The most intriguing duo in global football needed a few matches to work things out, but it looks like Barcelona found themselves a perfect match in Neymar and Lionel Messi, as the Brazilian has adopted the role of facilitator down the left flank in order to make the best player in the world even better.
What made this match even better for Neymar was scoring his first league goal for Barcelona, even though it had nothing to do with his skills, and more with some pathetic defending by Real Sociedad, who started out the season so well in the Champions League play off, but have shown absolutely nothing since.
But Neymar’s big contributions don’t come from goals. They come when he uses his pace and dribbling down the left to beat one defender, sucking in another one to help and gives Lionel Messi or anyone else moving into the middle of the box a lot more space and room to operate. Barcelona’s second goal came from such a play, bringing forth another Neymar-Messi combination, which we are now starting to see for almost every match, mostly with Neymar looking for Messi to finish, which he does better than anyone else.
However, there was a hint of frustration to Messi on the day. One goal, after all, is only breakfast for him, and he had some quite hair raising misses, including the one that came right before Barcelona’s third goal by Sergio Busquets, capping off the first half blitz Barcelona started with, going up 3-0 before the 24th minute.
And there was Messi showing a tad of immaturity at the end, not taking his substitution well. It didn’t seem like Gerardo Martino took it to heart when Messi didn’t acknowledge him, angry about being replaced with 11 minutes to go. Martino promised that this season will see Messi getting more rest than before, and even if he doesn’t like it, Messi will benefit from this change.
While this gave the Madrid-based media another thing to bite on and try and create some sort of personal crisis at Barcelona, it was an end to the speculation about Barcelona’s style. There was nothing wrong with giving up on trying to win the possession battle when they traveled to Rayo Vallecano, with a pitch that doesn’t allow teams to develop a short passing, slowly developing game. Barcelona are simply showing there’s another side to this team, instead of the same M.O. everyone knows by heart.
At home, against Sociedad, there was no problem using the high pressure and possession football which everyone is used to, but only after, through a pragmatic, no nonsense approach, they got their 3-0 lead and put the game to bed.
Alexis Sanchez didn’t score, but he was probably one of the three best players on the pitch. The Chilean winger is benefiting from this new rotation that forces him and Pedro to the right all the time, where they’re both actually better. Neymar is almost an automatic choice at this moment, but it seems that Sanchez, even when he doesn’t score, is simply doing what’s given to him, instead of trying to force his way into things like last season.
Barcelona are once again off to a perfect start after six matches and showing that style and possession are meaningless things when the approach and lineup cohesion is where it should be, even if Messi ends the match with some anger showing on his face.