No matter how many times Barcelona use Cesc Fabregas in the false 9 position, there’s just too much of a gap between him and Lionel Messi. It didn’t prevent Barca from winning and staying on course for the 100 league points that would make for a club record, but the ongoing presence of Andres Iniesta and Xavi keeps pushing Fabregas away from where he feels most comfortable on the pitch.
It seems all three players in the attacking trio – Fabregas, David Villa and Pedro, had something to prove heading into the title-celebration match against Valladolid. Villa seems to be with one foot out the door, as his numbers this season, 9 goals in 26 matches, just aren’t enough for Barcelona, who need and needed more from him during the season, even though his playing time was hurt by the constant trips from the bench to the field and the opposite way around.
Pedro was the better of the two through the year when it came to his overall contribution which doesn’t necessarily translate well into numbers, but his goal against Valladolid was just his sixth in the league this season, a season in which the dependency on Lionel Messi (46 goals) took another turn towards the extreme. It didn’t prevent them from winning the league title, but their helplessness in certain matches when Messi wasn’t at his best or simply wasn’t there was evident and painful to watch for those who have gotten used to a certain level of football and performance.
For Fabregas, it’s going to be a continuing problem. Even if Xavi does continue his receding playing time, at the moment most would guess Thiago is going to be the man that replaces him in the middle of the field, unless Barcelona plan on making some tweaks to their tactics and philosophy. Fabregas used to play that role in England, but that was about constantly pushing forward, not being the actual play-maker. In the few times he’s been tested at the position, Barcelona looked close to awkward.
Maybe he’ll eventually find his place in the lineup and feel comfortable in it – Iniesta could be the man who plays the more central role, while Fabregas gets the “creative midfielder” spot, where he has performed at his best this season. A lot of questions regarding him and others heading into next season, and a lot of futures depend on whether or not the Neymar rumors are true or not.
A huge club, that’s been a massive success on the pitch and as a fashion trend for the past five seasons, has reached a turning point. While the talent from the famed academy keeps coming up, it’s not enough to keep the wheels turning at exactly the same speed and proficiency as before. Barcelona need to be strong in the market for the best players, even if it just means one or two – a central defender and a striker, or something of the sort. Remaining defiant to the obvious truths and sticking to some dogmatic belief in their own (past) superiroty will only take the club backwards, instead of keeping its status as Spain’s best team and one of Europe’s’ finest.