duties as well. This was again proven by the fact that he played the Euro 2012, then the Olympic games for Spain and then returned to play for Barcelona with almost no rest at all. One can only hope that he does not suffer a fatigue burnout as the season progresses. Should he need rest, Adriano is more than able deputy.
If he is able to work in tandem with David Villa, Alexis Sanchez, or Pedro as well as he was able to with Tello then Barcelona’s foes should be wary. It appears the Barcelona warmachine has just added the crucial missing weapon and with vengeance on its mind after losing out on the Champion’s League and then the Liga to eternal rivals Real Madrid on the back of a Clasico defeat in the Camp Nou, talk of Barca’s demise are unfounded. Europe should shudder.
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Written by Mahmoud Ghellai