All the drama and excitement from having a new child looked like they got to Lionel Messi, as everything seemed to be working fine in the Barcelona attack in their win over Celta, especially David Villa, except for when the team’s top scorer touched the ball, trying to do too much all by himself in a selfish display from the best player in the world.
And then there was the injury scare in the second half, which kept Messi on the pitch, strolling easily with a swollen knee. The whole Messi plays every second of every match policy needs to be revisited. Not because he was having a bad day, but because there’s no need to risk it in situations when the match is in garbage time for over half an hour.
It’s not news about Messi, who’ll have bad days once a month, but it was just his frustration and persistence in trying to score from the most complicated of situations even though Celta were using a policy of stopping Messi, and seeing if the others can step up. Luckily for Barcelona, now that David Villa is capturing his place in the lineup, their left side is looking finger licking good. Andres Iniesta’s understanding with both Villa and Alba was a joy to behold, with Iniesta setting up Villa’s goal and Villa using a backheel pass to put Jordi Alba in scoring position.
Alba specifically has been one of Barcelona’s top performers over the last three weeks, giving the team a scoring option at left back, something that wasn’t there during the golden days of Guardiola. There’s a bit of difference to the style and directness of play from the team, as long balls are no longer taboos and Sergio Busquets, most of the time, plays a much more attacking role than usual.
Busquets actually shifted from centre back to defensive midfielder a few times during the match, until Vilanova sent in Marc Bartra, who actually gave Barcelona a natural centre back in the defense. For the millionth time, the problems of having Javier Mascherano and Busquets chasing down much forwards were evident and costly, as Celta scored and could have done more damage, taking only two shots less than Barcelona at goal.
Above everything, it seems that David Villa returning to himself is the most important news from this match, not Messi having an off day. Barcelona had problems last season and this season, especially in home matches, breaking the barrier at times. Teams pack the box and make it frustrating and difficult even for the most talented passers in the world to come up with goals at times. Lacking a presence in the box, or someone who at least feels more comfortable moving into it, might have been one of the reasons Barcelona missed out on the major titles last season.
Villa plays on the left wing instead of Alexis, who is having a terrible start to the season, unlike Pedro who isn’t scoring but contributing in other ways. Still, he makes for the best option Barcelona have of an actual striker, pretty much being the only natural one in the squad. He gives an illusion (or actually there’s substance to the thought) that Barcelona can score on each attack and possession, maybe taking the load a bit off Messi, if he wants to share it.