One of the two big problems Barcelona need to take care of this offseason is their over-dependence on Lionel Messi. Neymar, even if it will take some time, should be good enough to become a suitable solution, but not on his own. For Barcelona to be completely free and deadly up front against all opponents, Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez need to do better than they have so far.
Both players are entering their third season with the team. While Sanchez, who couldn’t hit the target for almost an entire season before starting to pick up goals during the garbage-time stage of the season, was criticized for a good reason last season, the Fabregas story continues to be quite amazing. The numbers show he’s quite productive – He scored 11 league goals and added 11 assists. But being on the “wrong” team leads to unforeseen events and critics.
Having Lionel Messi is a luxury, but in a twisted way, a problem. It’s become common knowledge that almost every attack will end with Messi being the one shooting at goal. It’s hard to stop, almost impossible, but makes Barcelona a predictable team, even with all the other weapons around him. When everyone is working towards one goal – bring the ball to Messi, quality defenses have ways of making that look useless.
Barcelona have other problems, mainly the issue of the centre back. Gerard Pique, with all of his ups & downs, will remain in the lineup. The question is if Carles Puyol has anything left in the tank, or will Barcelona continue to rely on the Pique’s tandem with Javier Mascherano, which hasn’t proven to be the most successful over the last couple of seasons.
But the attack might be good enough to override that glitch in the system. Messi alone? Nope. Messi with Neymar? Now that’s a start. Despite the skeptics, great players find ways to get along with each other on the pitch and not cancel each other out. Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o might be a very good example, until everything exploded at a certain point.
Where do Sanchez and Fabregas come in? Alexis has been having an excellent preseason, better than Pedro. If one would have to guess which of the two Martino is going to prefer as the third forward, Sanchez, at the moment, would be that choice. It doesn’t Pedro isn’t going to get plenty of minutes, but for now he’s likely to start out as the second option on the right wing.
As for Fabregas, right now he’s hoping that Barcelona take it easy with Xavi. Every year that goes by, and Xavi becomes less effective, especially when the physical toll on his body becomes a disturbance in his ability to keep up his incredible passing ability and decision making. Fabregas isn’t that kind of playmaker, but Andres Iniesta can make sure not that much will be different. If Fabregas does get the chance, this is the final season to prove he can take it, embrace it and make the most of it.
That goes well? Barcelona have an heir to Xavi, while Fabregas finally finds peace and acceptance from all corners, for the first time since his return. His ability to finally find a comfort zone on the pitch for Barcelona, stringed along with Alexis going back to his debut season and his consistency from there might solve the puzzle of throwing too much at Lionel Messi to do.