FC Barcelona – Lionel Messi is Great; What About the Rest

Sometimes, it’s just a matter of luck, and Spartak Moscow, who defended for most of the match with 11 players in their own box, were a tad lucky to score two goals against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. But it would be lying to say that everything is fine in the Barca defense, and that Lionel Messi saving the day with two second half goals is going to work every time.

Already with 10 goals this season, Messi wasn’t having one of his best matches in the first half. Barcelona did open the scoring from Cristian Tello, finally opting for a good shot instead of a needless dribble, but those defensive lapses and mistakes came back to haunt them. Javier Mascherano has been struggling this season, and it continued against Spartak who ventured forward no more than 5-6 times, but created an opportunity each time.

In Barcelona’s defense, they did lose Gerard Pique after only 12 minutes, and Alex Song was forced to come on and play in a position he is familiar with, but much less effective in. With Tito Vilanova giving up on the idea of using Sergio Busquets as his centre back when needed, liking the idea of him going forward more and more this season, it was Song and Mascherano who missed the cross and marking in the first goal, an unlucky Dani Alves own goal off an awkward clearance attempt.

The second goal was bad marking and coverage once again. But Spartak, who should have learned from everyone who has given Barcelona problems in the past – keep playing to score, keep pressuring them high instead of letting them settle back into the game, went back to all-out defense mode once again, conceding twice from Lionel Messi. The third goal, Messi’s second, was especially frustrating for the Russians, with Messi being the only man left unmarked to handle Alexis Sanchez’ (coming off the bench) cross.

Last season, according to the numbers and not everything else, Barcelona would have finished sixth if it weren’t for Messi’s goalscoring. It’s great to have a player who’s guaranteed to score a goal each match, but the lack of ability to do anything without might come back to bite them at a certain point. Injuries, bad matches, Chelsea.

While figuring out how to score more goals from more players is somewhat of a concern, it’s fixable, and has more to do with confidence and a bit of mental work than actual tactics, maybe even a bit of luck. The defense and its struggles, especially Mascherno looking bad at the start of this season, with partners changing next to him, is a much more worrying matter, despite the perfect start in the league.

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