A One-man Team? Why Barcelona Are Becoming Too Dependent On Leo Messi
Having a player like Lionel Messi in the team is a dream for probably every manager. A goal-scoring machine, Messi is extremely creative, mature and a dribbling whiz. Also, he is very reliable, which can explain why Barcelona are becoming overly-dependent on him.
The player comes through for Barcelona in almost every single game, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it does limit the scope of other players (Neymar, anyone?) while also creating a situation where the team falters if Messi does not deliver on one night.
Earlier, Luis Enrique put together the famed ‘MSN’ trio comprising of Messi, Neymar and Suarez. The focus was still very much on Messi but Neymar and Suarez could be counted upon when the Argentine superstar was not at his best.
Now, with Neymar out of the picture, a lot has changed in that regard as well. Suarez is majorly struggling to get back to his old form and he is certainly not helped by Messi’s positioning. Although Suarez starts as the central striker, with Messi on the right, there have been several times where the Uruguayan had to drop deeper to accomodate Messi’s movement.
Arguably, one might say that it is necessary for Messi to go out and put numbers on board but then it is undeniable that this is eating away Suarez’s chances. Moreover, there is also the point of Barcelona not performing well in away encounters.
In fact, there’s a lot of jokes going around about how they have a new player called ‘Own Goal’ who is doing all of Suarez and Messi’s work. While it might be funny to think of, the underlying truth will be a bitter pill to swallow for Barcelona.
Their matches against Girona and Sporting Lisbon are the best examples. Against Girona, everybody was shocked to see Manchester City loanee Pablo Maffeo dominate Messi and mark him like nobody’s business. Since Messi was nullified, Barcelona’s performance dwindled.
At Sporting Lisbon, something similar ensued and Barcelona sneaked a win again due to an own goal. The recurring theme surrounding these drab performances is their over-dependence on Messi. If the Argentine doesn’t bring life to the game, there is nobody else in the team who can do it, especially when it comes to going forward.
Previously, whenever situations arose where Messi was sidelined or restricted, Neymar would step up to the plate. Before Neymar was a part of the squad, the partnership of Xavi and Andres Iniesta saved the team. Now, things are obviously a lot different.
Replacing Neymar has proven to be quite tough. Gerard Deulofeu is yet to impress while Barcelona’s mega-money buy Ousmane Dembele is sidelined for a few months due to an injury. Meanwhile, Suarez being far from his usual form is another worrisome factor.
With La Liga and Champions League commitments this time, it remains to be seen how Barcelona manage themselves going forward. No team can be expected to win every single game by a 5-0 margin, but Barcelona need to find a solution to their problems up front.
So far under Valverde, Barcelona have been quite flexible but their over-dependence on Messi can prove to be a problem in the future. However, they have recorded a perfect start for a new coach in Ernesto Valverde, who was given little backing in the transfer market.